Mass murder, sexual abuse in Suharto’s Indonesia

This 25 October 2017 video from the USA is called Indonesia: killings under Suharto.


The End of Silence (Review)
Reviewed by: Clemens Six
Reviewed item:
The End of Silence: Accounts of the 1965 Genocide in Indonesia

Soe Tjen Marching. 2017.
The End of Silence: Accounts of the 1965 Genocide in Indonesia
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press
ISBN 9462983909

Lest we forget: Testimonies of the 1965 mass killings in Indonesia

The mass killings of suspected communists as well as their supporters, families, and friends in Indonesia during the months after the failed coup on 1 October 1965 is an increasingly rich research field that covers more and more aspects of these fatal events and their impact on society. Recently, for example, historians have drawn attention to the question whether there was a central coordination of the killings under the command of those parts of the armed forces controlled by General Suharto.[i] Others would like to have a better understanding of what the contribution and central motives of social and religious organisations were and to what extent their assistance to the army was indeed decisive for the conduct and the consequences of the bloodbath.[ii]

The book edited by Soe Tjan Marching altogether covers a different facet of these events. It intends to give voice and visibility to the experiences, perceptions, and personal encounters of the victims of the violence as well as their offspring. A strong and vivid plea against what Marching calls the ‘genocide of memory’, this book is a collection of 19 carefully selected testimonies of witnesses directly affected by the persecutions, but also of their children and grandchildren, who inherited the social stigma and the painful silence within their families about the seemingly shameful past of their parents and grandparents. Among these testimonies are seven accounts of women that illustrate this book’s particular interest in gender-related questions.

The offence of silence

In her introduction addressed to a general readership not specifically familiar with the mass killings, Marching provides a general overview on who masterminded the coup, how the killings evolved, who the main perpetrators were, and what Suharto’s regime did to silence any fruitful debate about these events after he had effectively taken power in March 1967. For Marching, this chapter of contemporary Indonesian history is mainly about fear in combination with authoritative approval. In this light, the mass murder is primarily a manifestation of fear instilled and instrumentalised by the armed forces, which not only unleashed the criminal collaboration of so many Indonesians but also paralysed Indonesian society for generations. This interpretation leaves probably too little space for deliberate strategies of different societal groups and their material, social, and political interests in the mass murder. For the interpretation of the testimonies assembled here, however, this question is less pivotal.

To the informed reader, this historical overview does not add much that is new, but the background information the editor gives about herself – her father being dragged from the family home by Suharto’s henchmen, Marching herself growing up with a strong taboo in her family around these events – and this remarkable book project is indeed. The book can therefore also be read as a very personal breach of a societal taboo that still defines Indonesia’s present. Consequently, this collection of testimonies is primarily motivated by today’s fears and stigmas around this issue and the increasing danger that the memories of those who anticipated the killings will be lost soon once and forever. What the introduction unfortunately does not provide is a more systematic evaluation of the testimonies or, in other words, an explanation by the editor where she herself sees the main strength of this material on the background of the ever-growing literature. For that reason, let me highlight three areas in which I see the biggest potential of these accounts.

Detainees, women’s views, and the inherited stigma

Besides the hundreds of thousands killed during the anti-communist pogroms, hundreds of thousands more were detained as political criminals and thus suffered from immediate and long-term repression, which determined not only their personal fate but also their families’ future.[iii] In comparison to the numerous publications on the killings, there is significantly less literature and historical knowledge about the experiences of the detainees, the circumstances of their confinement, and the survivors’ life paths after their release. Marching’s book provides some fascinating insights into the biographies of such detainees. Arrested for trade union activism, journalistic investigations, or entirely arbitrary reasons, the persons interviewed by Marching report in an illustrative and moving manner about the various forms of chicanes they were exposed to. In these testimonies we learn about the cynical and humiliating treatment of prison inmates through military personnel as well as civilian guards, the harsh circumstances of forced labour, but also small acts of resistance and avoidance to preserve a certain degree of dignity and self-respect. Although documented before, particularly interesting is the role of religious services, authorities, and instructions as a central element of the government’s ‘re-education programme’.

