13 Years Past, 13 Years to Go

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  • By: Kevin Ng | A student at the University of Western Australia and a youth activist. 

    When I first saw AksiKamisan (Act of Thursday), it was quite surprising. How come a group of people, gathering around in front of the presidential palace every Thursday demanding clarity from the government on serious human rights violation cases? The attendees are the victim’s families, students, and people who care about the truth. I assumed it is a tiring effort to stand one day per week and just hoping the official statement from the government to resolve the cases.

    During my secondary high school years, it is a journey to seek the truth of what happens in the past. The curriculum, especially in history class, did not include the story of the 1998 tragedy in-depth. What I learned is that Soeharto was the bad guy and the masses urged him to step down from his throne. But I did not see how many lives were slaughtered by ignorance and oppression from the state. A lot of activists, students, and citizens were forcibly disappeared and killed. Until now, 13 activists are still missing. Nobody knows their whereabouts. Then, we have the victims of state repression where students were shot by sharp bullet in Semanggi I and Semanggi II tragedies. What a tragic, the perpetrators got strategic official positions in the government now. Even the 1965 genocide, whom allegedly Indonesian Communist Party sympathizers were massacred, is being buried as a dark history in Indonesia.

    Seeing these horrific serious human rights violation track record in Indonesia can make us pessimistic. I am always thinking what if another massacre happens, or suddenly people have gone missing after criticizing the rulers. Therefore it is a job for us to stop these tragedies being repeated. Marx stated that history repeats itself, first as a tragedy, then as a farce. What we need to understand is that we need to prevent the tragedy first, and stop the farce from happening.

    History goes along

    History is a lesson of life, a lesson of endurance. Witnesses can only tell their stories as life goes on. The act of Thursday is the best form of a collective forum to shared stories. Standing in front of Merdeka Palace can be done by anyone, but the essence is the knowledge that we can attain from the Act of Thursday. It is the lesson that we cannot find in university, school, and anywhere else.  Hearing the stories from the key witnesses is the opportunity that cannot be missed.

    Empathy is the key to establish the Act of Thursday. Mrs. Sumarsih began the act of silence since January 18, 2007. It has been 13 years and the government stays quite. Politicians only make promises in the beginning. We know Jokowi’s ever promised to solve serious human rights violation cases, but now he is too comfortable in his seat as president. If not by compassion and love, masses from the Act of Thursday will not continue their fights.

    It is the fight of persistence and patience. The love from the family’s victim of human rights violations becomes a transformation of resistance. More people are attending, organizing, and demand the officials to find a solution. Findings from National Commission of Human Rights should be investigated further. Actually there is clear solution on this problem: drag the violators to trials. However, these solutions are hushed up. Not only rejected, but the solutions now become despair.

    This generation continues the fight

    The government will likely to keep silent on what had happened in the past. If we are not doing anything, then people who have power will keep oppressing our hope. 13 years has past and we are still standing in front of Merdeka Palace wearing a black uniform and holding a black umbrella. Black is often perceived as a symbol of gloom, but in this case, it is a symbol of protection and persistence. Those people in power might be blind not to see every Thursday there are people keep finding justice.

    I am glad to see my generations become more and more aware of what happens in the past. We want to see justice is fully paid off. It is time to speak up and condemn the act of violence. Humanity shall be restored if we continue the fight. The relay begins now, and we need to act now. No matter what, it is a duty for us a new generation to find the truth to prevent another tragedy to be conducted.

    The fight will not be easy. We will face struggles and hopelessness, but in the name of truth, we shall overcome. And we will not find it in the near future. Perhaps it is another 13 years to go or more than that. But humanity speaks for itself. There is a time when we see those human rights criminals deserve their punishment. It is still a long journey to go, another journey of my generation to take the chance of repairing what corrupted people have done.

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