Saturday, July 18, 2009





June 17, 2009

Armando Siahaan (The Jakarta Globe)



Western governments supported the mass murder of more than half a million alleged communist supporters in the wake of the 1965 coup, a noted historian said on Wednesday.

Speaking on the opening day of an international conference in Singapore to discuss arguably the darkest chapter in Indonesia’s history, Bradley R. Simpson, an assistant professor at Princeton University and an expert on Indonesia, said that the US and British governments did everything in their power to ensure that the Indonesian army would carry out the mass killings.

Simpson, the author of “Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and US-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968,” said the administration of US President Lyndon Johnson initially provided expressions of political support to the Suharto regime after the coup on Sept. 30, 1965.

He said the US government then provided covert monetary assistance to the Indonesian Army, while the CIA provided the small arms from Thailand.

The US government also decided to provide limited amounts of communications equipment, medicine and a range of other items, including shoes and uniforms, he said.

“The United States was directly involved to the extent that they provided the Indonesian Armed Forces with assistance that they introduced to help facilitate the mass killings,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the British government extended an emergency loan of 1 million pounds ($2 million) to Indonesia in late 1965 and promised not to attack Borneo if Indonesia withdrew soldiers engaged in a conflict with British-backed Malaysia.

But Simpson said that he found “zero evidence” that the US government masterminded the coup, in which communist-leaning founding President Sukarno was effectively replaced by Western-leaning future dictator Suharto.

“There is a lot of evidence that the US was engaged in covert operations . . . to provoke a clash between the Army and the PKI . . . to wipe them out,” Simpson said, referring to the Indonesian Communist Party.

David Jenkins, former foreign editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, said that the Australian, British and US embassies were aware of the mass killings, but did not raise a single protest to the systemic slaughter launched by the Army against the PKI.

None of the embassies believed the PKI had initiated the coup. The Australians believed the coup was an internal army affair with the last-minute backing of the Communist Party, said Jenkins, basing his arguments on statements by officials. “Australia was pinning its hopes on Suharto,” he said.

Jenkins said the US assessment also suggested that the coup was not run by the PKI, but that they came on board as the coup began.

Despite the embassies acknowledging that the PKI was not involved, they did nothing to protect them from the military.

“The 1965-1966 Indonesian Killings Revisited” is the largest conference on the subject, which remains taboo in Indonesia.

The three-day event, held by the National University of Singapore and the Australian Research Council, involved more than 30 scholars from around the world, including Indonesia.

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June 19, 2009

Armando Siahaan (The Jakarta Globe)

1965 Mass Killings Erased From History, Scholars Say

Singapore. Scholars attending a conference discussing the 1965 mass killings agreed on Friday that the Indonesian government had done very little to address the devastating historical event.

University of Sydney’s Adrian Vickers said that Indonesians in general were still entrenched with the New Order frame of mind when it came to public discussion on the event, where the killings of the six generals by Indonesian Communist Party members is given more preeminence than the killings of the some 500,000 victims of alleged communist affiliation.

He said that the government must change the national education curriculum to alter the prevailing mindset on the event.

Asvi Warman Adam, a senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said that the government had yet to include the events of 1965 slaughter in the national curriculum, particularly in history textbooks.

Asvi said that current official Indonesian history textbooks only mentioned the alleged 1965 communist coup, but not the mass killings that followed it.

In the latest version of “Sejarah Nasional Indonesia” (Indonesian National History), a history publication by state-owned Balai Pustaka used as a reference for Indonesian history textbooks, Asvi said that the mass killings were not even mentioned, let alone the notion of human rights violation by the Indonesian armed forces.

Historians said that a countercoup led by then Lt. Gen. Suharto, led to a nationwide purge of communist party members and their supporters that saw more than 1.5 million people summarily detained for years and some 500,000 killed.

“The book only mentions that following the [alleged] September 30 coup, the government established a fact-finding commission that reported directly to the president,” Asvi said. “But it didn’t mention what was being reported.”

Winarso, an activist who has been working with a victims group named Sekber, said that advocacy groups wanted the government to officially recognize and apologize for the killings that occurred in 1965.

Flinders University scholar Priyambudi Sulitiyanto and activist researcher Sentot Setyasiswanto said that many nongovernmental organizations had worked with the victims and their families, but the government had failed to respond appropriately to their pleas.

They said that one way to address the issue would be by creating a truth and reconciliation commission as an official mechanism to address past human rights abuses in Indonesia, offering some form of reconciliatory closure for the victims.

Under pressure from human rights and victim advocacy groups, the House of Representatives worked on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission draft bill in 2004, but it was annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2006 under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration.

The National Commission on Human Rights then established an ad hoc team in 2008 to address allegations of human rights violations linked to the 1965 slaughter.

Nurkholis, who heads the ad hoc team, said that they have proceeded with a formal inquiry by interviewing witnesses of the event, both from the perpetrators’ and the victims’ side. He said that the team had gathered 311 interviews from areas in Java, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Bali.

Nurkholis said that there the inquiry has faced difficulties, such as the far-flung locations of the witnesses and the credibility of the victims’s testimonial because of their old age.

He also said that the inquiry not only received weak government support but there were also attempts to influence matters by the military and Islamic groups.

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