Source Jakarta POST, 22/7/16

It is no great honor to rank among the world’s greatest when it means being named among the world’s greatest criminals. Genocide? Us?

We are a great nation, as minister Luhut B. Pandjaitan said. No one dictates to us, and we will settle our problems our own way. This was his response to the verdict on Wednesday read out by South Africa’s former Constitutional Court chief justice Zak Yacoob, who chaired the International People’s Tribunal on 1965 last November at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Even beyond the indictment of nine crimes against the state of Indonesia, Yacoob stated that the Indonesian state was also guilty of, and responsible for, genocide.

Yacoob said this was because the material and the testimonies presented before the judges led to the conclusion that the nature of the crimes and policies around the political upheavals of the 1960s met those prescribed by the 1948 UN Genocide Convention — acts which “were committed against specific groups, with a specific intent to destroy that group in whole or in part”.

The convention cites the acts include killings, the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to the group members, and “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Our family members may have not been involved in killings, but many know relatives and neighbors who vanished or who were whispered about, their descendants bearing eternal stigma of accused ties to the communist party, PKI.

The G-word is alien to our mindset. Indonesians come across the word only when learning world history such as the history of Nazi Germany or contemporary gross crimes such as those in the civil wars of Rwanda and Bosnia.

The violence and killings of 1965 have recently been much more exposed. But the pain and loss of so many family members was a tragedy, many say, especially as we were told that in those days, it was kill or be killed by evil communists.

In the wake of the verdict reading from Cape Town in South Africa, a world model for its attempt to deal with a painful past, Indonesians have two basic options.

First, as Minister Luhut said, we could dismiss the result of the tribunal, which is not a formal judicial process, as the work of the usual trouble-maker activists. Many nations have skeletons, best dealt with internally without foreign interference. The government is studying recommendations from two recent national symposiums on the controversial political upheavals and bloodshed of the 1960s.

Another option is to turn this impudent looking insult into a renewed, massive source of collective will and energy to face up to our past. A strong reference is the state’s own report on the “gross human rights violations” of 1965-1966 by the National Commission on Human Rights. Issued in 2012, it has been ignored.

But President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was in part elected on promises to break away from tiresome baggage. Let’s end impunity and self denial so we can move on to fulfill our potential as a great nation.