Retas Sejarah

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Index / Mysterious Shootings

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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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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Sumardi, 44, a Karawang resident says the days when Karawang villagers repeatedly found bodies from the penembakan misterius (mysterious shootings), or Petrus, in the area of Citarum River, Karawang, West Java, remain fresh in his memory.

“I remember it was 1984, and I was 16. We found bodies floating in Citarum River maybe once every two days, some of them had tattoos, some had no tattoos at all,” he said.

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