JAKARTA: Former militants had a rare chance to meet survivors and families of those who died in terror attacks and apologize to them in the first-ever reconciliation meeting in Indonesia designed to counter radicalism.
Toni Togar, a former terrorist convicted for recruiting the suicide bomber who attacked the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003 and for supplying the bomb, said the meeting was useful for him and fellow former inmates because they could see the results of their actions.
“I could feel their sorrow over their sufferings and the loss of their loved ones. As one of those involved, I feel that I have to apologize personally and on behalf of my group, because they were collateral victims and not our main target,” Toni told Arab News.
The three-day event involved 124 former prisoners convicted of terror-related crimes and 51 survivors and family members of the dead.
Toni was released from prison two years ago after serving half of his 25-year prison sentence for three terror-related charges.
Sofyan Sauri, who was convicted for smuggling arms for terrorist cells, admitted that what he and the former militants did was “very disturbing, so there is no other way for us but to ask forgiveness to the victims and survivors.”
Dwi Welasih and her younger sister Andini were victims of the Marriott bomb. They were getting out of their car in front of a building next to the hotel when the bomb exploded. Dwi and Andini were severely injured in the blast. Andini lost four toes in her right foot, which was severely broken, while Dwi suffered burn injuries.
Despite the horror they went through, the two sisters said it was not hard for them to meet the former terrorists.
“We already forgave them long time ago. Now I feel sorry for them that they were lost. After 15 years I have no revenge. I do wish for justice but I guess time heals everything,” Dwi told Arab News.
The government-initiated meeting marked the end of the program with ministers of higher education and social affairs attending. Lawmakers pledged to provide better remedial assistance for survivors and families of the deceased and a program to reintegrate the former militants into society.
Minister of Research and Higher Education Mohammed Nasir said the government would provide financial assistance for children of survivors, the deceased, and for former militants to study at university.
“Just tell us their names and where they study, we will make sure they will be taken care of,” he told the audience.
Head of National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) Commissioner Gen. Suhardi Alius told Arab News BNPT would soon have the legal basis to handle victims' grievances: The counterterrorism law was being amended to include provisions that would give BNPT a mandate to take care of them.
“We were criticized for ignoring the survivors and victims families and only paying attention to the former convicts and their families. We didn’t have the legal standing to do that but as soon as the amended bill is passed into law, we will enforce it for the survivors,” he said.
He acknowledged that there were survivors who refused to attend the program because they were still traumatized.
“Those who were here came voluntarily and could see for themselves that they could talk directly to the ministers about their grievances. What the ministers pledged here was not just for the 51 who came but for all survivors and family members of victims,” Suhardi said.