UCA News

Indonesia

Virus forces Indonesian rights protest to move online

Weekly Jakarta gathering to seek justice for alleged abuses falls victim to social distancing restrictions

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Virus forces Indonesian rights protest to move online

Rights activists and victims of rights abuses stage their weekly protest outside the presidential palace in Jakarta in 2018. (Photo: Konradus Epa/UCA News)

Share this article :
Covid-19 social distancing rules have forced rights activists and victims of alleged abuses committed by Indonesian authorities to shift their weekly campaign for justice from outside the presidential palace in Jakarta to the internet, organizers say. 

Organizers of the Kaminsan movement, as they are known, said they have been mounting the protests outside the Indonesian president’s residence each week for the last 13 years but were forced to move online because of restrictions on public gatherings.

Their new platforms to try and hold authorities to account for what they said were a string of rights abuses committed in the past and present are on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Ahmad Sajali, a social media administrator, said that every Thursday messages and pictures about the alleged abuses are posted on the group’s official Twitter account and followers are invited to post messages of support targeting the official Twitter account of President Joko Widodo.

"The fight against human rights violations will never stop, even amid the pandemic," he told UCA News.

Maria Katharina Sumarsih, one of the protesters, said the Covid-19 pandemic will not stop her from seeking justice for her son, Benardinus Irawan, who was among 17 people killed during an anti-Suharto protest at Atma Jaya Catholic University in November 1998.

A year later, 11 more people were killed and over 200 injured in another protest in the same location.

“Sentiment over these incidents and other cases remains powerful,” she told UCA News.

Attorney-General Sanitiar Burhanuddin recently came under fire for denying the two tragedies were serious human rights violations.

Protesters condemned the comments, saying they illustrated the government’s unwillingness to address abuses despite repeated pledges that it would do so.  

Bedjo Untung, coordinator of the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation, a group that seeks justice for victims of an anti-communist purge that allegedly claimed more than 500,000 lives, said the cries of the dead will not be silenced.

“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we will continue our fight by whatever means so that these violations and others are not ignored,” he said.

Beka Ulung Hapsara, from the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM), backed the protesters' move to go online.

“It’s a wise move because the protesters’ message can reach a wider audience,” he said. “We can learn from their determination to seek justice and encourage more to fight with them and for those who are treated unfairly by the state.”

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."