One month after Golkar Party deputy chairman Priyo Budi Santoso stirred controversy by asking the nation to forget the 1965 massacre, senior party official Leo Nababan called upon victims of the violence to stop seeking justice.
In July, after a four-year investigation, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) labeled as a serious human rights violation and a crime against humanity the orgy of violence that shook the country in 1965 following a failed coup attempt blamed on the communists.
It is thought that up to 500,000 people died in the purge targeting the left, sparked by an attempt to overthrow the country’s founding President Sukarno.
In the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt, Maj. Gen. Suharto mobilized his force and effectively took control of the country. He eventually became president and served for more than 30 years.
The commission called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take over the case and provide justice to the survivors, while demanding the attorney general investigate the case so that it can be brought to the court.
But Leo, Golkar’s deputy secretary general, said that as long as a 1966 decree by People’s Consultative Assembly (MPRS) banning all communist teachings was in effect, there was no need for the state agency to follow up Komnas HAM’s findings.
He said many “nationalist organizations” joined together in the Front Pancasila will reject any attempts to advance the legal case. “Front Pancasila is ready to block efforts to bring the case to the court,” Leo said.
According to Leo, the 1965 massacre victims and their family members already had their political rights restored.
“What else do they want? It’s enough,” Leo said.
Leo’s statement quickly drew anger from human rights activists.
Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation chairman Alvon Kurnia Palmasaid said Golkar was trying to protect Suharto and his cronies.
“It’s very clear that gross human rights violations have been committed. We should never stop seeking justice for the victims,” Alvon said on Wednesday.
Golkar, which has been strongly associated with Suharto and played a role in establishing his regime, has been aggressive in stopping any move to bring the massacre to the surface.
In response to Komnas HAM’s findings, Priyo, who is also House of Representatives deputy speaker, said that Indonesia should put the events of 1965 behind it.
“I was just giving my opinion that we should look to the future,” he said.
Human rights activists lambasted Priyo’s remarks. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), victims, and families of victims of the 1965 massacre and other tragedies reported Priyo to the House Ethics Council over his statement.
“He said it’s not important to bring up the past,” said Haris Azhar, a coordinator for the rights group. “This kind of statement is very inappropriate.”
While the Ethics Council has yet to conduct a hearing into Priyo’s conduct, Kontras reiterated on Wednesday its claim that the deputy speaker had violated the House’s code of ethics, including the failure to carry out the people’s mandate and not respecting democracy and human rights.
“Under the law, the government has the responsibility to solve cases of human rights violations,” Haris said. “And it’s Priyo’s duty to supervise the solving of the human rights cases.”
Kontras asked the Ethics Council to investigate the political motives behind Priyo’s statement.
“Golkar, with its background as the party that benefited from the New Order regime, might be afraid about what the case will unveil,” Haris said. “In the future, we must think of punishing Golkar to prevent its members from issuing counterproductive statements.”
Pudjo Untung, 70, one of the victims of the 1965 violence, said recently that Priyo did not understand that the historical scars had yet to heal.
“Komnas HAM has issued a recommendation that the incident was a serious human rights violation and Priyo should have represented the people. What Priyo did showed that he really doesn’t understand history,” Pudjo said.
In the decades since the anti-left violence, the atrocities had been covered up and obscured by the authorities, but now Indonesians must come to terms with the past, he added.
“History was kept in the dark and as long as it’s kept in the dark, the problem is still not solved, and we’ll still be discriminated against,” he said.
Nurkholis, who headed the Komnas HAM investigation team, said the preliminary findings indicated incidents of murder, extermination, slavery, forced eviction, deprivation of freedom, torture, rape and abuse.
Komnas HAM has identified some of those responsible for the violence, he said. Although he declined to provide names, the group did not hesitate to point its finger at the Command for the Restoration of Security and Public Order (Kopkamtib), the pervasive security network set up by Suharto following the 1965 coup attempt.
The Komnas HAM investigation team, which was established on June 1, 2008, and worked until April 30, 2012, questioned 349 witnesses who either heard about incidents during the violence or experienced it firsthand.
Leo said the violence at the time was justified because Indonesia was at risk of falling under the rule of communism.