7 September 2012 marks 8 years after suspected death of Mr. Munir Said Thalib, an Indonesian human rights defender. Until today, Munir is considered as the most respected human rights defender in Indonesia who had fought for labour rights, security sector reform and human rights. He had contributed to bring democracy in Indonesia and collapse of Suharto dictatorship. In 2004, on the way to Netherlands for his Master's Degree, he was poisoned in the flight. Until today, truth of his death is not revealed. Major General Muchdi Purwopradjono who is believed to be the main perpetrator are still not yet brought to justice. Justice can be brought only when impunity ends.
Remembering MUNIR SAID THALIB
He introduced me to PSPD and Korea Democracy Movement
Poengky Indarti – Imparsial Indonesia, Executive Director
“Poengky, don’t forget to join us to meet PSPD Korea. They will visit us tomorrow. They’re great! They’re like Korean version of the YLBHI (the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation). They will share their experiences concerning Labor movement in Korea. I am eager to discuss with them to know why Korean labor movement is very strong. I will use their experiences as my new knowledge!”.
I still remember Munir the words that Munir told me about the visit of 3 activists of PSPD to our office in LBH Surabaya (Surabaya Legal Aid Institute) around 18 years ago. The visit of 3 PSPD activists to LBH Surabaya office in 1994 was discussing about Korean Companies in Indonesia. It was part of their activities to monitor Korean Companies abroad as well as strengthening international network.
Munir is the one who introduced me to PSPD and Korean network. At that time, I was young activist handled labor division in LBH Surabaya and Munir was my supervisor. He taught me how to deal with labor issues, including how to organize labors, how to defend their cases in the court and how to make a national and international campaign. He was inspired by Korean labor movement in the 1980-1990s. Therefore, he tried to strengthen labor movement in East Java by organizing labors in the grassroots level. He tried to motivate students as many as possible to joint organizing labor movement. Once he told me that in Korea, young generations are joining to raise awareness of labors regarding political situation in Korea and its impact on their life. Many students from universities were conducting “class suicide” to enter companies in order to organize labor movement.
In 1995, one year after the visit of PSPD activists, Munir was promoted as vice chair of YLBHI. I was replacing him as head of labor division in Surabaya and still maintain our cooperation with PSPD. One PSPD’s international staff Jeon Je-Seong then used Labor Movement in Surabaya as his research for Ph.D dissertation in 2000.
In 2001 was my turn to be transferred to YLBHI as head of labor division. I was working together with Munir again until he passed away in September 2004. He was killed by a secret intelligence operation when he flew to the Netherlands to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Utrecht.
Eight years later, the mystery of the death of Munir still unrevealed. As outspoken activist, Munir was very critical against government policies related to security reform and other human rights issues. He was always in the frontline. Therefore, people often say that they are many government officials do not like him and many people believe that Munir was killed due to his activities as human rights defender.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at the end of 2004 during the announcement of the Fact Finding Mission to inquiry on the death of Munir, was saying that the death of Munir is the test of our history, whether Indonesia can be acknowledged as a country that respected human rights or not. However, eight years after the death of Munir, the government can only bring one perpetrator to justice. He was a co-pilot whom on board with him on the 6th of September 2004. The main perpetrators, however, still walk free. The panel of judges of the Southern Jakarta District Court was acquitting Major General Muchdi Purwopranjono on the 31st of December 2008. There are several names of the former high rank generals of the Indonesia’s State Intelligence Body who were suspected as the intellectual actors of Munir murder still never being interrogated by the police. Therefore, it is obviously that Indonesia is still a country that is not respecting human rights.
▲ Last photo with Munir with Poengky Indarti(writer), at the airport before Munir left to Netherlands (6 September 2004)ⓒPoengky Indarti