Yudhoyono Government Says 1965 Murders =?UTF-8?B?4oCYU2F2ZWTigJkg?=
Oct 23, 2012 12:26 PDT
[One small correction to the third paragraph: The Komnas HAM
investigations were conducted over a period of four years. Moreover, it
should also be added that their investigations were confined to only
four regions of the country because of financial constraints and the
lack of its capacity to conduct its investigations right across the
Yudhoyono Government Says 1965 Murders ‘Saved’ Indonesia
October 22, 2012
Direct Action (Australia)
By James Balowski, in Jakarta
Reneging on a pledge to apologise and make reparations for the victims
of the 1965 anti-communist purge, when Suharto and the military seized
power, the government of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
is now parroting the New Order regime’s myth that the killings were
justified to save the country from communism.
After being swept under the carpet for nearly 50 years, the atrocities
were this year acknowledged for the first time by the government’s
own National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), which announced in
July that it had found evidence of widespread gross human rights
violations during the purges.
The report, based on a three-year investigation and the testimony of
349 witnesses, urged that the military officers responsible be brought
to trial for crimes including murder, extermination, slavery, forced
eviction, torture and mass rape. The commission also called on the
government to issue an apology, compensate victims and their families
and establish a truth and reconciliation commission.
By 1965 the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) had become the largest
Communist Party outside of the Soviet Union and China, with more than
3 million members and 10 million more followers in affiliated mass
organisations. Its influence on Indonesia’s leftist President
Sukarno, whose strong anti-US and anti-imperialist rhetoric was wining
broad support among the masses, was increasingly seen as a threat by
Washington and right-wing elements in the military.
On the night of September 30, 1965, a group of middle-ranking military
officers kidnapped six generals they accused of organising a coup
against Sukarno. For reasons that remain unclear, the six were killed
and their bodies dumped in a well known as Lubang Buaya in East
Jakarta. Blaming the incident on the PKI provided the pretext for
sections of the military, led by then Major General Suharto, to launch
one of the most organised and ferocious mass slaughters in modern
Within four months, as many as 1 million communists and left-wing
sympathisers were killed, and hundreds of thousands of others interned
without trial. As well as members of the PKI, women’s activists,
worker and peasant leaders, left-wing writers, intellectuals, teachers
and students were targeted.
The British government secretly assisted the army with propaganda,
logistics and loans. With the military in control of the state radio
station, Canberra ensured that Radio Australia’s Indonesian audience
received only broadcasts discrediting the PKI and casting the army in
a positive light. The US supplied Suharto’s forces with money and
weapons while the CIA ticked off names from a list of Communist
leaders and figures it had provided to Suharto several months before.
It was also a campaign of terror, with public executions and torture,
victims being disembowelled and left to die, decapitated heads mounted
on poles and paraded around — all designed to terrorise the
population into submission and make it clear that anyone associating
with the left, or daring to resist, would meet the same fate. The army
also armed and trained anti-communist gangs drawn from Islamic mass
organisation such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah to do their
dirty work, Islamic clerics overseeing and directing the killings in
coordination with military officers.
Officially portrayed as a failed “communist coup”, thwarted only
by decisive action by Suharto and the army, the events leading to and
surrounding the night of September 30 were carefully woven into the
fabric of New Order mythology and its ideological justification for
Not until Suharto’s overthrow in1998 did the official version of
history begin to be publicly questioned. In 2004 the Education
Ministry rewrote school history books to say that the PKI had been
only one of several instigators, but in 2006 the Yudhoyono government
ordered the education minister to abandon the 2004 curriculum and the
Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to investigate those responsible for
textbooks. By 2010, when the Constitutional Court stripped the AGO of
its powers to ban books arbitrarily deemed to “disrupt public
order”, dozens of history books had been banned for failing to blame
the PKI for the alleged coup.
‘Saving the country’
In response to the report, Yudhoyono announced that he had ordered the
AGO to study Komnas HAM’s findings and that he would consult with
the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court on what action to
take. The Presidential Advisory Council said it was preparing a draft
apology and mechanism to compensate the victims, and Yudhoyono
reportedly told confidants he wanted to make the apology part of his
“legacy” before his term ends in 2014.
Two weeks later, however, the AGO — which has failed to investigate,
let alone prosecute, any cases of past human rights crimes —
announced that it could not pursue the findings because the violations
were “beyond the scope of the existing law”.
Yudhoyono, a former army general who rose to prominence during the
Suharto years and served several tours in East Timor, including a
stint with the invading force in 1976, appeared to have quietly let
the issue drop. Then, on October 1, the coordinating minister for
political, legal and security affairs, Djoko Suyanto, issued a public
statement rejecting the Komnas HAM report, saying the killings were
justified to save the country from communism and that Yudhoyono should
not make an official apology.
