Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Sabtu, 06 Oktober 2012



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Childhood memories of mass murder in Klaten
The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Sat, September 29 2012, 3:07 PM

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The declaration by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) that the 1965 purge of communists and their supporters was a gross violation of human rights immediately revived my memories of the brutal killings.

As a nine-year-old boy, I saw huge piles of bodies in a remote creek somewhere in Jogonalan district in Klaten, Central Java.

On a chilly morning just before sunrise, I went on foot with my elder brother, relatives and neighbors to try to locate the place where we had heard the gunshots.

In the wee hours I had heard: “Det, det, det, det, det…… det, det, det ..”

“Ono opo to kae (What’s up)?” a relative asked in Javanese. No one answered as everybody had been sound asleep. However, it was surely the sound of gunshots.

When we finally reached the site, far from the villages, we found a creek near a railway crossing piled with bodies, full of bullet holes. In the pools of blood I saw gold teeth flashing from gaping mouths. I thought they might have been screaming in pain.

Whitish brain matter was splattered over the bodies, possibly because the alleged communist party members were shot at close range.

People flocked to the scene from every direction. Most were speechless. The only expressions heard were of horror.

As a child, I did not know what was going on. What I heard was that the alleged PKI members were slaughtered before they could kill their opponents — Muslims, Christians and others.

One rumor was that the communists had been digging holes in many places to bury any opponents of communism the found after the coup.

I learned much later that after the Sept. 30 events, thousands of people — some estimate between 500,000 and 1 million — who were suspected of being PKI members or their supporters, were slaughtered. Many others were jailed for years without any trial or charges, or forced into exile.

The discrimination against people associated with the PKI continued with the government barring them from becoming soldiers, civil servants and teachers or from any employment at state institutions. Former PKI members and supporters also found it hard to get jobs due to the ex-political prisoner status on their identity cards, while their relatives were similarly stigmatized.

Under former president Soeharto’s rule, any discussion and recognition of the mass killings that was different from the official state versions was quickly suppressed.

During the nationwide purge, military officials were believed to have deliberately targeted innocent civilians. Many of the victims actually had nothing to do with the communist party or its subordinates.

In its development the Constitutional Court ruled, in 2004, that former PKI members were allowed to contest elections. Two years later, the government deleted the ex-political prisoner label from identity cards.

The human rights commission has now recommended that the military officials involved in the purge be brought to trial. State officials under the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib) led by Soeharto, who served from 1965 to 1967, for example, should be taken to court for various crimes, including rape, torture and killings.

The Commission also recommended that the government issue a formal apology to the victims and their family members — an apology which should be followed by rehabilitation, reparation and compensation.

Now the creek where slaughtered bodies were piled, witness to one of the bloodiest incidents in Klaten, is still functioning as part of an irrigation network. Those who do not know that brutal killings ever took place there pay no attention to it, but a chill runs through me whenever I pass it by.

— JP/Hyginus Hardoyo

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