Indonesia’s President Says He Regrets Country’s Bloody Past

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has acknowledged “gross human rights violations” in his country’s history and vowed to prevent any repeat.

Hi cited 12 “regrettable” events, including an anti-communist purge at the height of the Cold War.

By some estimates, the massacres killed about 500,000 people.

Mr Widodo is the second Indonesian president to publicly admit the 1960s bloodshed, after the late Abdurrahman Wahid’s public apology in 2000.

The violence was unleashed after communists were accused of killing six generals in an attempted coup amid a struggle for power between the Communists, the military and Islamist groups.

“With a clear mind and an earnest heart, I as (Indonesia’s) head of state acknowledge that gross human rights violations did happen in many occurrences,” Mr Widodo said on Wednesday at a news conference outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.

“And I strongly regret that those violations occurred,” added the president, more commonly known as Jokowi.

The events he cited took place between 1965 and 2003 and included the abduction of democratic activists during protests against former leader Suharto’s iron-fisted presidency in the late 1990s.

The president also highlighted rights violations in the region of Papua – the eastern region bordering Papua New Guinea where there has been a long-running separatist movement – as well as during an insurgency in the province of Aceh, in the north of the island of Sumatra.

The government was looking to restore the rights of victims “fairly and wisely without negating judicial resolution”, he said, but did not specify how this would be done.

“I will endeavour wholeheartedly to ensure gross human rights violations never happen again in the future,” he added.