A second aspect highlighted by the testimonies is the gender-specific experiences of girls and women. Although there is a growing body of literature produced by Western as well as Indonesian scholars on the female perspectives of the mass killings and the consequences,[iv] this remains a research field that needs more and more detailed empirical analysis. The women’s testimonies assembled here illustrate sexual harassment in sometimes unsettling details – routine verbal abuse, relationships of women with prison guards and the pregnancies resulting from these. Also, the continuous social stigma after the release, particularly prevalent against women, is repeatedly described in these biographical statements.

Finally, the stories of the victims’ children and grandchildren constitute a major part of this publication. Some of them witnessed directly the murder of their parents, were born in prison, or grew up like orphans in families that were not their own. Their life stories are moving accounts of a life-long search for reliable information on what happened to their (grand)parents, the personal struggle against the taboos and the silence within their families, and the professional and social discrimination many of them experienced as offspring of former ‘communists’.

To conclude, this book is a rich and fascinating account of first-hand experience with the anti-communist mass killings and their devastating long-term impact on Indonesian society that were exacerbated by the comprehensive propaganda campaigns and strategies of silencing under Suharto’s dictatorship. The book is not only excellent material for generally interested readers, but also a rich primary source for students and lecturers who want to dive deeper into the abyss of 20th century anti-communist violence, mass persecutions, and patriarchal restoration.

[i] For an overview see John Roosa, The state of knowledge about an open secret: Indonesia’s mass disappearances of 1965-66, The Journal of Asian Studies 75(2), 2016: 281-97.
[ii] Cf. Annie Pohlman, Introduction: The massacres of 1965-1966: New interpretations and the current debate in Indonesia, Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 32(3), 2013: 3-9.
[iii] Douglas Kammen and Faizah Zakaria, Detention in mass violence: Policy and practice in Indonesia, 1965-1968, Critical Asian Studies 44(3), 2012: 441-66.
[iv] Cf. Saskia Wieringa, Sexual Politics in Indonesia, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; and Amurwani Dwi Lestariningsih, Gerwani: Kisah Tapol Wanita di Kamp Plantungan (Gerwani: The story of female political prisoners in Camp Plantungan), Jakarta: Kompas, 2011.

Rolls-Royce Indonesian Suharto dictatorship corruption scandal

This video is called Serious Fraud Office launches investigation into bribery and corruption at Rolls Royce.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Rolls-Royce probed over fraud claims

Tuesday 24th December 2013

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has confirmed it has opened a criminal investigation into bribery and corruption allegations at Rolls-Royce.

The disclosure comes a year after the aero-engine giant said it was co-operating with the SFO after its own investigations identified matters of concern involving intermediaries in overseas markets.

It followed a request for information from the SFO about allegations of malpractice in both Indonesia and China.

It has been alleged by former Rolls-Royce employee Dick Taylor that the company had handed a £12.9 million bribe and a blue Rolls-Royce car to Tommy Suharto, the son of Indonesia’s former dictator General Suharto.

This video from the USA is called Suharto is dead!!! How the US supported him -5/5.

In return, it is claimed, the country’s flag-carrier Garuda bought Rolls’s Trent 700 engines for its Airbus A330 aircraft.

Reponding to the allegations, Mr Suharto has strenuously denied that he received payment from the firm.

But speaking yesterday a spokesman for the SFO said: “We confirm that the director of the Serious Fraud Office
has opened a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption at Rolls-Royce.”

The manufacturing giant boasts major sites at Derby and Bristol, as well as employsing somewhere in the region of 45,000 people worldwide.

In March, the company appointed BP director Ian Davis, a former managing director of management consultancy McKinsey & Co, as chairman.

In a brief statement the firm said: “Further to our announcement of December 6 2012 relating to concerns about bribery and corruption in overseas markets, we have been informed by the Serious Fraud Office that it has now commenced a formal investigation into these matters.”

ROLLS-ROYCE faced accusations yesterday of outsourcing hundreds of high-tech engineering jobs “by the back door.” The aerospace giant has announced it is to open a new engineering production site in Bangalore in India, with the creation of 500 jobs. But at the same time it is carrying out a “global restructuring exercise” with the loss of 2,600 posts in Britain: here.

