On October 1, 2022, a huge stampede occurred during a football match, resulting in the tragic loss of 135 lives. It’s not that I am late to publish this story; it’s simply taking me some time to process my anger. Ironically, whether I’m angry or not, the story of this disaster remains unfinished. More than 300 days of waiting have yielded nothing but increased anger and a growing sense of hopelessness.
I once had a dream of becoming a footballer myself. At the age of 10, I joined a club near my home in West Jakarta. I practiced drills three times a week on hot afternoons, dreaming of taking this country to the world stage. It was a dream that always brought a smile to my face. However, as I grew older and lost interest in this country’s football, reality hit me hard. The same reasons that led me to quit football as a kid played out in just one fateful night.
That night, I was glued to Twitter (before it lost its charm with all the changes), witnessing every tweet counting a corpse as if it were counting sheep before bedtime. The numbers climbed: 50, 78, 100, and continued until I lost track, culminating in a heartbreaking total of 135.
To make a long story short, Indonesian football had suddenly gained global attention. Various media outlets conducted self-investigations, revealing that tear gas fired by the police had triggered the deadly stampede, resulting in 135 deaths. The government formed an independent team to uncover the facts behind this tragedy. Some facts came to light, some individuals were arrested, but then the attention, updates, and even the pursuit of justice seemed to fade away.
During the trial process, when police suspects testified and were investigated by the court, some police officers disrupted the proceedings right in front of the victim’s families. This action could be categorized as intimidation of the prosecutors and contempt of the courts. Subsequently, the trial process lost its transparency. Judges decided to hold certain proceedings behind closed doors, even though it wasn’t a child’s trial or a case involving sexual assault. In the end, no suspects received sentences longer than two years in prison, while the masterminds remained free. Astonishingly, the judges concluded that it was the wind that caused the 135 deaths.
But it didn’t stop there. Some family members of the victims continue to seek justice, despite the risks and daily intimidation they face. Recently, a group of mothers who had become desperate due to the arduous process sought to meet their own president. However, they were met with mistreatment by the police and the army. Their posters were torn down, and they were forcibly removed from the venue. In another incident, based on a report by ICW, the police spent nearly Rp 50 billion on the procurement of tear gas.
Unfortunately, the Kanjuruhan incident is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to police accountability issues in our beloved country. The use of excessive force remains the go-to response for security forces when faced with protests. According to a report from Amnesty International Indonesia in 2020, there were at least 43 violent incidents involving the police during protests, including the use of tear gas in confined spaces. Yet, the law seems powerless to punish these errors, and impunity thrives in a system that should uphold justice. Dual function has resurfaced, and the forces have gained more influence, rendering their members untouchable. The law has become corrupt, and we seem to have no choice but to accept it, despite our better judgment.
Penulis: I Gede Oka Kertiyasa