Prabowo’s anti-communist speech dangerous if taken as call to act: Kontras

Tempo – November 24, 2019
Kontras monitoring bureau head Rivanlee Anandar (Kompas)
Kontras monitoring bureau head Rivanlee Anandar (Kompas)

Budiarti Utami Putri and Fikri Arigi, Jakarta – The head of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence’s (Kontras) monitoring bureau, Rivanlee Anandar, believes that the speech by Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto about the alleged existence of communist ideas and the communist movement in Indonesia is dangerous.

Anandar is concerned that the remarks will be taken as a command by Prabowo’s grass-roots supporters. “I’m worried that the public, particularly those who are sympathetic to Prabowo will take this as a command. This will clearly impact on life at the grass-roots”, Anandar told Tempo on Sunday November 24.

According to Anandar, Prabowo’s statement could legitimise fears about communism. What is then of concern is that certain groups will commit misguided acts of violence against people who are seen as being close to communist ideology.

Anandar said this could include, among other things, raids on book shops, film screenings and any kind of thing deemed to contain communist ideology.

“Perhaps soon we will hear about more book raids, then the arrest of people who wear T-shirts with pictures of the hammer-and-sickle or just red T-shirts, or raids on films which are related to human rights”, he said.

If such fears are legitimised by the state through Prabowo’s statement, Anandar believes that it is quite possible that people at the grass-roots level will also be easily provoked into vigilante acts.

He also touched on the adoption of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin as honorary members of the Pancasila Youth (Pemuda Pancasila), which was at odds with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965-1966.

“Prabowo’s statement [could] have a wide impact, because he opened up something which could potentially restrict civil freedoms”, said Anandar.

Prabowo’s statement about the alleged existence of communist ideas and the PKI was contained in the text of a speech which was read out by Defense University Rector Lieutenant General Tri Legionosuko during a book dissertation titled The PKI, the Mastermind and the Perpetrator of the G30S/1965 at the National Resilience Institute in Jakarta on Saturday November 23.

According to Prabowo, the collapse of the Soviet Union as the largest communist county along with the end of the Cold War does not mean that communist ideology as also collapsed. Several countries which adhere to a communist ideology still exist to this day such as China and Cuba.

“It is reasonable to suspect that communist ideology and the communist movement still exists in Indonesia. Because of this, we must always remember to be on guard against the danger of latent communism”, said Prabowo in the speech read out by Legionosuko.


On the night of September 30, 1965 a group of middle-ranking military officers known as the 30 September Movement (G30S) kidnapped six generals they accused of organising a coup against Indonesia’s leftist President Sukarno. For reasons that remain unclear, the six were killed and their bodies dumped in a well in South Jakarta. By blaming the incident on the PKI, this provided the pretext for sections of the military, led by then Major General Suharto, to mount a bloody counter-revolution in which as many as 1 million communists and left wing sympathisers were killed. Hundreds of thousands of others were imprisoned for years without trial. The official narrative that the PKI was behind the coup has long been debunked by independent historians as a cover for the military and Suharto to stage its own ouster of Sukarno.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “KontraS: Pidato Prabowo soal Komunis Bahaya jika Dianggap Komando”.]