News / Asia

'Communist' Still a Dirty Word in Indonesia

FILE - Anti-communist protesters outside the presidential palace in Jakarta in 2001.
FILE - Anti-communist protesters outside the presidential palace in Jakarta in 2001.
Nearly 50 years after an anti-communist purge that left at least 500,000 Indonesians dead, anti-communist fervor is still heated.
 
Herman Koto, an Indonesian gangster and paramilitary leader, describes how he’d love to get his hands on some communist women.
 
“If they’re pretty, I’d rape them all,” he says. As the men around him groan with approval, Koto tells them that if the communist is just 14 years old, all the sweeter. “I’d say, it’s going to be hell for you but heaven on earth for me.”
 
The exchange with Koto is a scene from the documentary The Act of Killing, in which anti-communists members of death squads show how they killed communists and suspected communists in a 1965 spasm of violence described by the CIA as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.”  That the scene is so recent -- The Act of Killing came out in 2012 -- shows that such violent hatred toward communism remains not just tolerated but sometimes celebrated.
 
The anti-communist fervor persists, in part, because Indonesia never officially came to terms with this dark period in its history. The government has never apologized to survivors of the massacres, nor prosecuted the perpetrators, including those shown in the documentary. That could be changing now.
 
With urging from the United Nations Human Rights Council last summer, the Attorney General’s Office has finally agreed to investigate the 1965 killings. It will work with Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, which did its own three-year investigation and declared the massacre a gross human rights violation.
 
“That’s good, that’s progress,” said Yosef Djakababa, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies-Indonesia.
 
There have been many forums throughout Indonesia where families of purge victims share their stories. But Djakababa said the government must make reconciliation a national priority, because local forums can only go so far.
 
“We’ve been doing that for years now,” said Djakababa, who wrote about the massacre for his doctoral thesis. “I think it’s time to do something different.”
 
The communist party is formally banned in Indonesia. Former president Suharto used communism as a bête noir to consolidate power, starting in 1965, when Indonesia’s communists began a failed coup by murdering six generals. The killings sparked communal violence which historians say Indonesia’s army channeled into a murderous purge that spread across the country and which lasted for months. 

Even now 15 years after Suharto was forced from power and nearly 50 years after the mass killings, Indonesia “remains stuck in the cold war anti-communism of the dead dictator,” according to Michael Vann, a historian at California State University, Sacramento.
 
In Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, many believe that showing any communist leanings would mean betraying their religion.
 
Deviano, a teacher whose ID card shows he goes by one name, said communism is a dangerous and immoral threat to Islam.
 
“I’m afraid, I’m really worried about people who have the mentality of communism,” he said.
 
Similarly, at a museum for one of the generals killed in 1965, a staff member said that communism doesn’t permit religion. “That should be the first reason I’m against it,” the young man said, declining to give his name. “I believe in god, I believe in heaven and hell.”
 
The museum, named after Gen. Ahmad Yani, is one of many across Indonesia that perpetuate the hagiography of the slain generals. Under Suharto, views like Deviano’s were shaped by similar propaganda, including a government video that school children had to watch every year, depicting communists as bloodthirsty killers who sang and danced as they mutilated the generals in 1965. The video disappeared along with Suharto, but anti-communist propaganda continues, especially at the museums.
 
Vann, the historian, studied some of these museums, in particular the Museum of Communist Treachery on the edge of Jakarta, and said it was “shocking” that they haven’t been renamed. Instead, they commemorate the generals’ deaths and ignore those of the suspected communists. That massacre was conveniently tossed down an “Orwellian memory hole,” Vann said.
 
“The message is that the PKI [communist party] was an evil organization capable of cruel violence and committed to sowing social chaos,” he said.
 
The documentary The Act of Killing, which is up for an Oscar in March, tells a different story, one of not just communists but their enemies showing a capacity for cruel violence. This challenges the official anti-communist narrative built up by Suharto. Djakababa, from the Southeast Asian studies center, said history books must be revised to reflect such new, conflicting narratives.
 