INDONESIANS demanded at the start of the International People’s Tribunal yesterday that the “vicious cycle of denial” about the country’s 1965 coup and massacre must end. Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, an Indonesian rights activist and former MP who helped set up the tribunal, said the government in Jakarta needed to be held to account for crimes committed in the past: here.

Dictator Suharto’s massacres of ‘communists’

This video says about itself:

40 Years Of Silence: An Indonesian Tragedy (long trailer)

A haunting documentary about fear, loss, oppression, and ultimately redemption.

For the first time, four families reveal their experiences of the 1965 mass killings in Indonesia, life under Suharto’s “New Order” regime, and the complexities of reconciliation today.

For more, go to:

By Ariel Heryanto:

The 1965-1966 killings

The Newsletter | No.61 | Autumn 2012

The study of the 1965-1966 killings in Indonesia, and for that matter the study of the country’s politics more generally, will never be the same again with the recent release of the documentary film The Act of Killing (21 August 2012, Toronto International Film Festival), directed by Joshua Oppenheimer with co-director Christine Cynn. The film’s protagonists are leading figures in the local paramilitary organisation Pemuda Pancasila [Pancasila Youth], who were responsible for the killings of hundreds of real or suspected communists in North Sumatera in 1965-1966, as part of a nationwide program that took approximately one million lives.

Although testimonies and published analyses of the event have slowly emerged, it is one of those topics that most people have some knowledge about, but prefer not to discuss even in private.

The result of seven years of hard work, involving many hundreds of hours of footage, the documentary radically challenges some of the old and familiar assumptions in the study of politics and violence. It also demonstrates an ingenious method of documentary filmmaking that will be of special interest to students of media studies, history, visual ethnography, and the anthropology of media.

Undoubtedly, human rights activists and institutions will have a deep interest in the way this film penetrates the entrenched impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of one of the worst massacres in modern history. Some of the leaders of the groups responsible for the massacre still hold government offices at local and national levels today.

All currently existing films with a focus on the 1965 killings and [their] aftermath (as distinct from those that present the same events only in the background of their story)2 are dedicated to giving a voice to the survivors and members of their families, occasionally with sympathetic comments from experts. These films have broken the general onscreen silence that has lasted for over a quarter of a century. To my knowledge, a total of 16 such documentaries have been produced, most of them in small circles, by individual survivors,3 local non-governmental organisations4 and filmmakers,5 in addition to three titles by foreign filmmakers.6

All these documentaries show the ordeals of the victims and the various forms of their victimisation. Made with low budgets and very basic technology, most of these locally produced documentaries feature talking heads from among the survivors and eye-witnesses. Frail and aged-looking women appear in many of these films, speaking emotionally about their endless agony and presenting their condemnations against the past injustice and the continued failure on the part of the successive governments to acknowledge it.7

Individually and collectively, those films have merits of their own, and their importance to the fledgling efforts to unearth the buried history cannot be over-emphasised. However, due to their limited circulation, but also to the successful anti-communist propaganda that has been deeply embedded and normalised in the public consciousness since 1966, these documentaries have yet to make any significant impact in public. For now, their impact is certainly too limited to undermine the New Order propaganda. These previous films presented a counter-claim that boldly reversed the positions of good versus evil that were firmly implanted in the nation’s history by successive governments and their supporters, best exemplified in the nearly four-and-a-half-hour anti-communist state-produced film entitled Pengkhianatan G 30 September (1984).

However, a reversal of this kind only reproduces, and does not eliminate or problematise, the fundamental framework of a good versus evil dichotomy that structures the government propaganda and public imagination. While giving voice to the silenced victims, the perpetrators of the 1965-1966 killings did not appear in these alternative films. In government sponsored propaganda and off-screen statements, whenever these perpetrators (or their sponsors and supporters) speak of the events, their statements consist mainly of denials along with the frequent placing of blame on the victims.

In remarkable contrast, The Act of Killing is fascinating as much as disturbing for its radical subversion of the prevailing paradigm, in that it presents a narrative of the killings in a complex story, with multi-layered sub-narratives, rich with ironies and contradictions. An adequate discussion of the significance and problematics that this film brings to the fore is far beyond the scope of this brief article. Here I can only mention in the simplest terms some of the most obvious aspects that will have immediate impact for our current scholarship on the issue.

