The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was banned in 1966 after President Suharto had thousands of its members and sympathisers slaughtered. Even though Marxism is dead, the authorities have banned any meeting of victims’ families. For activists, the ban conceals a desire not to shed light on the crimes committed in 1966. Some 122 mass graves have been found.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Anti-communism remains a major force in Indonesia even though communism is dead internationally. So “Why is our country is still caught up in y this irrational phobia?" wonders Fr Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit ethics professor and Marx scholar.
Indonesian authorities remain strongly anti-communist, fearful that Marxism might make a comeback in the country. General Suharto, who replaced President Sukarno in 1996, banned the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) that same year, following a violent purge against party members and sympathisers. An estimated half a million were killed. Others were persecuted, jailed, or forced into exile.
Since then, no organised Communist party has existed in the country, and Indonesian authorities have prevented surviving party members, sympathisers, and descendants from meeting, including activists with the Indonesian Institute for the Study of 19651966 Massacre (Yayasan Penelitian Korban Pembunuhan 1965/1966, YPKP)
A national symposium held in April that addressed the issue of victims of the anti-communist purges was followed by a crackdown.
In early May, the YPKP asked to meet with Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security of Indonesia Luhut B. Panjaitan to inform him of the existence of hundreds of mass graves used by the military under Suharto between 1967 and 1970, with the remains of thousands of communists. The minister refused the request.
"There are at least 122 mass graves in Sumatra and Java but other sites on Bali and Kalimantan islands have not yet been identified,” said YPKP president Bedjo Untung. “The number of communists executed in those islands has yet to be confirmed, but we are certain of at least 14,000 victims belonging to the PKI,” he added.
Data collected by the YPKP will be submitted to Indonesia’ Human Rights Commission (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, Komnas Ham).
According to Fr Magnis-Suseno and other activists, the government’s persistent anti-communism conceals a desire not to shed light on the crimes committed by Suharto.
“This anti-communist phobia comes from those who want to keep what happened in 1965 under wrap,” said Hendardi, an activist.
With President Joko Widodo’s agreement, senior military officers have announced restrictive measures against politically relevant gestures that touch this issue.
Conversely, some youth have decided to poke fun at the government’s fear by selling t-shirts with the PKI logo, but in this case the acronym stands for Pecinta Kopi Indonesia, that is Indonesian coffee lovers.