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Jakarta Post

Taman 65 & its fight to turn tables

  • A. Kurniawan Ulung

    The Jakarta Post

Denpasar   /   Tue, December 1, 2015   /  04:36 pm
Taman 65 & its fight to turn tables

Sanctuary: The Taman 65 space has a fitting message: '€œForgive but never forget'€ on the wall and '€œTaman 65'€ on the ground.

Balinese activist I Gusti Ketut Agung has turned a simple yet painful question '€” '€œWhy was my father killed?'€ '€” into Taman 65 (Park 65), which aims to commemorate the victims of the country'€™s communist purge.

When he was little, I Gusti Ketut Agung never stopped asking his mother, I Gusti Ayu Putu Rai, and other relatives about his father'€™s whereabouts. However, they always kept quiet. In 1969, his uncle, Ketut Adi Basis, took him to a cemetery in Tembawu village, Denpasar, where he saw many people digging up and removing human bones from the ground.

A man then came to them, bringing a jaw bone. '€œThis is likely Raka'€™s jaw,'€ he told Adi, who then told his 8-year-old nephew that his father, teacher I Gusti Made Raka, had passed away. As time went by, Agung realized that his father was a victim of the 1965 communist purge that allegedly claimed the lives of more than 80,000 people on the Island of the Gods and 500,000 across the archipelago.

When he reconstructed his burned house in Kesiman village in 2003, the idea of making an open space came to mind, in the hope that young people would use it to gather and discuss the 1965 purge and other issues.

He hoped that they would always remember the massacre because he believed that if they forgot or ignored it, it could happen again in the future.

'€œWe have to learn from history,'€ said the graduate of Udayana University'€™s School of Law.

Agung then named the space Taman 65 to commemorate the purge that the National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has called '€œa gross human rights violation'€.

'€œMy father was killed and our home was burned down because he was reputedly a communist. I made the space to commemorate him,'€ said Agung, who was 4 years old when his father died at the age of 32.

A message, '€œForgive but Never Forget'€, decorates the outer wall of the 30-square-meter park. On the black-pebble covered ground, Agung has placed a tile inscribed in white pebbles with the words '€œTaman 65'€. The large '€œ65'€ raised the eyebrows of all of Agung'€™s relatives, whose houses surround the space, when they first saw it.

Agung is accused of trying to open an old wound that tainted Bali 50 years ago as well as to revive communism in the country.

'€œThey [family members] did not like [Taman 65] because they were not ready to tell the truth about my father,'€ he said.

In loving memory: I Gusti Ketut Agung set up the Taman 65 (Park 65) space to honor his father, I Gusti Made Raka, who was killed in the 1965 Communist purge, and to give people the opportunity to discuss the incident.In loving memory: I Gusti Ketut Agung set up the Taman 65 (Park 65) space to honor his father, I Gusti Made Raka, who was killed in the 1965 Communist purge, and to give people the opportunity to discuss the incident.

Agung said that his family members never liked it when he bombarded them with questions on the details of his father'€™s death.

Rai finally broke her silence after her second son forced her to spill the beans.

Bali'€™s political situation was eerie after the Sept. 30, 1965 event, believed to be a coup attempt, in which six Army generals and one lieutenant were found dead in Jakarta after allegedly being killed by supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

The condition worsened after members of the PKI'€™s Bali chapter were also accused of killing a soldier and two members of GP Ansor, the youth wing of the country'€™s biggest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), in Tegal Badeng, Negara, Jembrana regency, on Nov. 30, 1965.

Maj. Gen. Soeharto, who assumed leadership of the Army, ordered the Army'€™s Para Commando Regiment (RPKAD) '€” now the Army'€™s Special Forces (Kopassus) '€” to Bali on Dec. 7. RPKAD operatives, together with local members of the Indonesian National Party (PNI) and Ansor, hunted down all PKI officials and alleged supporters across Bali.

In Denpasar, Rai asked Raka to escape to Java. However, he instead on going to a police office on Dec. 15 to seek protection.

A few days later, the RPKAD paraded PKI officials and suspected supporters, including Raka, through the streets on a convoy while announcing that their lives would come to an end at Puputan Badung field in Denpasar. Raka never returned home.

Rai told Agung that his father was reportedly killed on Dec. 25. However, the way he was killed remains a mystery.

Whether Raka supported the PKI is not clear. Agung once heard that his father was actually a PNI supporter in Gianyar regency. However, he was close to the PKI after teaching in Denpasar.

'€œHe [Raka] once went to China. I don'€™t know when and for what. Maybe, he wanted to be a communist. But, I don'€™t care about it [his choice],'€ Agung said, adding that in 1965, the PKI was still a legal party. Therefore, if ideology was the reason for killing his father, it could not be justified.

To discuss seeking justice, many people visited Agung'€™s open space, and they were called the Taman 65 community.

The end: Candikusuma Beach in Jembrana regency is where the bodies of some Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members in Bali were buried while others were dumped in the sea.The end: Candikusuma Beach in Jembrana regency is where the bodies of some Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members in Bali were buried while others were dumped in the sea.

The community also held book and film reviews, music performances and exhibitions, he said, adding that in 2012, the group published a book, Melawan Lupa (Resist Forgetting), in which 17 of 20 members opened up about their insights into the massacre because some of them were the family members of victims and perpetrators.

'€œThe grandson of the perpetrator who killed my father also joined Taman 65. Our relationship is very close,'€ Agung said, adding that the killer was a relative who lived close to his home in Kesiman.

However, Agung refused to disclose the names of the perpetrators and his grandson.

He said his family members believed that one of their own had killed Agung'€™s father. '€œThey know each other, but they are never brave enough to talk about it [the killing].'€

Agung said he had forgiven the killer although a confession never came out of his mouth. '€œI can forgive him because I did not see the killing through my own eyes. But, I cannot forget it.'€

Like Raka, Taman 65 member I Wayan Santa, 69, was also accused of supporting the PKI. The RPKAD detained Santa at Denpasar'€™s Pekambingan prison on Dec. 23, 1965. At that time, he was a senior high school student and a member of the Indonesian Students and Youth Association, and was accused of supporting the coup attempt.

He witnessed military personnel coming to the cells at midnight and taking inmates outside. He heard their cries as they were tortured during interrogation.

'€œThe toes of my friends were pressed with table legs during interrogation,'€ Santa said, adding that he was released on March 24, 1967, because of a lack of evidence.

After the interrogation, he said, the executions were conducted in cemeteries or other places. In Jembrana, for example, the military reportedly took hundreds of PKI inmates to the Wong shop and shot them. Their bodies were dumped in a well behind the shop and at beaches, such as Candikusuma Beach.

Before the execution, some prisoners left messages for their families. On the prison'€™s wall, Ida Bagus Santosa, for example, wrote a poem to express his longing for his wife, Tini, and daughter, Yanti. Another inmate then adapted it into a song, '€œTini dan Yanti'€ (Tini and Yanti). The Taman 65 community introduced the song to the public through the album Prison Songs: Nyanyian Yang Dibungkam (Silenced Tunes). It teamed up with 10 musicians, including rock band Superman is Dead.

'€œWe believe that with music, it is easier for people to understand this,'€ Taman 65 member Roro Sawita said, adding that around 600 copies had been sold since the album was launched in August.

Agung said he hoped that President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo would listen to the voice of the victims instead of the story created by Soeharto, who is considered by some to be a mass murderer.

'€œI expect that Jokowi can do something more than apologizing [to the victims of the 1965 purge and their family members]. I just can pray,'€ he said.

'€” Photos by A. Kurniawan Ulung

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