Fear of communism created by Suharto regime obstacle to resolving 1965 tragedy

Kompas.com – October 1, 2021
Banner at front reads 'Exterminate the PKI' – Undated (CNN)

Tatang Guritno, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) says that the public's fear of communism is one of the factors making it difficult to resolve the 1965 tragedy.

Kontras advocacy staff director Tioria Pretty revealed that this fear was spread by the New Order regime of former president Suharto which was in power for 32 years.

"The shadow of fear as a consequence of [the New Order's] narrative, that communists are evil and atheists and so forth has become fixed in the memory of the majority of the Indonesian population", Pretty told Kompas.com on Friday October 1.

The other challenge is the different views on the affair between the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and the Attorney General's Office on the status of the human rights violations during the 1965 tragedy.

"The different views between Komnas HAM and the Attorney General on what is meant by 'sufficient evidence' are also an obstacle as to why the 1965 case has not progressed legally", she said.

According to the Kontras there are 12 cases of gross human rights violations which have yet to be resolved by the government, one of which is the 1965 tragedy.

Pretty said that the flow on from the New Order's narrative about the 1965 affair has resulted in the victims still being negatively stigmatised by society.

"[For example] when they gather at a socialisation on assistance from the LPSK [Witness and Victim Protection Agency], they are still rejected by local people who claim it's a communist gathering, they're also disbanded by police because they are seen as creating unease", explained Pretty.

"Then there was the case of a [1965] survivor named Ibu [Mrs] Nani who had to submit a challenge and win first at the PTUN [State Administrative Court] in order to get a life-long ID card", she explained.

Pretty is of the view that these cases are just some of the examples of the impact of not resolving the 1965 tragedy. Moreover, even though decades have passed since the tragedy occurred, the victims still face injustice.

"Some have had their land seized, their rights as citizens have yet to be restored, and there are many more injustices which they still suffer because the case has not been resolved, the rights of victims have not yet been restored", said Petty in conclusion.

The 1965 tragedy began with the killing of several senior generals who have since been named as revolutionary heroes.

The affair then became a humanitarian and political tragedy resulting in the Old Order administration of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno being replaced by the Suharto's New Order regime.

The New Order government claimed that the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was the mastermind behind the affair. This resulted in people affiliated with the PKI being arrested, jailed, tortured and killed without due legal process.

Civil society organisations alleged that hundreds of thousands to a million people were killed during the tragedy.


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 "Ketakutan Masyarakat pada Komunisme yang Dibuat Orde Baru Menjadi Salah Satu Kesulitan Penyelesaian Tragedi 1965".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2021/10/01/19145761/ketakutan-masyarakat-pada-komunisme-yang-dibuat-orde-baru-menjadi-salah-satu