something remained in history that must be truthfully revealed
Because even now the power wants to bury it
It is because of Law, naturally written to side with the victim,
that the reverberations of injustice voiced by them
ultimately cannot be silenced
Following the events on 1 October 1965 around the so-called 30 September Movement, General Suharto and his military regime launched the persecution and slaughtering of communists and other progressive people. In our refuge, with my friends I calculated that this course of history would not subside in two generations, or fifty years.
This calculation was a mere utopia of people who were being “quashed to the roots”. Yes, a utopia! Nevertheless, after the collapse in 1998 of Suharto’s military power brought about by the pressure of students, the Indonesian people and the international community, this utopia turned into an ideal. The road to democracy where justice can be struggled for, was laid open for us victims and our children and grandchildren.
We have been able to free ourselves from fear and openly speak about the stain on humanity that the Suharto regime has put upon us during 32 years. Too long a period to heal the pain that it has caused. Our courage to overcome our decades-long fear and our hopes are being boosted by the plans to hold an international people’s tribunal on the crimes against humanity in 1965 (IPT 1965) in November 2015 in The Hague.
It will not be a court to convict the crimes against humanity such as the Nuerenberg tribunal was against the cruelties of Nazi facism, or the tribunals in Serbia and Cambodia were against the perpetrators of similar crimes. The decision of the IPT 1965 will not result in a legally binding verdict. Yet, and more importantly, as an indictment will be passed by internationally acclaimed and respected judges and prosecutors this surely will have a deep and wide impact.
Moreover, I expect the judges and prosecutors in this people’s tribunal to refer to the findings of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnasham) in Indonesia in its report (2012) on the crimes against humanity, crimes that were widespread and that resulted in hundreds of thousands up to millions of victims. Crimes committed under the command of the army of General Suharto, which opened the regime’s avenue to power.
IPT 1965 will provide valuable education in history to the present generations and will convince those who are still half in doubt about the brutality of the power they have witnessed and with whom they danced for more than three decades. IPT 1965 will vitalize the imagination of those who emphatized, grieved and prayed after watching Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentaries “The Act of Killing” (2012) and The Look of Silence” (2014). In making his films, Joshua worked with young people who now are forced to go into anonymity to be protected from the revenge of the perpetrators in the two phenomenal films.
Those films made my tears flow. I really cried when imagining the perseverance of those young people in their search for the truth in this bloody episode of history. Instead of protecting, the state neglected them. For eight years they risked their lives for the films, dedicated to the truth that has been betrayed for many decades.
T. Mulya Lubis, a legal expert of international reputation, admitted in his column in one of the national dailies that he was taken aback by “The Look of Silence”, burdened by the awareness that there is nothing he did nothing for his fellow countrymen and –women. An awakening historical awareness leads to a further watering down of the inculcated stigma against the victims during Suharto’s days. This is good news for us, victims and survivors who are fortunate and still alive. We will be able to witness how the cruelties done to us are recognized, although not equally punished.
We know that history will ultimately side with us. As the sculptor Dadang Christanto expresses in his work “The blood is still warm, mister General”. True, the blood of the victims is still warm and in search for their bodies. Hundreds of thousands children, like Adi Rukun in the film “The Look of Silence” are still looking for their beloved fathers, mothers and others. If they were buried alive, on which land? If their remains were thrown into the streaming river, which river? If they were buried in mass graves, on which soil are they piled up? If they were shot and shoveled into a hole, where is this damned hole to be found?
They who are still searching. Dadang Christanto himself still roams the north coast of Java, in search for the spot where his father’s corpse was snatched off his embrace when he was four years old. The blood still looks for its body, his human body that was inhumanely abused, slaughtered under the false accusation of being involved in a movement of conspiracy to abduct and kill the generals in Jakarta.
The blood and the bodies have been victimized. We bear no resentment. We only want to shout: if you are brave warriors, come out and admit what you have done! Do not hide behind the scenes delivering trucks to transport the victims’ corpses. Rather, be open and admit like the perpetrators in both of Joshua Oppenheimer’s films have done proudly.
The two films which revive memories of a long and dark past, also refresh our awareness of the facts in history that must be revealed in full sincerity. Because even now the power wants to bury it, to escape from their sins and due punishment.
We do not force you to surrender or hold your hands up, this will only degrade or put you down. But, if you are brave warriors, admit your past sins. Your human dignity will not be diminished. Instead, history will note you as the carriers of candles that lit up the dark episodes you yourselves tainted.
Indonesia is not a nation of murderers who hide their hands. Throughout three decades, the nation was herded into a black hole of civilization. Our mothers were sent to far-away countries to be enslaved, abused, raped or even killed, or thrown from high apartment buildings.
Indonesia should not be a country where perpetrators of crimes are free to dance, to get drunk while enjoying the cruelties they committed with the money they extort from members of some minority groups.
Indonesia is a nation whose leader once addressed a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York “To Build the World Anew”. A leader of ours whose words in each of his speeches vibrated and were attentively listened to by the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Those romantic and exciting days will not return. But the enticing utopia in my mind that turned into an ideal can become reality with the staging of the International People’s Tribunal, IPT 1965, in the country that was once our colonizer. A country that also brought forth Multatuli, the critical mind from whom we learned what colonization means.
Our hope is that the tribunal’s decision will reveal the truth for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the crimes against humanity, by opening a window of opportunity for voices of the victims to be heard. It is because of Law, naturally written to side with the victims, that the reverberations of injustice that they voice ultimately cannot be silenced. Blind and deaf power will get its due moral punishment from the international community. Whereas history will find a beam of light to break through the darkness that has existed for so many years.
Martin Aleida is an influential Indonesian writer who has been very critical to Soeharto’s new order regime
This post is also available in: English