S. Mintardjo, a former student and goalkeeper sent by the government to Helsinki in 1962, then Romania, was one of thousands forced into self-exile outside Indonesia. Others were sent to China, the US, Russia and other countries in Europe.
Now 79, he tries to keep fit by biking around his home near Leiden. His wife from Rumania, Liliana Gabirella, whose picture hangs framed with a black ribbon, died late last year. Fortunately, he said, his family and grandchildren live nearby. For company, there are usually lodging students from Indonesia.
Mintardjo has heard about the announcement from Attorney General M. Prasetyo to set up a truth and reconciliation commission to help resolve past human rights abuses.
Former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid had apologized to victims and survivors of the 1965 upheaval, not as president but as a former leader of Ansor, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, which also killed many suspected communist supporters, saying it was done out of fear of being killed themselves.
His then law minister Hamid Awaludin said the government would offer the exiles Indonesian passports and that they would face no difficulty returning home.
Many have been able to freely make trips home; however, despite post reformasi openness they have held on to their foreign nationalities and passports — Indonesia does not recognize dual citizenship while the elders have long grown roots and established families in the countries where they settled.
Besides, says Mintardjo, “it’s not a matter of passports”.
They would like to hear, he told The Jakarta Post at his home in early June, the government’s statement of whether it was the state’s grave mistake to revoke their citizens’ passports because they had refused to sign statements of loyalty to the new president, Soeharto, just after he took power from president Sukarno following the alleged coup attempt of Sept. 30, 1965, by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
“We didn’t know Soeharto,” said Mintardjo, “it was president Sukarno who sent us abroad”, either on sports missions or on scholarships from then friendly governments.
Mintardjo said he would like to collaborate with any Indonesian academics interested in providing other versions of history.
“It would be a pity” not to use today’s openness, he said. The intelligent among the public, he added, could make judgments for themselves regarding, for instance, the 1960s violence and others such as the local 1945 revolt in Central Java known as Peristiwa Tiga Daerah (Incident of three regions) – which led to the killing of Mintardjo’s father, a local regent, he said.
Ibrahim Isa, another former self-exile, had said earlier in a documentary, “Criminals go to jail […] They don’t get their passports taken.” The documentary titled Supervivere: Work in Progress by the young artist Elisabeth Ida Mulyani was shown in an exhibit on the exiles in May in Brussels.
Without such official acknowledgement that the government was at fault for making thousands of its own citizens stateless, not to mention the prolonged depression, some “went mad”, said another former exile in the documentary, Kuslan Budiman .
Mintardjo said there is “no guarantee” that the government and society will not stigmatize former alleged communist supporters and their families.
Some groups in Indonesia have raised warnings of a “communist revival” since the publications of survivors’ testimonies, new novels on the 1960s, and children of survivors running for elections, for instance.
On June 1, residents and activists, witnessed by local authorities, lay tombstones in a mass grave of over 20 victims of killings in the Plumbon hamlet, Wonosari subdistrict in Ngaliyan, Semarang, Central Java; not all the bodies have been identified, reports said. It was one of a few attempts of collective healing in a number of locations involving similar graves, initiated by activists and survivors’ family members. One aim was so that family members felt free to visit the cemetery, organizers from the Association of Semarang Society (PMS) said.