The resolution of the case of massacre in 1965-1966 (‘65 Massacre) has been an arduous work until this moment. Apparently in Indonesia, it is easier to insert a camel into the hole of a needle than to resolve the ‘65 Massacre case. As reported by Historia, International People’s Tribunal (IPT), an international non-governmental organization (NGO), released the final report back in 2016. Based on the report, there have been at least 10 evidences of the crimes done by Indonesia in the ‘65 Massacre case. Evidence of these criminal acts were collected by an investigation by IPT 65, a subsidiary body of IPT. Although the organization does not hold any legal power, the decision of IPT is a forward step towards resolution of human rights violation.
However, despite the presence of international initiative to investigate the ‘65 Massacre case, the government seems to be reluctant in responding substantially to the investigation results. As reported on IPT 65’s official website, the Supreme Prosecutor Office did not follow up on the facts found by IPT as legal evidence. This stance is further strengthened by both pairs of the president and vice president candidate. Both pairs of the presidential candidates did not touch upon past human rights violations during a debate under the topic of Law, Human Rights and Terrorism. This includes the ‘65 Massacre incident, one of the severe human rights violations according to the National Committee on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
Responding to the investigation results by IPT 65, BALAIRUNG interviewed Usman Hamid as the Director of Amnesty International for Indonesia and a human rights activist. He continues to pressure the government to investigate the incident through reconciliatory efforts. To attain a clearer image regarding the investigation and reconciliation of the ‘65 Massacre, here is BALAIRUNG’s interview results.
What is reconciliation? Why is it important to be done?
Reconciliation is a problem solving towards an oppressive system. It is usually done after society has undergone oppression for a long period of time. Whether that be under a military dictatorship or totalitarian communist. Reconciliation also means to change and leave behind inhumane systems employed in a nation-state. For example, under the pretense of anticommunism during the New Order period, all legal, political, judicial and security institutions were oriented towards justifying inhumane practices. These practices were directed towards any individual who were accused as a communist, whether they are actually a member of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) or only perceived to be one. This justification is done through a variety of ways such as indoctrination, dogmatization and all kinds of propaganda which were created and instilled in the educational system.
Since when has this reconciliation discourse been present?
Reconciliation discourse has actually already emerged in 1998. These efforts were then formulated in detail into identification of the forms of deviation done during the New Order era, such as abuse of authority, violence and human rights violation. Other than identification, the efforts also pushed for a process of disclosing the truth about what happened in the past.
What is the aim of reconciliation?
Reconciliation is part of the revision of history which has been distorted and homogenized in the past. Reconciliation is aimed to fix all the wrong systems and present justice to the victims. Reconciliation efforts attempt to end a structurally oppressive system against those who were marked as communists. This is a problem in which solving it has been attempted but never gained success. Efforts to counter the propaganda have actually emerged since the early period of the New Order but have never succeeded.
Who is involved in reconciliation?
Reconciliation is meant for the direct victims. Those victims need to receive acknowledgement of what they went through. Of course, those who were the most responsible of the distortion during the New order need to be held accountable.
Then, in the context of the ‘65 Massacre, why is this problem included as severe human rights violations by Komnas HAM, and needs reconciliation?
Perhaps, the ‘65 Massacre incident is one of the darkest events in the history of human rights in Modern Indonesia because of the fact that hundred thousand, even millions of lives experienced injustice. They were killed, forcibly removed, outcast, raped and tortured. They also underwent structural violence for years in the form of socioeconomic discrimination and political stigmatization. As an example, the Presidential Decree No. 28/1975 regarding Treatment of Those Involved in G.30.S/PKI. This decree clears out all governmental institutions from those who were accused as communists or as related to the ‘65 Massacre. To quote Sulami (Alm.), “this is a human rights violation which scale compares to nothing larger.”
In the Rome Statute of the International Criminal of Court, the ‘65 Massacre clearly violates article 7. Meaning, the massacre is a form of violence which can be put on trial anywhere because it is included as a form of crime against humanity. On top of that, considering some of the actions involved, a number of academics examine the possibility that the massacre is not only a crime against humanity, but also a political genocide. The ‘65 Massacre has been classified as a crime against humanity and included in the Komnas HAM investigation report which is projustitia in character. Meanwhile, discourse regarding the ‘65 Massacre as a political genocide is still a discussion among academics.
You have mentioned that reconciliation aims to present justice to the victims. What kind of justice is expected?
Justice in its whole meaning. Justice which demands the perpetrators to be put on trial, especially those who are the most responsible, such as Soeharto. There is also a restorative form of justice. Justice which does not only punish the perpetrators but also restore the lives of the victims. In the restitution laws, there is a restoration of responsibility charged upon the perpetrators. However, aside from that, and I consider this one to be more important, there is a restoration which becomes the responsibility of the state in the form of compensation. Based on the South African experience, compensation can be done through returning stolen lands, or in the Argentine case, it is a restoration of stolen houses. So this can be in the form of restoring things owned by the victims, whether it be occupation, education or health.
What are the concrete steps to present such justice?
There are at least four components to the approach of fulfillment of justice. First, to push for the process of disclosing the truth. This process attempts to seek for what went wrong in the oppressive political system in the past. To seek for the reason why the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) which was originally legal and suddenly became banned. To seek for why Communism as an analytical structure to understand social conditions in the society suddenly became a taboo. Furthermore, to understand the reason behind indoctrination of hatred towards those accused as communists or the Communism belief itself during years through movies, literature, education, judicial systems and public policy.
Second, legal justice. Investigative process is not merely directed to see the patterns of systemic violence enacted by the state or beholder of authority. Investigation also demands individual criminal responsibility as all kinds of murder and torture are nevertheless a crime.
Third is reparation, that is an effort to restore the living conditions of the victims before the incident took place. It could be that someone originally has a house, and just because they were accused as a member of PKI, their house was seized and they lost it for years. This seizure also includes jobs, family and other things. Reparation can be in the form of material or immaterial. Material compensation is, as I have previously explained, private property, jobs and assets. Meanwhile, moral compensation means the state or government with authority is obliged to apologize to the victims. Aside from institutional apology from the state or government, the perpetrators also have individual moral responsibility to apologize. Victims also need to be facilitated to be able to listen to the apologies and consider whether forgiveness can be granted to the perpetrators.
Fourth, to ensure that the oppressive system has been completely erased. This is meant so that such an event would not recur anymore in the future. Whether it be through removing policies such as the laws or removing state institutions with repressive nature such as the Command of Security and Order Restoration.
How should the state apologize? What kind of apology should be done?
Of course an apology should first be preceded by determining who should apologize and who has the right to forgive. Before deciding on those two predicates, the action which needs the forgiveness should first be identified. What exactly is the wrongdoing? Murder? Torture? Property seizure?
Oftentimes, elite interests within Indonesian political discourse reduce this basic question as if everything has been forgiven. The issuance of forgiveness as considered by the elites is not preceded by a process where the action which needs the forgiveness is first identified. This process of identification is legally known as investigation and fact searching which is then acknowledged as a crime.
Then, we ask whether the perpetrator realizes and acknowledges their crime as a wrongdoing and promises not to repeat it. Based on many experiences, including South Africa, an issuance of forgiveness happens in an emotional and dramatic situation. However, in half of the other cases, it causes tremendous anger due to the insincerity of the apology. This sincere apology is the one that is not present in Indonesia.
In other cases, such as crimes against humanity in Aceh, a small part of that process has just begun. Currently, there is a process of witness testimony collection which is facilitated by the Committee of Truth and Reconciliation Aceh in the Governor Pendopo of Aceh Province. There’s about 14 people who are giving their witness testimony, ranging from torture, arbitrary arrestment, even sexual torture. Sadly, there is still no observable support from the government, especially the central government.
In the general public level, what kind of challenges are found in the reconciliation process?
I guess negative political prejudice against communism. The challenge is to erase such prejudice within the society which believes in the violence of the communist or the communist party. So this is the difficulty, to change the perspective. Back then, I had been convinced by friends who support the current government that there was a pretension to include reconciliation into the agenda of mental revolution. To succeed, mental revolution also needs a change of mindset. However, the reality does not seem to be so.
I guess there are a few friends who joked that this actually is not a mental revolution, but mental (to bounce off – Javanese). The effort to revolutionize the mindset has bounced off way too far. Mindset revolution is needed and can be started by remodelling the education system. My friend, Hilmar Farid, is working hard to push for such epistemic changes in the education sector, especially culture.
Based on my observation, there are two groups which I consider to be those who are most reluctant to accept the efforts of reconciliation, which are the armed forces and several religious groups. Why does such resistance happen?
First of all, of course it is because they are the ones who produced the homogenized history. They produced an imbalanced narration that the PKI is main actor behind the kidnapping and murder of military generals. Such homogenization of history especially came from the military which has not changed until this day. Even worse, it is transferred annually in the military world such as the Military Academy or even, in some levels, Police Academy. Until right now, the military and police still seem to place that ideology as a threat in the New Order sense.
A mistake in understanding history also happens in the conservative Islam faction. They remain the inheritance of a manipulative historical perspective even before and after Indonesia’s independence. I guess Merle C. Ricklefs in Modern Indonesian History 1200-2008 (2008) comprehensively wrote the process of Islamization in Java and how it directly clashed with leftist forces, although the leftist front also has many Islam figures. The line between historical facts and the identity of historical actors is blurred until eventually, it becomes difficult to light it up again. Adding to that, old elites from religious groups who resist reconciliation are actually part of the perpetrators in the past. Either they were planning an attack against the youth at the time or participated directly in the murders.
A conclusion can be made that several elites who publicly reject the reconciliation agenda do not have any distance from the past. As such, reconciliation is difficult to be achieved not only due to the official ban against communism in TAP MPRS and Presidential Decree No. 28 Year 1975, but also because of these two parties. Military, especially the Army, and conservative Islam are not distanced from the past.
Actually, there is another faction that is growing within those two bodies. In the Military, we can see figures such as Lieutenant General Agus Widodo and Lieutenant General Agus Wirahadikusumah. Within the Islamist group, there are figures such as Gus Dur and Kyai Imam Aziz, one of the board members of NU. Those are the people who support reconciliation. Sadly, these figures have not been able to find success due to lack of support and political power until this day. Such is the fight for human rights. It always seems difficult and complex until we can achieve it.
What are the interests of these two groups in perpetuating anticommunist narrations?
I guess the minimum advantage of perpetuating such narration of hatred is avoidance from the accountability process. For example, those who originate from the family circle of the perpetrators gain advantage from obstructing reconciliation efforts. Such people choose to live in the darkness so that their past is not to be known by the society. It could also be for the purpose of maintaining their current formally respected position.
Another advantage to be gained actually has a material characteristic. There is a lucrative relation between certain civil society groups and the territorial structures, ranging from Regional Military Command (Kodam), Resort Military Command (Kodim), District Military Command (Koramil), until the district level. For this kind, the public might better understand the relation. Such mutually beneficial relations enable the emergence of illegal businesses such as drugs, mining and illegal logging. If not, it can also be in the form of small businesses such as discotics, parking lots or security services.
Basically, the rejection of communist or anticommunist behaviour first emerged due to the material and immaterial benefits received by those two groups. Material benefits include commercial benefit through the commodification of fear against PKI and communism school of thought. Immaterial benefit comes from the sense of security of being protected from their actions in the past and the possibility of accountability if investigative efforts take place. Such impunity from investigation is not only enjoyed by the reactionary Islamist and Military. Several people who claim themselves as cultural practitioners sometimes play safe and enjoy their privileges under the banner of anticommunism. However, for this specific group, there needs to be another interview to wholefully discuss the issue. Hahaha.
Writer: Hanif Janitra
Editor: Cintya Faliana
Translator: Safira Tafani Cholisi