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Jakarta Post

1965 Symposium Indonesia's way to face its dark past

  • Anton Hermansyah
    Anton Hermansyah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, April 19, 2016   /  01:10 pm
1965 Symposium Indonesia's way to face its dark past Members of Front Pancasila protest the National Symposium 1965 event at Farmers' Statute in Jakarta on Monday. The groups claims the now-defunct Indonesia Communist Party (PKI) is behind the event. Their sign reads: "Reject the Symposium, PKI is the enemy of the people." (Antara/Rivan Awal Lingga)

In a historic move, the Indonesian government has for the first time organized an official event to talk about the massacre of people accused of being communist sympathizers in 1965 and 1966 to seek reconciliation for the country's dark past.

The two-day event, "Dissecting the 1965 tragedy", will look into the period of time in which at least 500,000 people are believed to have been killed and millions imprisoned without trial for allegedly having links to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

The aim of the symposium is not to put blame on anyone for the tragic communist purge, head of the Symposium committee retired army general Agus Widjojo said. The event would take a historical approach to reveal the truth about the tragedy so the nation could learn a lesson from it and prevent such a incident from happening again in the future.  

The event marked the first time Indonesia has held an open discussion on the tragedy. Survivors, the government, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), academics, human rights groups have come together to seek national reconciliation.

Previously it was hard to hold discussions on the tragedy, Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, the chairwoman of National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recalled. Komnas Perempuan had also faced difficulties in checking on the health conditions of the victims.

"We used to go to West Sumatra on government assignment to check on the condition of the 1965 victims, especially women who had experienced sexual harassment, but we faced obstruction and discrimination from locals," she said on Monday.

Catholic priest and iconic advocate of pluralism Franz Magnis Suseno said the event was important as a process to acknowledge the historical facts and recognize victims of the tragedy.

The acknowledgement would also give those who had their passports revoked at the time and have lived in exile since hope of returning to Indonesia, he added.

Survivors demanded the government reveal the truth and deliver justice for the victims, survivor Ilham Aidit said adding that discrimination existed up to the present.

"The important thing for reconciliation is that everybody has a shared understanding, and this will not happen until the truth is revealed from both [the victims and the government],” he said.

Catherine Pandjaitan, the daughter of army general Donald Isaac Pandjaitan, who was murdered on Oct. 1, 1965, said it took her almost 25 years to move on from the tragedy that took her father's life.

"I was 18 and a sophomore student in senior high school when I saw my father get shot in the head, I was stressed and traumatized living in that house, but my mom refused to move because the house had just been built," she told on the sidelines of the event.

To help her recover from the tragedy, she traveled around and was a stewardess for German-based airliner Lufthansa for five years before getting married based on the suggestions of former President BJ Habibie whom she called uncle.

She returned to Jakarta after she got married and continued her trauma-healing process at her church in Jakarta.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said during his opening remarks that the government would not apologize for the tragedy but emphasized that the government was committed to resolving past human rights abuse cases.

The symposium has received mixed reactions, including protests from a group named Front Pancasila who claim that a resurgent PKI is using the symposium to disseminate communist ideas. (rin)


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