Saturday, April 16, 2011
Kimberly Twarog: Gendering Trauma Recovery in Aceh, 1976-2010
Kimberly Twarog’s lecture focused on performance and dance as a way to address the trauma the Acehnese faced during the conflict and the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Specifically, she looked at the gender trauma that women in Aceh endured, including sexual violence and torture as hostages. The women were less outspoken about abuse than men, largely due to the stigma and lack of witness protection for victims of sexual violence. Ms. Twarog also commented that sexual violence occurred not only due to the conflict, but also when people were forced to tent camps after the Tsunami. Furthermore, the introduction of Sharia Law in Aceh allowed authorities to persecute women based on their appearance, reduced their participation in the government (despite a thirty percent quota), and generally marginalized women in Acehnese society.
From this framework, Ms. Twarog discussed the different performance and trauma recovery programs by international NGOs, local NGOs, and individual artists. First, she examined the UNESCO Rise Above the Tide Program (RAT) that taught music and dance to children to allow them to share their traumatic experiences. While she commended their use of local traditions, she noted their program lacked longevity (only six months), the program only discussed the tsunami and not the conflict, and the teachers and most of the students were male. Next, she looked at two local NGOs, Taloe and Tikar Pandan, that used traditional performing arts to discuss the conflict and tsunami. These local programs lacked funding, used largely male performers, and few girls participated; however, they did address both the tsunami and the conflict, the programs lasted longer than UNESCO, and Tikar opened up programs to the whole community. Finally, Ms. Twarog looked at one individual performer, known as PM TOH, who performs about events in Aceh and around the world. He created a safe space away from the violence to allow everyone, including women, to express themselves and relieve some of the burdens in their lives. She noted that while women can participate in performances, they are often reluctant because they face criticism.
Ms. Twarog concluded with a few recommendations looking forward including: more female staff and performers, more inclusive activities (adults as well as children), efforts to develop and sustain arts in education in Aceh, and greater attention to gender trauma and identity.
Haris Azhar: Transitional Justice in Aceh, Moving Nowhere
Haris Azhar, the Coordinator of KontraS, spoke about what has been done to address human rights violations in in Aceh following the thirty-year conflict between Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (“GAM”) and the Indonesian Security Forces. Azhar noted two moments of transition: the reform era that began in 1998, and the interventions that took place following the tsunami in 2005. Regarding the first transition, Azhar described several steps that were taken to account for the conflict, including public apologies and the establishment of the Independent Commission for Investigation of Violence in Aceh. However, there was also a notable setback during this period, which was the imposition of martial law during the Megawati era.
Turning to the post-tsunami era, Azhar discussed six objectives of the Helsinki Peace Agreement and the Law of Governance of Aceh (LoGA), both of which were passed in 2005. Collectively, these two legal responses provided for: recognition of Aceh political freedom and identity; recognition of Aceh's economic rights, including the right to enter into agreements with international entities and the right to 70% of its natural resources; recommendations regarding the rule of law and legislation; a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program; a recommendation that members of military be tried in civilian court if they commit a public crime; and the release of (most) GAM political prisoners. More specifically, the recommendations regarding rule of law included a recommendation that Indonesia ratify the ICCPR and ICESCR (which was accomplished in 2006), and a recommendation to establish a human rights court and TRC in Aceh. The human rights court would only address future human rights violations, though the TRC would engage the past. However, neither the human rights court nor the TRC have been established.
Azhar concluded by commenting that the proposed remedies have focused on the perpetrators rather than the victims. There is still not political or legal recognition of past abuses, and victims’ voices are largely absent from political decision-making processes. Jakarta’s commitment to establishing a human rights court and to reforming the military has proven weak. Furthermore, as a result of weak government institutions, people in Aceh have started to “have their own justice, their own truth,” which is apparent in such actions as the digging up of mass graves and the suit filed against Exxon in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Claims Act.
Neles Tebay’s presentation provided a context of the Papua/Indonesian conflict. The invasion of Indonesia into Papua began in 1963 and is still ongoing. As a result, numerous human rights violations were inflicted and continue to this day. The basic framework presents two diverging views from the warring countries and Mr. Tebay fears until an understanding is reached the conflict will persist. Papua views itself as an occupied country struggling for self-determination against a colonial power whereas Indonesia maintains their rightful annex of Papua.