“We must look at what happened comprehensively. Mutiny against the
state was planned by the communists. Immediate action was needed to
protect the country against such a threat. Don’t force the
government to apologise”, he was quoted as saying by the Jakarta
Post. “This country would not be what it is today if it didn’t
happen”, he added.
Indonesian military (TNI) commander Admiral Agus Suhartono also said
the TNI would not apologise. “We will, of course, punish any members
proven to have played roles in the incident. But, why bother doling
out punishment when the AGO would certainly say that the soldiers were
not guilty?”, Suhartono said on the sidelines of an annual function
at the Lubang Buaya Museum to honour the officers kidnapped on
September 30, a monument built as part of the New Order’s carefully
reconstructed history of 1965.
Yudhoyono — who presided over the event — was slammed as
“narcissistic” when the normally somber tone was broken with the
singing of “I’m Sure We’ll Make It There”, a song penned by
Yudhoyono, who has released several albums of saccharine love songs he
says were “written for the ordinary people”.
Suyanto’s statement followed a concerted campaign by retired
military officers, politicians and Islamic organisations implicated in
the purges to block Komnas HAM’s recommendations.
Legislator Nudirman Munir from Suharto's former ruling party Golkar
— now a key partner in the Yudhoyono government’s fractious ruling
coalition — said the best solution to solving past rights abuses was
to bury them. “If we keep opening up old wounds we will not be able
to move on and look to the future”, he was quoted as saying by the
Post on July 31, adding that revisiting past abuses would open a
House speaker Marzuki Alie, from Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party, said
that reopening the case would be counterproductive. “The 1965
communist coup was considered a mutiny and the government at that time
needed to crush it. We have to be clear if it was truly a human rights
violation”, he told the Post.
Golkar deputy general secretary Leo Nababan called for an end to
demands for restitution, arguing that a 1966 decree on the dissolution
of the PKI and prohibitions on Marxist, Leninist and communist
teachings has not been revoked, and this is a basis for anti-communism
in Indonesia. “The 127 anti-communist mass organisation supporters
of [the state ideology] Pancasila in 1965 that are part of the
Pancasila Front are ready to block, particularly [our] youth
generation allies in Ansor NU if for example there are calls for the
case to go to court”, Nababan was quoted as saying by Inilah.com on
Ansor NU chairperson Nusron Wahid said the government does not need to
acknowledge past violations. “The government does not need to
acknowledge human rights violations in the 1965 tragedy. Let alone try
to uncover the masterminds behind the tragedy. It’s not possible,
the affair was zeitgeist [the spirit of the times]. We don’t need to
dig up past issues anymore”, Wahid was quoted as saying by
Kompas.com on August 15.
NU’s central leadership board (PBNU) also opposed any apology,
saying that what was needed was reconciliation. “NU is not pushing
for a court because [we] don’t wish to dig up old issues. Our
people, Islamic teachers were killed by the PKI, so we are not making
accusations”, PBNU deputy secretary general As’ad Said Ali told
Kompas.com at the declaration of “Be on Alert for the Revival of the
PKI” at the PBNU’s headquarters in Jakarta.
Retired Army Generals Association chairperson Suryadi said that in
recommending an apology, Komnas HAM was fanning social hostilities.
“The PKI were the perpetrators of the coup. There’s already plenty
of evidence. It is improper for the government to apologise. Komnas
HAM is not acting justly”, he told Kompas.com.
Rights activists and survivors of the purge have deplored Suyanto’s
statement. “The Dutch government has apologised for killing innocent
people in Rawagede. Now, why won’t our own government apologise to
its own people?”, one survivor told the Post, referring to the Dutch
government’s decision to compensate the families of men massacred by
Dutch colonial forces in 1947.
Komnas HAM chairperson Ifdhal Kasim said that the government appears
to be turning back the clock. “The current government is no
different from the New Order regime because they want to perpetuate
the latter’s version of the 1965 purge”, Kasim said.
The Asian Human Rights Commission said that crimes against humanity
cannot be justified in any circumstances and that, as a country that
claims to support freedom of opinion, Indonesia should treat communism
as any other ideology instead of taking it as a threat and allow those
who subscribe to such views to enjoy their rights without fear of
persecution or discrimination.
UK-based rights group TAPOL said that the impunity enjoyed by those
responsible for the 1965 killings had encouraged violations in East
Timor, Aceh and West Papua and threatened Indonesia’s progress as a
democratic nation. “While the victims are demonised, the
perpetrators are treated as heroes and allowed total impunity for some
of the last century’s worst atrocities”, the group said.
In August the Democrat Party announced it would nominate Yudhoyono’s
father-in-law, the late General Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, for the title of
national hero. Wibowo, whose son General Pramono Edhie Wibowo
currently serves as the army's chief of staff, was the commander of
the army’s Special Forces (now Kopassus), which spearheaded the mass
murder and terror across Java and Bali in 1965-96. He once boasted
that 2 million were killed — “and we did a good job”.
[For the latest news and information on Indonesia visit the Asia
Pacific Solidarity Network website at
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