Clarifying the Understanding of the 1965 Tragedy

For Indonesia reconciliation is a necessity, yet it will not be easy to achieve.
Unlike South Africa that eventually had been successful to perform reconciliation during Nelson Mandela’s leadership, until present, Indonesia is still struggling to do the same—in regards to the events of 1965. Various efforts had been made. But it was only Gus Dur’s administration that has the audacity as well as willingness to do it. Currently, in Indonesia, the reconciliation efforts are only being carried out by minor parts of the Indonesian society.

Of course, it is unfair to compare the efforts and result of reconciliation of the two countries. Although both were colonized states, Indonesia and South Africa differ in many ways. In many aspects, Indonesia is far more diverse compare to South Africa. What is important is the deeper understanding about the 1965 incident itself.

As colorful as lives in Indonesia, the 1965 events have many points of view and interpretations. The events itself is filled with different interest, not only those of the Indonesian, but also the interest of foreign countries. Both are tightly knit.

The context of global politics, in the decade of 1960 which was colored by the heightened intensity of the Cold War, obviously influenced the political conditions in Indonesia. Both blocks tried to influence Indonesia into becoming their ally, as both tried to do various efforts.

As for Indonesia, the freedom from the “grip” of the two blocks was still strongly sustained. President Sukarno who had become stronger since July 1959, continuously tried to maintain Indonesia’s balanced position at the time. Sukarno even mobilized new countries to form their own blocks outside the West and East. Together with Nehru from India and Marshall Tito from Yugoslavia, and several leaders from other third world countries, Sukarno successfully established the Non Aligned Movement. His actions in global politics had made him stronger. Sukarno continuously strove to create a new global order. He created slogans and images that became the core force to accomplish this mission. Beside Ganefo, “Ganyang Malaysia” became one of his most popular campaigns.

For the West, the effort to strengthen its influence to Indonesia has become even more important. Through their generals in the army and several intellectuals, they continue to pursue cooperation. They gave aid and promised to give it in a more significant amount. They were also active in “recreating” the news. Britain did it in order to create chaos, so the “Ganyang Malaysia” campaign could be forgotten. While US, besides not wanting Indonesia to become communist, also wanted control over Indonesia’s rich natural resources.

The biggest obstacle for the West to realize their interests of course were Sukarno and PKI. It was out of the question, that both must be eliminated. They took advantage of those with opposing political views with Sukarno and PKI, especially in the Army. They waited patiently for the perfect moment.

In the same period, the split between Soviet and China occurred. China didn’t want a centralized power in Moscow, as China considered itself to be a different political force on its own. The Soviet Union was threatened. For Soviet, the threat from China was more urgent.

Indonesia which previously was more inclined to the West, must work even harder to maintain the balance between the two. There were times when Indonesia was closer to Soviet and there were time it was inclined towards China. And, “for the moment they were successful in doing this,” wrote Bernd Schäfer in his paper, “Setting of the Cold War,” which was presented in the international conference “ Indonesia and the World in 1965” held form 18 -21 January 2011. And, “that was where PKI played its role, PKI was strongly inclined towards China,” wrote Schäfer.

While the tension in Indonesia’s political condition continued to escalate from the moment Sukarno’s illness made the news. Those who were close to Sukarno started to question who would become his successor. What was more important, the situation of the national economy started to deteriorate. Inflation rise to 600 percent. Currency reform was done. Those who were not satisfied with Sukarno’s action use the momentum to question his legitimacy. From the inside, high officials in the army continued to make maneuvers. While in the outside, US actively contacts its supporters—this was proven by the many documents found later on. Then there was China which used its communist relations with the PKI. On the other hand, Soviet’s relation with Indonesia had deteriorated since Indonesia showed its inclination towards Peking. When the September 30th movement took place, as written by Ragna Boden in “The Soviet Union and the Gestapu Events,” which was also presented in the conference, Soviet almost has no involvement. “Soviet’s support to PKI was not official, so its reaction at that moment was opportunistic, “wrote Boden.

When the G30 S happened, it become the turning point for the major forces in the political triangle in Indonesia—PKI, Sukarno and the Army—and a lot of people on the lower level. PKI was defeated, Sukarno was stripped of his power, and the Army took hold of the government.

Those related or allegedly have relations to the PKI, was hunted down and arrested. The party was dissolved and millions of its members and sympathizers were murdered or went missing without trials. The moment was used by its opponents to avenge PKI, or in many cases, to create lies about the party. As said by Baskara T. Wardaya, the order of the mass murder came from above. The massacre became one of the bloodiest episodes in Indonesia’s history.

What happened on September 30th (early October 1st) and the mass murder that followed it, according John Roosa was two different things. In his paper, “Soeharto, Faust, Yudhistira and the Killing of Prisoners,” Roosa maintained his argument that G30S was a pretext to repress the PKI

For Roosa a clearer understanding of the two events is crucial. Because there are still so many incomprehensible aspect of the tragedy, the goal was to achieve harmonization between Indonesia and the international world. “The dichotomy,” said Roosa,”could not be erased, but we can look at it in a more complicated way.”

These are the main topics discussed in the first day of “Indonesia and the World in 1965” which was held in Goethe Institute in Jakarta. In the first day of the conference the participants who presented their paper are: Bernd Schäfer with the paper “ The Setting of the Cold War,” Baskara T. Wardaya with the paper “The 1965 Massacre in Indonesia and its Context, John Roosa with his paper “Soeharto, Faust, Yudhistira and the Killing of Prisoners, “ Bradley Simpson with the paper “ International Dimensions of the 1965-66 Killings in Indonesia,” Yosef Djakababa, Ragna Boden with her paper “The Soviet Union and the Events of 1965,” and Susanto Pudjomartono.

In the last session, Jovan Cavoski’s paper “On the Road to the Coup: Indonesia between the Nonaligned and China,1955-1965,” was presented. The discussion was also joined by Natalia Soebagjo. The session highlighted the still mysterious involvement of China. As it was known, before G30S Aidit and several leaders of PKI visited China. By their political opponents it was considered a proof of China’s official support. One of the proof which was actually only rumor, was that China sent aid to help PKI. “ As long as the Chinese and Indonesian archives are not opened, we can not fully answer these questions.”

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