The Act of Killing graphically visualizes acts of violence that make the horrors in the previous documentaries (allusions to anti-communist captors, torturers, rapists), as well as in Pengkhianatan G 30 September (the evils of an allegedly communist-backed movement against six rightist generals and one lieutenant on the eve of 1 October 1965) pale into insignificance. In this respect, The Act of Killing incriminates the perpetrators of the 1965-1966 killings more seriously than any of the preceding films have done. But this new documentary goes much further than simply validating or reinforcing the survivors’ allegations about the cruelty of the military-orchestrated anti-communist pogrom.

Instead of submitting new ‘facts’ or a set of serious ‘evidence’ about the crimes against humanity in 1965-1966, The Act of Killing presents an abundance of extravagantly-styled self-incriminations by the 1965 executioners themselves, as they speak proudly to the camera about how they pushed their cruelty to the extreme when killing the communists and members of their families, and raping their female targets, including children. In front of the camera, they go on to demonstrate step-by-step how they carried out the killings at the original sites of their actions in 1965, thus making the survivors’ allegations of their crimes redundant. The Act of Killing exposes in a most obscene fashion what the successive Indonesian governments since 1966 have erased from official history and government pronouncements.

More than one of the perpetrators in this film observes perceptively that ‘their’ film will outdo the government’s infamous Pengkhianatan G 30 September in portraying scenes of horrendous violence. They remark that the general public is utterly wrong to assume (in line with New Order government propaganda) that the Communists are cruel or brutal; “We are crueler and more brutal than the Communists”, they claim. They elaborate what they mean in great detail, both through words and re-enactments on camera. The film contains some of the most violent scenes and language I have seen or heard, on or off screen, from or on Indonesia.

Viewers need to have a strong stomach to watch this film.

Questions raised

However, violent scenes and perverted language are only a part of the image that this film presents. The Act of Killing is unusual in the series of documentaries on the theme to date; it is the first long film on the 1965-1966 killings to feature the perpetrators, instead of the survivors or their sympathisers, as the main characters. This is only possible with the consent of those individual executioners, especially as they appear without their identities being concealed.

They recollect their own crimes, most of the time laughing, singing and dancing, and only occasionally with remorse and reported nightmares.

Three closely-related sets of questions came up in my mind when I first saw two earlier and shorter versions of the film in 2010 and 2011. Some clues began to dawn on me after watching the final and longer version in 2012, and after having further conversations with Oppenheimer, the director.

JAKARTA, Oct 27 2012 (IPS) – If the caste system existed in Indonesia the 10 elderly people who live in Jakarta’s Kramat Street would surely be untouchables: for decades they and their families have been banned from jobs and access to education and, until 2005, their identity cards marked them as former political prisoners. They are survivors of the 1965-66 military crackdown on the now outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), during which time between 500,000 and three million people were massacred and thousands tortured and imprisoned without trial: here.

Declassified documents published last week confirm that the US government was intimately involved in the campaign of mass murders conducted by the Indonesian military and Islamic organisations during the 1965-66 coup led by General Suharto: here.

Dictator Suharto’s censorship law scrapped

This is a video about the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia in 1998.

From Associated Press:

Indonesia revokes book-ban law from Suharto days

By IRWAN FIRDAUS – 1 day ago

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A landmark decision striking down an Indonesian book-banning law that has been used since the days of ex-dictator Suharto to clamp down on dissent was welcomed Thursday by historians, authors and rights activists.

For more than four decades, the attorney general’s office could unilaterally prohibit publication or distribution of books deemed “offensive” or a “threat to public order.”

But the Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday such power should rest with a judicial court.

“It’s great,” said historian Hilmar Farid. “It symbolizes the end of a period of darkness for all of us. It will allow future generations to learn the truth about everything, from science to history.”

Suharto stepped down in 1998 after 32 years of dictatorial rule, leading to reforms in the predominantly Muslim nation of 237 million that freed the media, vastly improved human rights and gave citizens the right for the first time to directly pick their leaders.

Though the country is now seen as one of the most democratic in the region, some authoritarian policies remain in place, such as a continuing ban on communist and other left-wing organizations.

A group of authors and publishers whose books were banned last year asked the Constitutional Court to review the 1963 regulation that allowed it.

