Thursday, May 12, 2005

Black May 1998: 7th Commemoration (1 of 3)


It's already seven years passed the tragedy of May 1998. In the past six years CCEVI (Canadians Concerned about Ethnic Violence in Indonesia) has held event and multi-faith memorial to remind us that justice has not been reached especially for the victims and their families. There was a deep sorrow, a humiliating moment, a dark alley in Indonesia's contemporary history when violence struck, again, by men towards their own brothers and sisters during May 13-15, 1998. Even today, I can still play intense emotion and clear pictures on those days. I will put some coverage focusing on this issue to refresh our memory and to keep our struggle for justice... We owe this to those innocent victims. We owe this to future generations in Indonesia.

Mass Rapes in the Recent Riots: The Climax of An Uncivilized Act in the Nation's Life

A Report by Volunteers for Humanity
July 13, 1998
"About 11.30 a.m. I saw some people among the crowd stopping a car and forcing the passengers to get out, and then they dragged two girls out from the car. They began to take off their shirts and raped them. The two girls tried to fight back, but it was in vain." (An eyewitness, Muara Angke, May 14, 1998).

The above is a true report, concerning only one of hundreds of rapes that happened during the riots in mid-May, 1998. The wide scale of these rapes, as reported up to the present time, is demonstrated in the tables and testimonies contained in this document. After the riots statements were made denying that the rapes occurred. It is now time to silence these statements. [Read more... in PDF format]

The Final Report of the Joint Fact-Finding Team (TGPF) on the May 13-15, 1998 Riot
October 23, 1998

Based on the joint decision of the Secretary of Defense/Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia, the Secretary of Justice, the Secretary of Internal Affairs, the Secretary of States, the Secretary of Women's Roles, and the Attorney General, the Joint Fact Finding Team (TGPF) has been formed on July 23, 1998. This joint team worked in finding and presenting facts, instigators and the background of the events on May 13-15, 1998. TGPF consists of the elements of the government, Komnas HAM (National Human Rights Commission), LSM (NGOs), and other mass organizations. Since its founding within three months TGPF has carried out its duties that terminated on October 23, 1998. [Read more...]

Excerpts of Joint Team's Findings on the May Riots
(Source: The Jakarta Post, November 3, 1998)

Jakarta (JP): The following are excerpts from the final report prepared by the joint fact-finding team (TGPF) on the May 13 to May 15 riots in Jakarta, Solo, Surabaya, Medan and Palembang which was released here on Tuesday evening.

1. The root cause of the May 13 to May 15 riots was the interaction of two key processes, namely the process of struggle on the part of the political elite in connection with the problem of maintaining the power of the national leadership and the process of rapid economic and monetary deterioration. Within the struggle between the political elites there were key agents in the field who played an important part in the riots. In connection with this, the meeting at the Kostrad (Army's Strategic Reserves Command) headquarters on May 14, 1998, should be seen as competent to disclose the roles of the actors within the struggle that led into the riots.

2. The May 13 to May 15 riots was the culmination of a series of violent events, such as kidnappings (which in reality had been committed as far back as 1974, in the form of intelligence operations which could not be effectively supervised) and the Trisakti incident. The TGPF is convinced that the Trisakti incident was the trigger of the riot. They May 13 to May 15 riot cannot be separated from various further by-product impacts manifesting themselves in widespread fear among members of the public and eroding confidence in law enforcement.

3. First-hand data and facts show that there were three patterns to the riots.

  • First, the riots were of local, sporadic, limited and spontaneous nature. They took place within a relatively brief period and inflicted losses and claimed victims on a relatively small scale. The riots under this pattern occurred because, objectively, in view of the social, economic and political conditions then pertaining, it was impossible to prevent the unrest from breaking out.

  • Second, there was a relationship between different scenes of the riots, with (evidence of) similar methods of operations. Provocateurs of this type played a more prominent role than those in the riots of the first type. They did not come from the location where the riot broke out. The there was the similarity or even uniformity in the time and the order of events. As riots of this type occurred on a major scale in several locations, there was an indication that they occurred consecutively and sytematically. However, no indication has been found to the effect that the riots of this type were premeditated and broke out on a wider scale rather than simply occuring locally and consecutively. There is a missing link in the effort to prove that these riots occurred because of an objective situation. The riots of this type occurred on a big scale and were found in all locations.

  • Third, there were indications that the riots occurred deliberately. The element of deliberateness was bigger than the objective condition then pertaining. Riots of this type were generally similar to those of the second type, but the element of exploitation of the situation in these riots was more obvious than in those of the second type. In this third type, it is assumed that the riots was created as part of a political struggle at the level of the elite. As is the case of the riots of the second type, in these riots there were several missing links, namely evidence or information referring to the obvious relationship between the elite and the masses.

