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Jakarta Post

Those massive lies in the national curriculum

Singapore   /   Tue, October 9, 2018   /   01:38 pm
Those massive lies in the national curriculum The International People's Tribunal (IPT) on 1965 crimes against humanity in Indonesia is held in the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Nov. 10 to 13. (Courtesy of the International People’s Tribunal 1965/-)

So it’s the time of the year again, from the end of September to October.  And again we can expect some ridiculous controversies on the nation’s darkest history, which continues to haunt us even as Indonesia celebrates this year the 20th anniversary of freeing itself from an authoritarian regime. 

Cancellations of events to discuss the 1965 incidents and its aftermath in some places across the country – with military and civilian officials seemingly throwing their support, and with successive governments turning a blind eye –   shows that support for the New Order regime’s 32 years of lies remains strong.

The late Soeharto managed to shift the blame of the entire incidents during the Sep. 30 – Oct. 1, 1965, on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), using the term “G30S/PKI” for the killings of generals, and maximized the incident to gain power. He effectively utilized the acronym for the “Sept. 30 movement/Indonesian Communist Party” and accompanying narrative to suppress freedom of expression, silence critics and crush any possible uprising which enabled him to hold on to power for over three decades since after the 1965-1966 mass killings.

The ghost of “G30S/PKI” still haunts the nation as many people, brainwashed for over 30 years, remain convinced in the narrative of Soeharto’s heroic move to save the nation from a communist takeover.

It’s beyond comprehension that the 1965-1966 upheaval and its aftermath that caused the slaughtering of hundreds of thousands, even millions of Indonesians  -– the tragedy that became the foundation of Indonesia’s New Order for so long --– have not been addressed adequately 20 years after the man responsible for the propaganda had stepped down and died.   

While several studies have made it clear that the New Order’s version of the mass killings is a big lie, successive post-Soeharto governments have done little to shed light into the tragedy  

The biggest tragedy for Indonesia, however, is that these lies are preserved as the truth for the younger generation because the version described perfectly by the propaganda movie Pengkhianatan G30S PKI  (Betrayal of G30S/PKI) – remains in the school curriculum despite our reformasi era.

Have you ever asked our children, especially those studying in high schools on what their teachers have said about the 1965 tragedy? Have you ever read the history books used in classrooms?

The latest Curriculum 2013 is now applied by all schools in Indonesia. It retains the term “G30S/PKI” to refer to the kidnapping and killing of generals on Sept. 30, 1965. Thus the teachings of the event follow the propaganda, thus killing off efforts made by brave people in the first decade of the reform era to revise the history books, and history of Indonesia, though merely by erasing the word “PKI” from the “G30S.”

One small difference from the New Order version, continued from the early reform era, is that this curriculum acknowledges different scenarios around the 1965 failed coup; in itself this is progress.

The textbook for grade 12 states there are controversies around who was behind the Sept. 30, 1965 movement. The book also mentions that at least there are six possible scenarios to explain the coup.

The first scenario is that the coup was only an internal problem inside the army, triggered by jealousy of the Army elites. The second is that the coup was part of a conspiracy of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency. The third is the scenario that the political bloodshed was created by the US and the United Kingdom to remove Sukarno from power.

The fourth theory in the book says Sukarno himself created the coup. The fifth tries to explain there was no single scenario and actor and what  happened, just happened. And the last theory is the main narrative in Indonesia’s history: PKI is the actor of the attempted coup.

The book gives most space to its attempt to explain what PKI did during the early 1960s that created anger and violence among the grassroots and in the bureaucracy, leading up to the attempted coup.  The story ends with Soeharto taking over power and leading the movement to wipe out suspected elements of the movement,  followed by the hunting of PKI elites in many regions. “G30S/PKI has been wiped out successfully, and it also means the existence of Partai Komunis Indonesia has ended,” the book reads.   

That’s the end of the history lesson for grade 12.   

There is no mention about the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people accused as PKI members or vaguely associated with the party  in many regions, with many believing now that these people are actually villagers who knew nothing about politics.

There is no story at all about the people jailed without due process.

Despite the changes to the textbooks, there is no recognition of the truth even after so much published research including survivors ‘ and victims’ testimonies  about the massacre and persecution.

If the national curriculum deliberately does not acknowledge, and even covers up the massive killings from the young generation just to appease popular and influential families and organizations in Indonesia, how can we find justice for victims’ families?

Justice comes after admission.

Above all, this omission and fabrication of history preserves the feeding of massive lies to Indonesian generations after generations. These massive state-sponsored lies must end now. Omitting crimes against humanity means the state has also conducted crimes against humanity.

What kind of future generations can we expect if they are continuously fed with lies? And more importantly, what kind of Indonesia can we expect if it is built on lies? Hard-working and decent young Indonesians deserve better, much better than this. We deserve honesty once and for all.


The writer is a novelist and visiting fellow at the National University of Singapore.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.