Their books — and others — touched on sensitive topics like separatist-torn Papua province, inter-religious conflicts, the role of the military and even scientific research.

In striking down the law, Judge Mohammad Mahfud told the court: “Any banning of books must be done through the legal process in a court.”

Hundreds of books have been banned since the 1960s, including almost all 34 books and essays by late Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, an outspoken democracy advocate who spent 14 years in jail during Suharto’s reign.

In the last year alone, the government banned “Pretext for Mass Murder,” a book about the role of the military in Suharto’s rise to power by John Roosa, a professor at the University of British Colombia, and four other books written by Indonesians.

Artist and illustrator Alit Ambara said he was thrilled.

“It will give students the change to learn about the past from different perspectives,” he said, noting that history books continue to blame the Communist Party for an apparent abortive coup in 1965 that helped Suharto rise to power.

Videos showing the torture of West Papuans by occupying Indonesian soldiers have embarrassed the Indonesian government ahead of a scheduled visit in November by US President Barack Obama: here.

Captured on video, the Indonesian military’s torture of two Papuans in May highlights the extent of the violence and intimidation that exists throughout Papua: here.

Sharp tensions in Indonesian Papua following failure of “peace conference”: here.

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Neo-Conservative Paul Wolfowitz Running World Bank

Wolfowitz cartoon

From the Google cache.

Neo-Conservative Paul Wolfowitz To Run World Bank

Date: 3/16/05 at 11:48PM

Indymedia Bay Area (USA) reports:

Neo-Conservative Paul Wolfowitz To Run World Bank


On Wednesday March 16th, Bush nominated Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.

“Paul Dundes Wolfowitz, the current Deputy Secretary of Defense (and assistant to Dick Cheney), is considered to be one of the most prominent and “hawkish” (neo-conservatives).

He is the principal author of the “Wolfowitz doctrine“, also known as the Bush doctrine.

He is a long time member of the Project for the New American Century think tank and was one of the signers of the January 26, 1998 PNAC letter sent to President Clinton.

Wolfowitz used to be US ambassador to Indonesia; then ruled by dictator General Suharto, who killed an estimated 1-2 million people.

As Tim Shorrock writes:

During the Reagan years, there was no greater champion of Suharto than Wolfowitz, whose career is a textbook example of Cold War politics that focused for nearly 50 years on the care and feeding of dictators like Suharto, Chun Doo-hwan in South Korea, and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.

So much for Wolfowitz’s claims of “democratizing” Iraq, the Middle East, or the world.

The Spokesman-Review writes:

Almost every rosy prediction made by the Iraq war’s architect has fallen flat. …

Wolfowitz’s high-stakes bungling and erroneous forecasts have helped sacrifice more precious commodities: thousands of lives, billions of taxpayer dollars and much of the global goodwill America enjoyed after Sept. 11. …

Blunder No. 4: Ahmed Chalabi. Wolfowitz pushed the Bush administration to position — and fund — Chalabi, an Iraqi exile, convicted embezzler and peddler of false intelligence about WMDs [and Iranian double agent], to lead the newly freed country.

And Wolfowitz’s fingerprints are all over Iraq’s new group of “benevolent rulers” known to locals as “Ahmed Chalabi and the 20 Thieves.”

It was Chalabi who famously declared that Iraqis would welcome the American invaders with sweets and flowers.

Wolfowitz echoed that, saying we would be greeted as liberators.

Instead, we got rocket-propelled grenades, roadside bombs and mutilation.

Media like The Economist refer to Wolfowitz as “the velociraptor”.

Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese opposition leader now praised as paragon of democracy by some Bush supporters, said, after rockets aimed at a Baghdad hotel, just missed Wolfowitz:

“We hope that next time the rockets will be more accurate and effective in getting rid of this virus, and his like, who wreak corruption in the Arab land of Iraq and in Palestine,” Jumblatt said.

Like a true chickenhawk, Mr Wolfowitz will now get a cushy job in banking about which he knows nothing, supposed to benefit poor people about whom he knows less than nothing, rather than go to the luxury hotel in Baghdad which was fired at during his stay, for a second time … let alone join the army in Iraq …

See also here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

And here.

War on Iran? here.