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Jakarta Post

Group sheds light on Indonesia'€™s hidden history

  • Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, February 29, 2016   /  09:48 am
Group sheds light on Indonesia'€™s hidden history (Courtesy of Kelompok Kerja Sejarah Gerakan Kiri Indonesia)" border="0" height="738" width="511">

(Courtesy of Kelompok Kerja Sejarah Gerakan Kiri Indonesia)

A graphic history book tells the untold story of left-wing movements in Indonesia.

A newly launched book on the untold story of left-wing ideology in Indonesia was prepared by a group of non-governmental organizations and institutions, artists and history buffs.

Sejarah Gerakan Kiri Indonesia untuk Pemula (The History of Indonesian Left Movement for Beginners) contains a series of events taken from published articles and books.

Wishnu Yonar Anggono, one of the project’s initiators, said they had consulted historians, academics and journalists while drafting the book, a process they began in August last year.

“I believe that by involving historians in the project the book has gone through an accountability process that makes it a historical reference,” he said.

The project’s other initiators include artists Yayak Yatmaka and Dolorosa Sinaga as well as Bilven, a history lover and owner of Ultimus bookstore in Bandung, West Java.

The project involved 30 artists to make the illustrations, each one being a different chapter, which together stretch from the Dutch occupation to the modern era.

The highlight of the book is the story of the establishment of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) down to the mass murder of party members and PKI-associated groups across the country.

The 1965 Tragedy, which took place after a foiled coup that was blamed on the PKI on Sept. 30, also marked the start of Soeharto’s New Order regime, which lasted for over 32 years.

“The regime denied freedom of expression and indoctrinated people with its single account of history,” said Wishnu, a consultant on governance and economic development.

“We don’t think the book is likely to be banned, because its contents come from existing references.”

A total 100 pages of the book were exhibited at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) in Jakarta in December, the opening of which was presided over by Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli.

The book was launched on Feb. 27 at Belok Kiri (Turn Left) Festival, an event held to combat anti-left wing New Order propaganda, which is still experienced today.

“We hope the book can serve as an alternative historical reference, especially for the younger generation,” said Wishnu.

“It’s a long-term dream to rewrite history, but at least it’s a start to encourage the people to be able to think differently.”

Belok Kiri Fest, which will be held through to March 5 at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) — not at the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center as earlier scheduled — will include art workshops for children and the public as well as discussions with human rights activists Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Usman Hamid, Haris Azhar, historian Asvi Warman Adam and many others.

“After 50 years of silence, we are using an artistic and cultural approach that will allow each of the festival’s attendants to form their own interpretation, who in turn will be able to have their own productive thoughts,” said artist Dolorosa, who is also chair of the festival’s organizing committee.

According to noted historian Taufik Abdullah, the attempt to rewrite Indonesian history was pioneered by one of the country’s founding fathers, Mohammad Hatta, when he was still a student in the Netherlands.

In his defense argument titled Indonesie Vrij (Free Indonesia) before the court in Den Haag in 1928, Hatta criticized the Dutch government for naming Indonesian freedom fighters as criminals in the written history of the country.

Taufik Abdullah (JP/Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak)

(Courtesy of Kelompok Kerja Sejarah Gerakan Kiri Indonesia)

A graphic history book tells the untold story of left-wing movements in Indonesia.

A newly launched book on the untold story of left-wing ideology in Indonesia was prepared by a group of non-governmental organizations and institutions, artists and history buffs.

Sejarah Gerakan Kiri Indonesia untuk Pemula (The History of Indonesian Left Movement for Beginners) contains a series of events taken from published articles and books.

Wishnu Yonar Anggono, one of the project'€™s initiators, said they had consulted historians, academics and journalists while drafting the book, a process they began in August last year.

'€œI believe that by involving historians in the project the book has gone through an accountability process that makes it a historical reference,'€ he said.

The project'€™s other initiators include artists Yayak Yatmaka and Dolorosa Sinaga as well as Bilven, a history lover and owner of Ultimus bookstore in Bandung, West Java.

The project involved 30 artists to make the illustrations, each one being a different chapter, which together stretch from the Dutch occupation to the modern era.

The highlight of the book is the story of the establishment of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) down to the mass murder of party members and PKI-associated groups across the country.

The 1965 Tragedy, which took place after a foiled coup that was blamed on the PKI on Sept. 30, also marked the start of Soeharto'€™s New Order regime, which lasted for over 32 years.

'€œThe regime denied freedom of expression and indoctrinated people with its single account of history,'€ said Wishnu, a consultant on governance and economic development.

'€œWe don'€™t think the book is likely to be banned, because its contents come from existing references.'€

A total 100 pages of the book were exhibited at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) in Jakarta in December, the opening of which was presided over by Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli.

The book was launched on Feb. 27 at Belok Kiri (Turn Left) Festival, an event held to combat anti-left wing New Order propaganda, which is still experienced today.

'€œWe hope the book can serve as an alternative historical reference, especially for the younger generation,'€ said Wishnu.

'€œIt'€™s a long-term dream to rewrite history, but at least it'€™s a start to encourage the people to be able to think differently.'€

Belok Kiri Fest, which will be held through to March 5 at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) '€” not at the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center as earlier scheduled '€” will include art workshops for children and the public as well as discussions with human rights activists Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Usman Hamid, Haris Azhar, historian Asvi Warman Adam and many others.

'€œAfter 50 years of silence, we are using an artistic and cultural approach that will allow each of the festival'€™s attendants to form their own interpretation, who in turn will be able to have their own productive thoughts,'€ said artist Dolorosa, who is also chair of the festival'€™s organizing committee.

According to noted historian Taufik Abdullah, the attempt to rewrite Indonesian history was pioneered by one of the country'€™s founding fathers, Mohammad Hatta, when he was still a student in the Netherlands.

In his defense argument titled Indonesie Vrij (Free Indonesia) before the court in Den Haag in 1928, Hatta criticized the Dutch government for naming Indonesian freedom fighters as criminals in the written history of the country.

Taufik Abdullah (JP/Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak)

Taufik Abdullah (JP/Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak)

'€œFor decades there has been a dispute among historians about how to write Indonesian history. [Founding president] Sukarno and late academic Mohammad Yamin divided history into certain periods based on the nation'€™s monumental moments and their visions for the future,'€ Taufik argued at a recent public lecture in Salihara Theater, Jakarta, titled '€œHistoriography of Indonesian History'€.

'€œBut history is not a romantic vision of a string of historical events. History is the critical reconstruction of such events based on authentic sources. And how can we write a history of the nation without the inclusion of the fact that the nation comprises many nations that are geographically separated from each other?'€

The conflict in creating a '€œnational history'€ continued under the New Order regime, with many historians requesting for their names to be omitted from the government'€™s Sejarah Indonesia (Indonesian History) coffee table book series, particularly sections on the 1965 Tragedy period.

'€œThe regime strictly controlled people'€™s interpretation of some things, but it also opened the door for research and studies on regional history, which is a good thing,'€ said Taufik.

He emphasized the multi-faceted nature of the interpretation of events that allowed for different versions of history in the country.

'€œIt is best practice to focus on teaching local history to school students to instill in them awareness of their surroundings and the vision of nationalism.'€

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