4. According to first-hand findings, there were many parties involved in the riots that were seeking personal or group benefits. It can further be concluded that all parties involved played at all levels. This conclusion is an affirmation that all parties were involved, from local hoodlums and mass organizations to groups within the Armed Forces. They gained benefits not only from their deliberate efforts to exploit the riots but also by means of their inaction. It is in this context that it is concluded that the Armed Forces, that shouldered the responsibility to prevent the riots from breaking out, did not take sufficient action to ensure this.

5. The exact number of the lives lost nationwide cannot be revealed because of the weakness in the monitoring system and in the reporting procedure. More lives of common people were lost than any other group. Most of them were burned to death. They cannot just be blamed by stigmatizing them as looters. In the same way, the value of material losses cannot be ascertained, they can only be estimated.

6. On the basis of the facts found and the information from witnesses/expert witnesses, sexual violence was committed, including rapes, during the May 13 to May 15 riot. From a number of cases which have been verified, it may be concluded that sexual violence was committed against rape victims, victims of rapes with torure, victims of sexual assaults and torture, and victims of sexual harrasment. The victims were Indonesian residents of various backgrounds, but mostly of ethnic Chinese origin.

7. It has yet to be ascertained whether the sexual violence that occurred was premeditated or mere excesses of the rioting. No facts have been discovered about the aspect of religion in the sexual violence. It is also concluded that the instruments of positive laws are inadequate and are therefore not responsive enough to enable all rape cases discovered or reported to be legally processed soon.

8.These riots were able to spread because of inadequate safeguarding measures to prevent, restrict and overcome the perpetration of a series of acts of violence, which could have been anticipated and which later evolved on an escalated scale. It can be concluded that the vulnerability and weaknesses in security operations in Jakarta particularly were closely linked to the entire process of the political-military struggle, which the operational commander of Greater Jakarta must be held to account for.

Indications of security vulnerability and weaknesses in different gradation in other cities where riots also broke out were also linked to the political-military struggle at the national level.

9. It is affirmed that the cause and effect of a series of incidents of violence culminating in the outbreak of the May 13 to May 15 riots can be perceived as an effort geared toward the creation of an emergency situation which would require the invocation of extra-constitutional powers in order to keep the situation under control with the preparation toward this having started at the highest decision-making level.


Based on the above conclusions, the TGPF presents the following policy and institutional recommendations:

1. The government must conduct further investigation into the root causes and main perpetrators of the May 13 to May 15, 1998, riots and then draw up and publish a white paper on the role, responsibility and inter-relationship of all parties connected with this unrest. The government must conduct further investigations into the May 14, 1998, meeting at the Kostrad headquarters to reveal and ascertain the role of Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto and other parties in the whole process which precipitated the riots.

2. The government should follow up cases which may be judicially connected with regard to the involvement of civilians and military personnel in the fairest manner in order to uphold legal authority, including speeding up the judicial process now going on in the kidnapping cases and the Trisakti case. As regards the kidnapping of activits, Lt. Gen. Prabowo and all those involved in the abductions must be brought before a military tribunal. Further investigations must also be made to uncover the full story surrounding the shooting of the Triskati University students.

3. The government should provide security guarantees to witnesses and victims and set up a permanent agency assigned to implement a witness protection program.

4. The government should rehabilitate and provide compensation to all victims and their families and assist their families in processing the victims' legal documents. The government also should help with the reconstruction of gutted buildings, commercial establishments and social facilities.

5. The government shoudl immediately ratify the international antiracial and discrimination conventions and realize their implementaion in permanent legal products, including the implementation of the antitorture convention.

6. The government should eliminate all forms of hoodlumism developing in all kinds of environments, layers and professions in society pursuant to the prevailing laws.

7. The government should immediately formulate a law on state intelligence which shall confirm the main responsibility, functions and scope of the implementation of intelligence operations in authorized government/state agencies so that the interests of state security can be protected and on the other hand human rights respected. Of no less significance will be that intelligence operations can be effectively supervised by supervisory institutions so that they will not turn into instruments to pursue the political interests of certain parties.


The May 13 to May 15, 1998 riot was a tragedy that tarnished the dignity and honor of human beings, the nation and the state. The government and the community must earnestly take every step to prevent the recurrence of further rioting like this. It is of great urgency that the attention and solidarity of all parties should be manifested in concrete terms to the victims and their families so that the restoration of violated rights may be realized together. Our honor as a civilized nation is also determined by the extent our nation can put right its weaknesses and shortcomings and by the speed with which we remove fear and bring into reality peace and security for everyone without exception.

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