Tuesday, 31 July, 2012 | 14:56 WIB
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Kenthus remembers clearly the exact order of the deaths of his friends nearly 30 years ago: Wahyo, Tetuko, Kojur, Iren, Slamet Gajah, Gaplek, Polimron, Peno, and Bandi Ponyol. They were all murdered, one by one, in mysterious shootings. Their gunned-down lifeless bodies were left out on the side of roads. One November evening in 1982, Kenthus explained, his friend Wahyu was shot dead within the complex of the Sanggrahan, today known as Yogyakarta’s Giwangan terminal. The day after, he intended to visit his friend’s family to mourn. But his other friends forbade him to go anywhere.
“If I had gone there, that night, it could be my turn to die. We could be at the mercy of operation gali, ” said the 57-year-old man at his home in Yogyakarta last Thursday. Operation Gali was short for Gabungan Anak Liar (Group of Young Hoodlums). The mysterious shootings, nicknamed Petrus, ordered out by then President Soeharto to curb crime rates, targeted young men who were believed either to have actual criminal records, a criminal reputation or simply looked criminal with their tattoos.
A day later, Tetuko and Kojur were found dead with bullet holes in their head. “I presumed it was my turn next,” said Kenthus. He got even more frightened after another friend, Iren, was executed toward the end of that year. According to him, Iren was gunned down in a pigsty in front of his wife and children.
Kenthus was no criminal. He had been a member of Golkar’s security detail during the general elections in 1982. Everyday, he worked as a security guard at the SMA Bhineka Tunggal Ika Senior High School in Yogyakarta. His friends however, Wahyo, Tetuko, and Kojur, would often “hang out” at the old terminal, now a tourist amusement park on Jalan Col. Soegiono. “My friends would sell bus tickets,” Kenthus said, suggesting that they were bus ticket scalpers.
After three of his friends were murdered, Kenthus was eventually sought after. Three officers turned up at SMA Bhineka. He knew the look of one of the officers who had arrived to fetch him. He arrived at the school that afternoon to find out that the officers were there looking to pick him up. But, the school principal saved him. “The principal said I had left the building. I was on the second floor,” he recalled.
After those three officers left, Kenthus sought his two friends, Monyol and Mantri, who were also wanted. “I wasn’t brave enough to go home,” he said. The three of them traveled to Jakarta by train to ask for assistance from the Legal Aid Foundation of Indonesia, or YLBHI. This foundation at the time included human rights activists Yap Thiam Hien, Adnan Buyung Nasution, Abdul Rahman Saleh and Maqdir Ismail.
After a week in hiding at YLBHI, their defections reached the ears of a Yogyakarta military official, Lieutenant Colonel M. Hasbi, the operations leader of the eradication of gangs. According to Kenthus, Hasbi called Adnan Buyung Nasution demanding for the return of Kenthus and friends to Yogyakarta. Buyung refused, unless Hasbi issued a letter guaranteeing that the three men would stay alive and secure.
Hasbi caved in. He issued a letter which promised Kenthus and his companions would be spared their lives when they returned. According to Kenthus, Maqdir Ismail escorted them to Yogyakarta. “At Yogyakarta’s train station, four soldiers with big rifles were waiting for us,” he said. Aside from them, there was also Artidjo Alkautsar, an activist for the Legal Aid Foundation in Yogyakarta at the time. Artidjo is a Supreme Court Judge today.
According to Kenthus, the four soliders demanded to take him and his two friends away but their efforts were stopped by Maqdir and Artidjo. “If you want to shoot them, shoot me first,” said Kenthus, imitating Maqdir and Artidjo. The four soldiers eventually stood down.
Kenthus and his comrades were then taken to Marni Basyaruddin’s house, another activist of LBH Yogyakarta. For three days they were held in silence, but the intimidation did not stop. "There was a call to the house threatening to throw a grenade,” said Kenthus. On the fourth day, Maqdir escorted them to the Indonesian Military District Command. To Tempo, Maqdir verified Kenthus’ account. But he said he doesn’t remember details of the dialog at that time.
For as long as seven days the three men occupied a cell there. While not experiencing any physical torture, Kenthus was mentally terrorized. “There was a soldier there who said, your friends are dead, and you too I shall kill!” There were blood smears on the cell’s walls which added to the horror.
From the jail cell at the military base, they were then shifted to a police resort jail cell. Similar to their experience at the previous jail, they were also interrogated here. “Vendors from Malioboro were gathered, and asked if I ever took money off them,” said Kenthus. “If one of them had said yes, I would have definitely been instantly shot.” Luckily, Kenthus was never pointed out by them.
With five days left in the police office, Kenthus and his two friends were released. But the suffering did not end there. Years after that day, every Monday morning, he had to go to the military headquarters in Yogyakarta. Every day, said Kenthus, his house was also visited by police intelligence officers.
Years after, he recalls the letter sparing his life from Leutenant Colonel Hasbi. “That man was like God. My life and death was in his hands,” Kenthus said.
The National Commission for Human Rights has declared that the mysterious execution-style killings between 1982-1985 were conducted systematically, and a gross human rights violation.
Having begun in Yogyakarta, the operation to eradicate crooks later spread across Indonesia. Between 1982-1985, thousands of people who were classified as criminals for various reasons, were expected to be shot dead by police or military officers. On Tuesday last week, the National Human Rights Commission announced that the execution-style shootings, known as operation ‘petrus’, were a gross human rights violations.
M. Hasbi, who now manages the Army Veterans and Widows TNI Union in Central Java, blantantly admits to being involved in those shootings. “The petrus operation was a form of shock therapy,” he said in Semarang, Wednesday last week. In 1982, said Hasbi, Yogyakarta’s citizens suffered because they were frequently disturbed by thugs and hoodlums.
Anton Septian (Jakarta), Muh. Syaifullah (Yogyakarta), Rofiuddin (Semarang)