Fifty years after the 1965 events, closure is (yet) to come

“After killing the first victim, the murderer would usually experience some sort of fever, and he would be unable to sleep. However, the more victims he sent to the other world, he became more used to killing. ‘It then feels like slaughtering a goat,’ they said.”

The above quote by Pipit Rochiyat, in “I am a PKI, or I am Not a PKI” (1984) still rings in the head. Pipit was in the tenth grade of high school when he first became involved in the slaughter.

Fifty years after the events of 1965, the narrative about the horrors of the death of 500,000-3,000,000 innocents still escapes the consciousness of the majority of Indonesians. As people try to come to terms with the mass cruelty of the past, many others step up efforts to reject the historical facts about the massacre. Various meetings of 1965 survivors were forcibly disbanded in various areas. In addition, in several streets, colorful banners were hung on behalf of the military with the phrase “Be aware of New Style Communism”. Many people were involved in the massacres, and as many as that are trying to bury the fact deeply.

Maintaining the memory of the events of 1965-1968 continues to be made by the survivors and civil society. One was conducted by the Coalition for Justice and Truth (KKPK), which recently (19-21 August 2015) held a series of national meetings between survivors and civil society in Jakarta. The national meetings reflect the constancy and truth-seeking spirit reflected in the principle of “Six Pillars”, the constitutional foundation to rebuild civilization, which has been destroyed by those in power.

The pillars consist of six methods of disclosure of the truth. First, upholding the integrity of Indonesia as a state of law. Second, disclosure of the truth and recognition of the truth. Third, restoration of dignity and livelihood of victims. Fourth, education and public dialogue towards reconciliation. Fifth, the prevention of recurrence through policy changes and institutional reform. Sixth, active participation of victims and survivors.

While civil society groups began to work together to achieve disclosure of the massacres, the Indonesian government seems to have an indeterminate attitude, particularly related to the events of 1965. President Joko Widodo, on various meetings with civil society, claimed commitment to resolve cases of human rights violations the past and prevent the recurrence of human rights violations in the future. In addition, the agenda of settlement of past human rights violations has also been declared in Nawacita, as one of nine priority agendas of the government of Joko Widodo-Jusuf Kalla. Although the President has established a presidential committee for the settlement of cases of human rights violations in the past, the commitment and the promise have not realized to date. This condition is clearly heavily influenced by the refusal of several groups and military institutions that do not want resolution of past human rights violations, particularly an apology from the government.

On the other hand, an exciting breakthrough was made by Palu mayor Rusdi Mastura, who apologized to the victims of 1965/1966 in Palu on 24 March 2012. The Mayor of Palu also claimed that as a teenager, he was active as a member of the Scout, and was often ordered by army officers to guard suspected communist prisoners. Rusdi witnessed acts of violence against the detainees, which resulted in gross human rights violations. As a follow-up of the apology, Rusdi Mastura said that he would establish a program of rehabilitation and reconciliation for the victims.

In addition, an apology to the victims of the events of 1965 had also been delivered by former President Abdurrahman Wahid, known as Gus Dur, as the leader of the religious organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). The apology was not directed to the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), but to the victims of the events of 1965. What has to be underlined is that the act of apology does not mean supporting a particular ideology, but is done purely for humanitarian reasons.

It must be kept in mind that the results of investigations conducted by the National Commission on Human Rights (2012) and the Hearing of Survivors Testimony, held by KKPK (2014), found that at least there had been systematic massacres, looting, and rape against those accused of being communists. For that, prior to the apology, there should be an official government recognition that the events of 1965 actually occurred. The recognition of the government should then be followed up with efforts to reveal the truth of the events of 1965. Until now, people generally only know the events of 1965 based on the version of the New Order, while there have been a lot of studies that refute the New Order version of the 1965 events. For that purpose, again for humanitarian reasons and to prevent the reoccurrence of human rights violations, it is important for the efforts to reveal the truth for the rectification of history.

Clearly, this effort is not an easy one. The road to the settlement of past human rights violations, particularly the events of 1965, is very steep and winding. Half a century after the events of 1965, the road to reconciliation seems to be full of dust and gravel. But the disturbing question is whether the state needs another fifty years to take meaningful steps for the benefit of the survivors? Lest during that time, new human rights violations and massacres occur.

Writer: Miftah Fadhli
Editor: Ari Yurino