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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid