Retas Sejarah

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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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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 (Radio Australia)

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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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After a three-year investigation and testimonies from 349 witnesses, Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has declared that the systematic prosecution of alleged members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) when former president Suharto and the military seized power in 1965 constituted gross human rights violations. It urged that the military officers involved be brought to trial.

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Who knows what the army did with them there – what was clear was that the trucks went off fully loaded and came back empty (Pipit Rochijat, “Am I PKI or Non-PKI”, 1985).

In his wonderful, now classic essay “The Death of Luigi Trastulli,” Alessandro Portelli compares newspaper accounts of the police firing upon a crowd of street demonstrators in a small town in Italy in 1949 with the social memory of that killing. He finds the memories of the town’s working class community, which has eulogized the victim of that shooting in songs and stories, to be in error. Instead of using oral history to figure out “what really happened,” Portelli uses it to think about why people have misremembered the past. Portelli’s later book, The Order Has Been Carried Out, follows a similar procedure. It relies on written records to establish the facticity of an event: German troops occupying Rome in 1944 massacred 355 people as a collective punishment for an attack by the resistance that claimed 32 soldiers.

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It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of civilians were tortured by members of the security forces in Indonesia throughout the New Order regime (1965-1998). This authoritarian, militarist regime seized power following an attempted coup in Jakarta on 1 October 1965. In the aftermath of that coup, elements of the Indonesian military took the opportunity to eradicate their main political rivals, the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, or PKI) and all those associated with it. Between October 1965 and March 1966, it is estimated that half a million PKI members and associates were murdered, while a further million were rounded up and held in political detention. Of those detained, hundreds of thousands are estimated to have been interrogated and tortured between 1965 and 1970.

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