Fifty years after the successful 1955 Asia-Africa Conference, Indonesia hosted the Commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the Asian-African Conference in 2005. The Bandung Spirit was revived and a New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) was formally signed in 2009 by the summit’s co-hosts, Indonesia and South Africa. This year the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference and the 10th anniversary of the NAASP were commemorated. This revival of the Bandung Spirit comes at a time when a new wave of international tensions threaten world peace, no less than the tensions in 1955 due to the Cold War. The Declaration of the NAASP stresses multilateralism, sustainable economic growth and the promotion of global peace and security. One of the main points emphasized in the 2009 Declaration which is based on the original 1955 Declaration stresses respect for fundamental human rights and for the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations.

While the 1955 Bandung Conference is seen as a major step in the struggle of newly independent nations against the lingering effects of colonialism and the increasing dominance of the major world powers at the time, and their refusal to take sides in the Cold War, it is important to reflect on the fate of the man whose vision created this Spirit of Bandung, Indonesia’s first President Sukarno.

soekarno_thumbHe became a victim of the Cold War he so opposed when he was brutally swept aside by General Suharto, who firmly aligned Indonesia within the Western bloc. Many aspects of this coup, which started when General Suharto destroyed the so-called G30S movement which was considered to be behind the murder of seven of the country’s top generals, still remain unclear. Without any proof Sukarno was accused of ‘tolerating’ this “G30S movement”, while the Communist Party, was totally wiped out because one or two of its leaders were alleged to have masterminded the murder of the generals. In the months that followed at least five hundred thousand people were murdered and/or imprisoned under inhuman conditions and without being tried. This massacre and violation of human rights was orchestrated by the army under General Suharto, in spite of Sukarno’s protestations.
In March 1966 Sukarno himself was forced to sign a document called the Supersemar, in which he assigned Suharto to “take all measures considered necessary to guarantee security, calm and stability of the government and the revolution and to guarantee the personal safety and authority [of Sukarno]”. Sukarno was stripped of his presidential title by MPRS on 12 March 1967. He was put under house arrest in the Bogor Palace, where his health deteriorated due to the denial of adequate medical care and he died of kidney failure in Jakarta Army Hospital on 21 June 1970 at age 69.

Now that the NAASP Declaration reaffirms the principles of human rights it is crucial that the architect of the original Bandung Declaration is rehabilitated. His house arrest was a violation of his human rights. Indonesia also has a right to know the circumstances of his removal from power. It is hoped that the Jokowi government can establish a committee to investigate the conditions of Suharto’s grab for power, and the massacres and persecution which followed.

Nursyahbani Katjasungkana,
Coordinator International People’s Tribunal on 1965 Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia
Indonesia; Jalan Dipenogoro 74, Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
Netherland; Willem de Zwigerlaan 134, 2582 EV, The Hague

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