Genuine progress in the Munir case?
: More than six
(long!) months after human rights campaigner Munir was killed by arsenic poisoning while on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, police have finally named a suspect: Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.
Pollycarpus was on the same flight as Munir from Jakarta to Singapore last September 7th, before the activist suffered an agonizing death on the second leg of the flight to Amsterdam.
Pollycarpus had telephoned Munir prior to the departure of the flight on the night of September 6 and later gave his business class seat to the activist after they boarded the aircraft. The pilot disembarked when the plane transited at Singapore's Changi Airport. He claimed he had been assigned to the flight as an aviation security officer to check on the landing gears of a Garuda 747 at the airport, although he returned to Jakarta on the first flight the following morning. It was later revealed his letter of assignment was falsified, having been written nine days after Munir was killed.
There are two major concerns here. That Munir was assassinated because he was a human rights activist targeting the remnants of the Suharto era is not one of them.Munir was at the forefront of efforts to bring the military to justice for massacres of pro-democracy activists over 1998-99 and for crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999. More recently he had exposed military atrocities in the rebellious Aceh province. He received numerous death threats and his office was vandalized at least twice by paramilitary thugs. On one occasion a bomb was placed outside the family's house.
Rights groups are adamant Munir was murdered by his powerful enemies, possibly by those who wanted to silence his most recent investigations into corruption cases involving prominent government figures.
The first question involves the link
between Garuda International and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), which, naturally, BIN denies
.A government-backed fact-finding team has found "strong indications" that four Garuda employees and two members of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) were involved in the conspiracy to kill Munir. The four Garuda staff are: Pollycarpus, former president director Indra Setiawan, corporate security head Ramelgia Anwar, and Airbus 330 chief pilot secretary Rohainil Aini. The two BIN operatives have not yet been named.
Setiawan had on August 11, 2004, issued a letter appointing Pollycarpus as an aviation security officer. The letter raised suspicions because it was the first time such a document had ever been signed by the airline's president director. Police have also questioned the propriety of the assignment, as Pollycarpus apparently lacked the requisite Garuda Aviation Training and Education (GATE) certificate to serve as a security officer.
A second letter regarding Pollycarpus' assignment was issued by Anwar and dated on September 4, two days before Munir?s flight. That was a Saturday, when Garuda?s offices were closed and the letter could not have been issued. Police investigators later found that the letter had actually been written on September 15 and signed on September 17.
A third letter, dated September 6 and signed by Aini, arranged Pollycarpus' flight schedule, assigning him to join Munir?s flight and then take the next flight from Singapore back to Jakarta. As a secretary, Aini had no authority to sign such a letter.
Last week, the government replaced the entire Garuda Board of Directors, ostensibly to improve its profitability. State Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto said
, "The company has spent the last decade trying to reshape its finances and generate profit, and it has not managed to do so.
" Of course, this also opens the way for the police to interrogate Indra Setiawan and others.
If a link is proven, can one expect Garuda passengers to take their own food?
The other concern is the involvement of the Dutch authorities
. They conducted the original autopsy on Munir, but only agreed on Saturday to hand over documents, interview results and case reports from the Schipol airport police, and several tissue samples Dutch doctors took from Munir during his autopsy.
It has been suggested that the delay in co-operation has been because Indonesian retains the death penalty, as proven yesterday
. Does this mean that a deal has been agreed so that Pollycarpus, if found guilty in any forthcoming trial, will receive less than the maximum sentence?
One hopes that there will be closure soon of this whole sorry affair so that Munir's widow, Suciwati
, family and friends can continue with the rest of their lives.
One may also hope that a final resolution of this case will rein in the arrogance of state officials who have yet to learn that a key component of reformasi
is the right of its citizens to protection and help from public servants.