Indonesian activists attack Widodo over new army chief pick

Appointment of General Andika Perkasa will not see resolutions of rights abuses by military, they say
Indonesian activists attack Widodo over new army chief pick

Indonesia's new army chief of staff, General Andika Perkasa, shakes hands with President Joko Widodo after his inauguration ceremony on Nov. 22 at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. (Photo supplied by the Cabinet Secretariat)

Right activists have questioned Indonesian President Joko Widodo's commitment to settling human rights abuses carried out by the military with the appointment of a traditionalist as the new army chief.

General Andika Perkasa is not concerned about reforming the military, they say.

Perkasa, 54, formerly the Army Strategic Reserves commander, assumed his new role on Nov. 22 following a ceremony at the Presidential Palace. He replaces General Mulyono who has retired.

"He [Perkasa] is not a reformist and has obstructed moves to settle rights violations," Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, told ucanews.com.

Hamid also said it would be difficult for Perkasa to revise military tribunal laws that have victimized many civilians because he is considered close to and one of those thought to have committed violations in the past.

"Civil leaders need military support to settle human rights issues. Without military support, it will be difficult," he said, adding that Perkasa is not capable of doing that.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, said Widodo had ignored warnings from the institute and other rights groups not to appoint Perkasa as the army chief of staff.

"He [Perkasa] was allegedly involved in human rights violations, particularly the murder of Dortheys Hiyo Eluay in 2001 in Papua," he told ucanews.com. "The killer admitted [Perkasa's involvement] during a tribunal." 

Eluay was chairman of the Papua Presidium Council, a tribal organization in Papua. He was allegedly abducted and murdered by members of the army.

Catharina Sumarsih, a Catholic woman whose son was allegedly killed by the military during anti-Suharto protests in May 1998, said Perkasa should at least ensure the military does what it is supposed to do. "Perkasa has to make sure the military protects and not threatens the lives of civilians," she said.

Lucius Karus, a Catholic political analyst, said the president had made a tactical error in appointing Perkasa as army chief of staff. "The president should listen to the people and not ignore human rights abuses," he said.

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