Calls for the national government to apologize and make reparations for the 1965 communist purge, in which up to two million people were killed, continue to fall on deaf ears.
Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political and security affairs, said an apology for one of the nation’s bloodiest episodes by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was not a simple matter.
Many members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and their families, were believed to have been murdered in the aftermath of a power struggle between the party and military, which resulted in the Sept. 30, 1965, killing of several army generals.
The incident brought Suharto to power and ended Sukarno’s reign.
During Suharto’s rule, many people accused of being PKI members or sympathizers faced jail terms and their families faced discrimination in employment and education.
“Look at it in a wider perspective,” Djoko said. “We can’t just apologize without looking at what really happened in the 1965 incident.
“If we want to look at history, for example the 1965 [incident], we have to look at it based on the perspective in 1965.”
But the government appears to have shown little interest in considering the matter further.
Djoko’s remarks were in response to recommendations regarding the bloody incident by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) earlier this year.
Komnas HAM recommended that the government settle the cases of human rights violations that occurred during that period, and for the president to apologize.
“The Act of Killing,” a film that shows the confessions of people who slaughtered PKI members with government approval, screened last month at the Toronto Film Festival. One of the supposed killers was Anwar Congo, who was ordered to kill PKI members in North Sumatra.
The film, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, may get a wider international release, again putting the spotlight on Indonesia’s dark past.
Djoko said he had not seen the film and would therefore not comment on its content. “How can I comment if I haven’t seen it?” he said.
Desmond Mahesa, who was kidnapped during the 1998 uprising and is now a Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) legislator, urged the government to confront acts of violence through history. “It’s not just the 1965 incident. The state must also settle many other kidnapping and human rights violation cases. We’re talking about the scars on our citizens,” he said.
He added that he could not erase the memory of being kidnapped as an activist in 1998, and added that he still felt pain over the killing of his colleagues just ahead of the reform movement that ousted Suharto.
He said the government had not responded to calls to resolve cases involving the kidnapping of activists.
“A recommendation was made almost four years ago and we are pinning too much hope on the government now,” Desmond said. “I doubt it will happen.
“The problem is that no matter how hard we cry out, it means nothing to the government because it’s too busy with its own affairs.”
Estimates of the number killed in the 1965 violence range from 500,000 to two million.