After discussing their economic policies at a previous forum, the three presidential candidates may tackle human rights issues next, their campaign teams said on Friday.
The independent National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has proposed holding a forum for the candidates to discuss how they would deal with human rights issues if elected, said Ifdhal Kasim, the commission’s chairman.
While the forum could open up the candidates’ track records on human rights to public scrutiny, Ifdhal said that was not the purpose . “We want a constructive dialogue,” he said. “What we need is to solve human rights issues in the near future.”
At least two of the vice presidential candidates — Gen. (ret.) Wiranto and Gen. (ret.) Prabowo — are widely believed to have been involved in major human rights violations during their military careers.
Both were allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of students in Jakarta and the May 1998 riots, and have also been accused of responsibility for the violence surrounding the UN-sponsored referendum in East Timor that led to the territory’s separation from Indonesia in 1999.
Many human rights violations were also reported when the government placed Aceh under effective martial law from 2003 to 2005.
Martial law in the province came into effect during Megawati Sukarnoputri’s presidency, when the current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, served as her coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
The candidates on Thursday formally agreed on the format, topics and moderators for the five presidential and vice presidential debates scheduled during the campaign. Topics range from good governance and supremacy of the law, but do not include human rights.
Ifdhal said the proposed forum would gauge the candidates’ commitment to human rights issues. The forum would consist of a speech from each candidate and a question and answer session between the candidates and the audience, which would include family members of human rights victims. There would be three sessions, one for each candidate, similar to the recent economic forums with Kadin.
Indra Piliang, a member of Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s and Wiranto’s campaign team, said that the two were ready to provide a clear explanation of their human rights commitment.
“It’s a good event,” Indra said. “We will give the answers just as they are, not based on the claims from biographies or political books by some authors.”
Anas Urbaningrum, from Yudhoyono’s and former Bank Indonesia Governor Boediono’s campaign team, said they welcomed the idea.
“Yudhoyono will attend the forum as long as his schedule permits,” Anas said.
Hasto Kristianto, a member of the campaign team for Megawati and Prabowo, said that the event could be used to clarify Prabowo’s role in past cases of alleged human rights abuses.