Saturday, December 10, 2016

George Junus Aditjondro: Researcher, dissident, human rights defender, environmentalist

George Junus Aditjondro, an Indonesian anti-corruption researcher, academic, dissident, human rights defender and environmentalist, died in Palu, Central Sulawesi, this morning.

He is probably best known for his investigation of the Suhartos' illicit wealth published in 1995 when he was teaching at Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, Central Java.

He was born in Pekalongan, Central Java on May 27, 1946. His father, Harjono Aditjondro, was a Javanese judge who met his wife while studying at a law school in Leiden, the Netherlands. Aditjondro senior had an adopted son, Ali Moertopo, later becoming an Indonesian Army general and a close aide to President Soeharto.

George grew up in various cities due to his father's job --Pekalongan, Pontianak, Banyuwangi and Makassar--  never finished his colleges --in Salatiga and Semarang-- but took his Ph.D from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, writing his thesis on the anti-Kedung Ombo dam movement in Central Java.

In the 1970s, he worked for Tempo magazine for a decade, writing especially on environmental reporting. He later worked for some NGOs such as Bina Desa and Walhi in Jakarta as well as Yayasan Pengembangan Masyarakat Desa di Irian Jaya in Jayapura, West Papua (1982-1987). He left Jayapura after the killing of his friend and neighbor, West Papuan anthropologist Arnold Ap, in 1984.

In 1987, President Suharto gave him the Kalpataru environment award for his works to prevent environmental degradation in Indonesia. A decade later he returned the award as a protest against human rights abuses and environmental destruction by the Suharto regime.

In 1991, after finishing his Cornell master degree, he began to teach at Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga. He was my mentor when I was studying in Salatiga. He finished his Ph.D from Cornell in 1993, writing his thesis on the anti-Kedung Ombo dam, a World Bank-sponsored project, in Boyolali, Central Java.

In 1995, he moved to Australia due to his Suharto corruption research. He taught at Newcastle University in New South Wales. He returned to Indonesia in 2002 after the fall of Suharto in 1998, teaching at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta.

He is one of very few Indonesian intellectuals who write about almost every corner of this vast archipelago i.e. Aceh, North Sumatra, Poso, the Malukus Islands, East Timor, West Papua.

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