Retas Sejarah

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The personal trauma associated with the intense violence that engulfed Indonesia between October and December 1965 is not enough to explain how an open and documented history of the killings was silenced for over 33 years. Likewise, the New Order government’s political and military power to suppress competing historical accounts cannot fully elucidate this enduring silence. History is a story about who controls the means of historical consciousness as well as the production of narratives. Therefore, part of the answer of what enabled the forgetting of the Indonesian killings can be found in an examination of the Suharto regime’s propaganda project. This established communism as a social evil and New Order military authoritarianism as the antidote. An assessment of this narrative demonstrates how officially generated anti-communist ideology created silences in the process of historical production, and how forgetting the violence became a powerful determinant of local historical consciousness.

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Following a wave of violent confrontations and tit-for-tat killings, the leaders of five mass organizations-cum-urban gangs in Greater Jakarta – Pemuda Pancasila (PP), Pemuda Panca Marga (PPM), the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR), the Betawi People’s Forum (Forkabi), and Badan Pembina Provinsi Keluarga Banten (BPPKB) – agreed to a ceasefire in June 2012. The violence to be shut down had erupted in the late winter and early spring of 2012, escalating and taking on ethnic overtones in March 2012 when the leader of another gang John Refra, a.k.a. John Kei, was arrested on murder charges. Fronting as a debt-collecting business, Kei’s Key Youth Force (Amkei) was centered on Moluccan migrants in Jakarta and had been clashing with rival gangs from Flores. The June gang truce, facilitated by police negotiations and mediation,for a moment seemed to turn the violence off. The gang truce paralleled a ceasefire announced by two large gangs in El Salvador – an ocean away.

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The Indonesian Army and its precursor, the Dutch Colonial Army, had a long history of cooperation with shadowy criminal underworld gangs. The New Order regime, its intelligence organizations, the Army, political parties, and business owners all patronized petty criminals who functioned as their informants, protectors and enforcers, when needed. Soeharto’s master political strategist, Ali Moertopo, and his autonomous Opsus intelligence unit maintained an extensive network of informers and thugs. Moertopo’s bully boys provoked the January 1974 Malari riots to discredit rival Kopkamtib Commander Soemitro and engaged in arm twisting tactics to ensure Golkar victories in the 1971, 1977 and 1982 general elections. They intimidated opposition parties and frightened the public with threats of anarchy – a repeat of the 1965-1966 terror – if voters failed to fall in line behind Golkar.

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Domestic mass murder on a large scale is always the work of the state, at the hands of its own soldiery, police and gangsters, and/or ideological mobilization of allied civilian groups. The worst cases in the post-World War 11 era – Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Sudan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Liberia, China, East Pakistan, East Timor, and Indonesia – show much the same bloody manipulations. It is equally the case that the killer regimes do not announce publicly the huge numbers killed, and rarely boast about the massacres, let alone the tortures that usually accompany them. They like to create a set of public euphemisms endlessly circulated through state-controlled mass media. In the age of the UN, to which almost all nation-states belong,in the time of Amnesty International and its uncountable NGO children and grandchildren, in the epoch of globalization and the internet, there are naturally worries about ‘face,’ interventions, embargos, ostracism, and UN-ish investigations. No less important are domestic considerations. National militaries are supposed heroically to defend the nation against foreign enemies, not slaughter their fellow-citizens. Police are supposed to uphold the law. Above all, there is need for political ‘stability,’ one element of which is that killing should not get out of control, and that amateur civilian killers should be quietly assured that ‘it’s over’ and that no one will be punished.

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Indonesia is to revisit another violent chapter of the Soeharto regime with an investigation into a campaign of extra-judicial killings by the Indonesian military between 1983 and 1985. As many as 8,000 people may have been killed during the operation, which President Soeharto sanctioned as necessary to purge the nation of criminal elements.

Presenter: Katie Hamann

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Since the economic crisis started in 1997, an increasing number of people in Indonesia are thrown into the harsh reality of joblessness. The younger generation is most severely affected by the lack of employment or pertinent possibilities of income generation, and identity creation. More than 40 million people are without a reliable income from employment in Indonesia today, most of them young and male, having nothing to sell but their own muscles. Rates of criminality have increased, not least as a consequence of weakened state and police power since the fall of Soeharto’s authoritarian regime in 1998.

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One of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the New Order was the wave of state-sponsored executions of suspected criminals which took place between 1983 and 1985. In this two year period, over five thousand people, none of whom had been tried, lost their lives at the hands of highly-trained hit squads known popularly as Petrus, an acronym of penembak misterius or ‘mysterious gunmen’.

Much has been written about the repression of political dissidents in Indonesia and the military operations against armed opponents of the Indonesian state in such places as Irian Jaya and East Timor. What was unusual about the Petrus campaign is that violence was used not to silence criticism or to defend the Indonesian state from perceived threats to its integrity, but as an instrument of social policy. It was a carefully planned and orchestrated military- intelligence operation intended, in the words of President Suharto, as “shock therapy” to curb radically the incidence of violent crime.

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The authoritarian regime and its leader are gone and the structures that main tained his power are weakened, but in post-New Order Indonesia violent conflict has become more frequent and more varied. It is no longer sufficient to explain the violence in the terms used by the regime and others during its rule. Scholars, human rights workers, and victims increasingly recognize the plurality of truths about violent conflict (Stoler 2002). State truths, reality’, and the ‘factual’ and ‘moral’ truths told by human rights organizations are all in tension (Sai Siew Min forthcoming; Ignatieff 1996). The continuing and escalating violence after the end of the New Order indicates that the ‘roots’ of the violence also lie outside the New Order (Schulte Nordholt 2002). During the New Order, explanations could be located within an authoritarian system that sponsored violence as a problem-solving method. Today, links between the actors involved in the conflicts in Ambon, West Kalimantan, and even Aceh, and the state elite in Jakarta cannot be made so easily.

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