Indonesia and 1965: rehabilitating victims, rehabilitating revolution under a counter-revolutionary state.
Text of notes used for talk delivered at Conference: “After The Act of Killing: Historical Justice and the 1965-66 Mass Killings in Indonesia”, University of Melbourne and Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat, Jakarta, August 30, 2013.
It is very heartening to see the increased and more open discussion of the 1965-68 mass killings of supporters of President Sukarno and the Indonesian Left, including the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), internationally and within Indonesia. The stark and cruel brutality of the 1965 murders revealed by the confessions in the film THE ACT OF KILLING has played a very important role in provoking this discussion. The public release of the main findings of the KOMNASHAM Report affirming the systematic role of the state and the military in the killings and the passing of this report to the current Indonesian government has also been very important. The ongoing work of former members of the pre-65 political left, now mostly aged, in raising the issue of their plight, digging up mass graves, and through other campaigns has been crucial. Former GERWANI leader, Sulami, played a heroic role in pioneering this process among her comrades. There have also been court cases seeking compensation for loss of property and violence suffered, sometimes successful, sometimes not.
The role of younger activists has also been crucial at certain times. The first digging up of mass graces was carried out under Suharto by PRD founder, Danial Indrakusuma, working with English film-maker, Max Stahl. Indrakusuma led two further mass grave efforts during the short Habibie interregnum.
This increased activity has certainly won more profile and more space for campaigning and lobbying on the issue of rehabilitation and justice for victims of the 1965-68 terror. At this point, however, we would have to register that the main gains won have been at the level of a small increase in public discussion, not of broader public opinion shifts, nor changes at the level of state policy. The state, via the current Yudhoyono government, has ignored the KOMNASHAM report: in fact the Minister for Politics and Security made a comment that he thought the 1965 mass killings were justified as it was those killings which guaranteed the creation of the Indonesia that exists today. There were rumours that the President may “minta maaf” but that did not eventuate. Indeed, the rumours provoked a string of organisations, including the Nahdatul Ulama, to make statements rejecting such a stance.
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