“The more others research, and alternative views come out, the better,” he said.
 
Those responsible for the 1965 massacre -- and their supporters -- are often described as behaving with impunity. The men in the documentary reenact torture scenes and use metal wires to show how they strangled accused communists. They express delight rather than remorse, nearly 50 years later. Neither the public nor the government condemns them. Indonesia is unlikely to see anything like the tribunals set up for the Khmer Rouge or the former Yugoslavia. But Djakababa said authorities must act, lest Indonesians believe their government condones mass murder.
 
“People will know they can get away with it,” Djakababa said. “There’s a risk of history repeating itself. I hope it doesn’t happen, but it’s possible.”

You May Like

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John
February 02, 2014 3:05 AM
Killing others because they have differing opinion is called a murder. And a murder is wrong whether it is a murder in the name of Allah, a murder in the name of Jesus, a murder in the name of Stalin, a murder in the name of Suharto, or a murder in the name of Satan.

In Response

by: pachanko
February 24, 2014 5:52 PM
@anticommie

The communists didnt kill anyone. They were a legitimate and popular party. Soekarno even included socialism in the Pancasila. The problem with Soekarno was, he was willing to let Indonesians decide the direction of the country, even if that meant choosing communism. So the CIA and Suharto planned the Sept 30 Movement as an excuse to wipe out and destroy their political enemies. Recent released CIA documents prove that fact. We also know for a fact that Suharto was a corrupt and murderous dictator. Unfortunately, the people who helped him rise to power and stay in power are still powerful in Indonesia, and are still corrupt, and have never been punished for their crimes.

Communists were a scapegoat for grabbing power and turning Indonesia into a US-puppet dictatorship. Anyone who supports that is anti-Indonesian.

Also, Suhartos massacres did not just target communists or suspected communists and their families. They also targeted Chinese business people, and anyone who any of the thugs had a personal vengence agaisnt. The communist purge was used as an excuse by criminals to murder the families of anyone they wanted, with impunity, and get political power, and build huge fortunes thru corruption. Anyone who continues to support that is anti-Indonesian.

In Response

by: anticommie from: Indonesia
February 10, 2014 3:09 AM
Agreed, alas we, the Indonesian have underogable rights to protect ourselves from the people who killed us in the name of Stalin, Mao, Karl Marx, Engels and Communism.


by: Anti Commie from: Indo
January 28, 2014 8:30 AM
The Act of Killing is a propaganda movie funded by TAPOL UK, established by Carmel Budiardjo aka Carmel Brickman aka the Czechslovakian Candidate and communist spies, she was a close confidant of Njoto, the Head of Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Indonesian Communist Party. Carmel Budiardjo is Goebels with skirt and lipstick, a treacherous mistress of propaganda and terror.

In Response

by: Prophetes from: usa
January 28, 2014 12:17 PM
Please do not stir trouble environment in INDONesia, no more komunis now, even if there have it might be very little of percentage that were involved and they might in their 60-80 yrs old. People ask to yourself what is the motivation of this news? What is benefits of this group to INdonesia country? We don't need this violent movement in Indonesia ..we will not tolerate to see how a group of sick people like koto guys on the street..Barking ..shame on you,koto, trouble maker, do to others as you want others do to you, Let The Glory of God cover the earth, Indonesia and nations as water cover the sea. I am just got so sick just by chance browse to this website. see this why you not tell story about American Embassy people were cruelly beaten and humilated beats to death , unjustified been murder in Egypt?


by: Ronen from: Medan
January 28, 2014 12:14 AM
Not a single word about the cooperation of the Anglosphere with the killing of 1965...
VOA, like the rest of US official representatives are still hiding the truth.
What we can expect from a 3rd world country, if a leading 'democratic' country is behaving the same...


by: Worgaeinn from: Tritanope World
January 27, 2014 10:30 PM
What kind of sick bastard is this Koto guy?! Raping and murdering a woman just because she's a communist!


by: zaje from: China
January 27, 2014 7:29 PM
they went toChina,lsaw they,,about1980. they wentback.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid