Singapore. Scholars attending a conference discussing the 1965 mass killings agreed on Friday that the Indonesian government had done very little to address the devastating historical event.
University of Sydney’s Adrian Vickers said that Indonesians in general were still entrenched with the New Order frame of mind when it came to public discussion on the event, where the killings of the six generals by Indonesian Communist Party members is given more preeminence than the killings of the some 500,000 victims of alleged communist affiliation.
He said that the government must change the national education curriculum to alter the prevailing mindset on the event.
Asvi Warman Adam, a senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said that the government had yet to include the events of 1965 slaughter in the national curriculum, particularly in history textbooks.
Asvi said that current official Indonesian history textbooks only mentioned the alleged 1965 communist coup, but not the mass killings that followed it.
In the latest version of “Sejarah Nasional Indonesia” (Indonesian National History), a history publication by state-owned Balai Pustaka used as a reference for Indonesian history textbooks, Asvi said that the mass killings were not even mentioned, let alone the notion of human rights violation by the Indonesian armed forces.
Historians said that a countercoup led by then Lt. Gen. Suharto, led to a nationwide purge of communist party members and their supporters that saw more than 1.5 million people summarily detained for years and some 500,000 killed.
“The book only mentions that following the [alleged] September 30 coup, the government established a fact-finding commission that reported directly to the president,” Asvi said. “But it didn’t mention what was being reported.”
Winarso, an activist who has been working with a victims group named Sekber, said that advocacy groups wanted the government to officially recognize and apologize for the killings that occurred in 1965.
Flinders University scholar Priyambudi Sulitiyanto and activist researcher Sentot Setyasiswanto said that many nongovernmental organizations had worked with the victims and their families, but the government had failed to respond appropriately to their pleas.
They said that one way to address the issue would be by creating a truth and reconciliation commission as an official mechanism to address past human rights abuses in Indonesia, offering some form of reconciliatory closure for the victims.
Under pressure from human rights and victim advocacy groups, the House of Representatives worked on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission draft bill in 2004, but it was annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2006 under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration.
The National Commission on Human Rights then established an ad hoc team in 2008 to address allegations of human rights violations linked to the 1965 slaughter.
Nurkholis, who heads the ad hoc team, said that they have proceeded with a formal inquiry by interviewing witnesses of the event, both from the perpetrators’ and the victims’ side. He said that the team had gathered 311 interviews from areas in Java, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, and Bali.
Nurkholis said that there the inquiry has faced difficulties, such as the far-flung locations of the witnesses and the credibility of the victims’s testimonial because of their old age.
He also said that the inquiry not only received weak government support but there were also attempts to influence matters by the military and Islamic groups.