Retas Sejarah

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Indeks / "New Order"

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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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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In keeping with the overt symbolism that marked political monuments in Suharto’s New Order, the Department of the Interior on Jakarta’s main square was ornamented with a giant kentongan. A kentongan is an instrument made from a hollowed branch that is struck to give off a sound. Kentongan have been used by neighborhood watches (rondo) in Java’s towns and villages for centuries as devices to keep thieves away, to call forth populations for territorial defense, and to keep people alert and ready toward off threats to community well-being. Hung by a mosque, in a guard house, or in front of the village head’s house, it is the quintessential technology for community policing. The kentongan at the Department of the Interior, by virtue of its size and location, would seem to represent a departure from the strictly local connotations of village kentongan. This grand kentongan was undoubtedly meant to provide the many thousands of kentongan in the nation’s villages and towns with a new center with which to resonate. Through a sort of crude symbolism, the installation of this kentongan signified the subordination of local security apparatuses to the overarching security framework provided by the state.

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