Families of PKI members
push campaign for justice


Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Families of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) supporters who were murdered or jailed in events following the aborted military coup on Sept. 30 1965, have demanded the government clarify its role in the bloody incident.

The call claim as relatives of former members of the PKI held a discussion on Saturday to attend a launching of a book -- A daughter of the Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, enters Parliament -- by Ribka Tjiptaning Proletariyati, a legislator and a daughter of former PKI prisoner.

It tells of her struggle to win back her political rights, which were taken away from her by the New Order regime. Ribka's first book -- Aku Bangga Jadi Anak PKI (I'm proud to be a PKI daughter) -- was launched in October 2002.

The 1965 events were sparked by the shootings of six Army generals blamed on PKI members. The incident, which led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of PKI members nationwide, helped bring Soeharto to power. During his New Order regime, Soeharto put thousands of people linked to the PKI behind bars without trial while their family members were denied civil, economic and political rights. Historians are still debating the role of PKI in the coup, with some accusing conflicting factions within the Army, or even the United States' CIA, as being responsible.

The launch was also attended by the children of the Army generals who died in the tragedy, including Lt. Gen. (ret) Agus Widjojo -- son of the late Maj. Gen. Sutoyo Siswomihardjo.

Unsurprisingly they were mostly unsympathetic to the activists demands, with Agus, a former chief of the now-defunct military's territorial affairs division, eventually saying that he thought a ""natural process is the fairest way to determine who were right.""

""Each side, either the military or the former PKI prisoners, has their own version of the 1965 history. So let the public read more references and let them decide on what happened over that particular period of time,"" Agus said.

An elderly woman who was sentenced to four years in jail for joining Gerwani, a women organization's affiliated to the PKI disagreed.

""I have six daughters and we are living in poverty. My eldest daughter is a smart one but she couldn't finish her studies because I don't have money, while the school refused to provide her with a scholarship because she was a daughter of a PKI activist.

""My case is only one of the millions unjust policies imposed by the New Order regime on us. Do we have to face discrimination for the rest of our lives?,"" she said.

Other panelists also questioned why the PKI, a top political party of the time, would have resorted to a coup to gain power.

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