Additionally, Mr. Tebay noted that the Indonesian political policies are directed at preventing any separatist movements. As such, Indonesia has implemented policies to isolate Papua from the rest of world and refuses to allow any foreigners including journalists, researchers, and activists from entering the country. In contrast, Papuans judge every action towards their country by Indonesia by their own cultural values including: abundance of life, the prospect of leaders and laws that produce prosperity, community life (including the living, the dead, nature, and natural resources), and the inherently unequal relationship between Indonesia and Papua. Mr. Tebay reminded the conference that Papua is not only interested in political freedoms, but these cultural ideals as well.
Furthermore, Papuans have strongly pursued self-determination since 1998 by establishing the Free Papua Movement, jungle militias, and attacks on security stations in Papua. The four issues in which these groups seek redress include: self-determination in 1969, human rights violations, neglect of socio-economic and social rights, and the marginalization and discrimination of the indigenous population. Lastly, Mr. Tebay expressed the desire of Papuans to shift from violence to peaceful discourse with the Indonesian government. The Papuan opposition reached out to the Indonesian government, but is still waiting for this reciprocation in Jakarta.
Bradley Simpson addressed the essential function of historians to “narrow the range of permissible lies.” To accomplish this gargantuan task he explained his work at the National Security Archive in Washington D.C. where they use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gain access to documents in an attempt to make them available to public. Despite the inherit drawbacks of these FOIA requests that can take between six months to over fifteen years, if ever, to retrieve documents, this is a unique resource available in the United States. This point ties to Mr. Simpson’s larger assertion that historians in the U.S, and the rest of the West, can play an essential role to assist colleagues in countries where such access does not exist.
Furthermore, beyond providing documents to historians and groups such as the CAVR attempting to engage in truth and reconciliation, these documents broaden the scope of the events that took place in their respective countries. He indicated that in many countries who address transitional justice through truth and reconciliation there is a tendency to limit the conflicts to local and national events. Here, such a view minimizes the U.S. and West’s involvement that allowed for Indonesia to invade and occupy neighboring territories. He mentioned examples of documents pointing to the inventories of U.S. ammunition provided to Indonesia and U.S. documents stating that the 1969 Indonesian annexation of West Papua was not a free choice, the official narrative, and to the contrary the vast majority of the population wanted independence.
Mr. Bradley concluded by discussing the recent Freedom of Information Act in Indonesia and how NGO’s and civil society can pressure the government to obtain these documents and, perhaps, assist the Indonesian Parliament to start a comprehensive Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Thus, he argued a collaborative effort between historians in the U.S. providing documents to Indonesian colleagues combined with their own FOIA requests may disrupt the traditional Indonesian government narrative and finally provide a more accurate account of Indonesia’s history.
Baskara T. Wardaya: Providing Space for the Voiceless: Transitional Justice and Narratives on the 1965 Tragedy
Baskara T. Wardaya, a professor at Universitas Sanata Dharma, began his presentation with a quote from Mary Zurbuchen’s work:
Voices of ordinary citizens from all over the archipelago need to be given space in which to make their essential contribution toward understanding and resolution of this key episode  in the Indonesian national story within local context.
Wardaya explained that the quote illuminated the need to look at the impact of the 1965 events outside of the parameters established by official narratives – in particular, by emphasizing the experiences and perspectives of survivors and their families. Wardaya then provided an overview of what took place in 1965, and noted that the official narrative created by Suharto was very linear and localized guilt with the PKI. This narrative prevailed throughout the Suharto regime, and was elaborated with details to legitimize the repression and atrocities perpetrated against the Indonesian people.
Wardaya described how this official narrative has perpetuated “silence and amnesia,” and that one way of disrupting this narrative is by telling the stories of victims and witnesses. In particular, Wardaya discussed the importance of understanding how these individuals perceive and cope with their circumstances, particularly in the face of ongoing marginalization and discrimination. He then provided examples from several victims he had interviewed, including one former prisoner who poignantly described the “obligation” she felt to speak up on behalf of not only herself, but her entire nation.
Dahlia G. Setiyawan: Better Dead than Red? Suppression and Reconstruction of Surabaya's PKI
Mary Zurbuchen, a director with the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program, discussed the “inhabited absence” around the events that took place in Indonesia in 1965 and the challenge of characterizing collective memory around those events. While the 1965 events were the foundational violence of the New Order, Zurbuchen questioned whether those events have become merged among younger generations with a more generalized awareness of the abuses that took place throughout the Suharto era.
Up until now, Zurbuchen noted, the emphasis in the public sphere has been on “communist treachery” as the root cause of the violence. There has been no official expression of national regret, and the formal truth-seeking processes have been flawed and insufficient. While there have been a wide range of valuable efforts to understand the 1965 events through oral history, performing arts and documentaries, Zurbuchen observed that there are limitations to personal and anecdotal accounts. First, every year there are fewer individuals still alive who personally experienced the events of 1965. Furthermore, without placing individual experiences in context, audiences to these projects may be moved, but view the stories as simply tragic incidents that don’t really relate to their own lives or to the present. How do we link these stories and memories to the human rights or social issues of Indonesia today?
For Zurbuchen, there are many questions that remain yet to be answered about 1965, and the need for a living process to articulate answers to the questions. For example, what were the institutions that organized and managed political imprisonment? What were the daily routines of prison life? What do we know about how indigenous communities were affected by the opening of prisons? What happened within communities where mass violence occurred? In particular, what ethnographic or social processes were employed to accommodate individuals from opposite sides of the conflict continuing to live in the same community? Zurbuchen described a variety of projects currently being undertaken to create a social history of 1965, and emphasized the important roles that teachers, artists, human rights activists and priests may play in this effort. While there may never be a “singular truth,” Indonesians today may examine the past to shape collective memory.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Fernanda Borges, MP: Why Implementation of CAVR is Critical to the Success of Timor Leste
Fernanda Borges, a Parliamentarian in East Timor, began her presentation by describing a broad selection of challenges to justice in East Timor, which collectively contribute to the lack of political will referenced by conference participants throughout the day. To start, key parties are opposed to transitional justice because they want to maintain a political advantage; and pursuing transitional justice before the 2012 elections raises “old baggage,” as no one wants to be held accountable for past atrocities. Moreover, the national justice system is weak and bureaucratic. There is no separation of powers within the government, and power largely rests within the hands of three individuals. There has never really been formal justice in East Timor and the UN has not been consistent in ensuring transitional justice. Overall, reconciliation with Indonesia is the priority, and thus in many ways, Indonesia is still governing affairs in East Timor, despite its independence.
Borges cautioned that the weak institutions and justice mechanisms in East Timor create the potential for the growth of authoritarianism. Furthermore, recent incidents—such as post-election violence, an assassination attempt, and more generally, deepening corruption—suggest that a “fear of justice” is manifesting itself through politically motivated violence.
At the end of her talk, Borges identified several major issues that must be addressed if East Timor is committed to promoting accountability. The first is determining how to handle the return of refugees from Indonesia, which includes determining the vetting process. The second is continuing the serious crimes investigations that were initiated by the UN; parliamentarians must be involved in the working group addressing these investigations. The government should also prioritize reparations and work with Indonesia to cultivate a culture of non-violence. Lastly, there is strong political will for finding the missing, but there needs to be a systematic way of doing so.
Geoffrey Robinson: Legacies of Violence: East Timor Ten Years On
UCLA history professor Geoffrey Robinson began his presentation by discussing the release of Martenus Bere, who was charged in the September 1999 Suai massacre, on August 30, 2009, the tenth anniversary of the vote for independence in East Timor. Bere was released into the hands of Indonesian authorities and virtually guaranteed that he would not be prosecuted, though he had been indicted. The decision to release Bere passed “virtually without comment” among dignitaries celebrating the anniversary.
Robinson described this incident to illuminate a number of tensions that still exist in East Timor today. These tensions include deep and lasting legacies of decades of violence; the failure on the part of the East Timor government to uphold its own commitment to justice; and the reluctance on the part of major powers and the UN to insist Indonesia be held accountable for past crimes. The legacies of violence are most apparent in the consistent pattern of mobilization of militia groups to commit acts of violence for political purposes, even in the absence of the Indonesian military.
One way to disrupt this legacy of violence is to ensure that those who are responsible for serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, are brought to justice. However, the pattern of impunity is not limited to the violence of 1999; senior officials involved in violent crimes between 2006-2008 remain free as well. East Timor’s own leaders have argued against punitive justice, instead arguing for restorative justice. Reconciliation with Indonesia is presented as essential to stability and security, and consequently justice for past atrocities takes a back seat. This policy endorses a hierarchy of values that leaves many victims without a remedy and allows the violence to continue. Robinson pointed out that East Timor’s argument that stability and security must be higher priorities than justice mimics the arguments that Indonesia itself made in the 1980s, as it was being criticized on human rights grounds. Consequently, the argument sounds particularly hollow.