MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



Thursday, September 30, 2021

Shedding light on Indonesia’s ‘blackest day’

From Lim Teck Ghee

Fifty-six years ago, on Sept 30, one of the most widespread mass killings of the 20th century took place.

Described by various names including the 1965 Indonesian Coup, Indonesian Communist Purge, Indonesian Politicide and Indonesian Genocide, numerous studies have focused on the causative factors and chain of events that led to this massacre of so many innocent lives.

While there is disagreement on the role of the key stake players in this Indonesian tragedy, beyond dispute is the final tally of casualties. Estimates of the people who died range from a general consensus of 500,000 to a high of 2 million casualties. In addition, as many as 600,000-750,000 people were imprisoned in the aftermath for periods of between one and 30 years.

After a period of official silence and discouragement of discussion on this blackest day in Indonesian history, Sept 30 has more recently become the subject of soul searching in the country with victims and perpetrators coming together.

Many have done not to point fingers of blame but to arrive at the truth of how and why this horrific tragedy occurred. Although an Indonesian truth and reconciliation commission has yet to be established to investigate the causes and consequences of this episode and to arrive at lessons to heal its scars, there has been an encouraging openness within Indonesia to discuss Sept 30.

Roles of US, UK and Australia in Indonesian genocide

It is not only Indonesians who need to uncover the truth about that day. Three nations – the US, UK and Australia – recent signatories of the tripartite military pact, Aukus, to “‘maintain peace” in the Indo-Pacific region have been identified as playing a key role in fomenting and abetting the mass killings.

It is important that the current political leaders and citizens of these three countries be reminded of Sept 30, an international day of infamy, which could not have taken place without their encouragement and heinous contribution.

According to the International People’s Tribunal on 1965 Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia held in November 2015 and presided over by seven international judges, the massacres “intended to annihilate a section of the population and could be categorised as genocide”. The tribunal report also highlighted other well-founded allegations which included enslavement in labour camps, ruthless torture, systematic sexual violence and forced disappearances.

Chief judge Zak Yacoob stated that “the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia were all complicit to differing degrees in the commission of these crimes against humanity”.

The judges noted that the US supported the perpetrators “knowing well that they were embarked upon a programme of mass killings”. This backing included providing lists of alleged communist party officials to the Indonesian security forces with a “strong presumption that these would facilitate the arrest and/or the execution of those that were named”.

The UK and Australia also played a supporting role to the US in several ways, including through the repetition of false propaganda, even after it became “abundantly clear that killings and other crimes against humanity were taking place”.

Although Australia’s foreign affairs ministry rejected the tribunal’s conclusion and denied that the country was complicit in the killings, recent studies have shown that the Australian government played a larger role than is commonly known or acknowledged.

In opening remarks to a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of Sept 30 held at the Australian National University in 2016, Gareth Evans, professor emeritus of the International Crisis Group, the Brussels-based independent global conflict prevention and resolution organisation, noted that:

“Although the CIA itself had described the killings (though not in any evident spirit of distaste) as “one of the worst mass murders of the twentieth century”, the Indonesian killings remain the only ones of anything like this scale that have not been the subject of minute international attention or any kind of truth-finding, let alone reconciliation, process. It is the least studied and least talked-about political genocide of the last century, and lifting the veil on it really is long overdue.”

Learning from history

It is still not too late for Australia, the US and UK to set the record straight, admit their complicity in what happened in Indonesia and provide full public access to the diplomatic, military and other communication leading to and after Sept 30 that can provide answers to the unanswered questions on this turning point in Indonesian and Southeast Asian history.

Lifting the veil is not only important for the West and other parts of the world to learn about the mistakes of the past; or in this instance, in the plain words of Evans about:

“… a case study in the politics of mass murder – what you can get away with when you characterise and demonise opponents in a particular way, achieving ends which are conceivably defensible by means which are morally atrocious.”

It can also be the means to ensure that Southeast Asia and other countries in the Asian region see clearly the dark forces at work to influence and control their future.

Defenders and advocates of the west should ponder on this continuing tendency of their leaders to engage in an instrumental endless war, abetted by their media, that draws on racist and fear-mongering sentiments.

Southeast Asian countries should reject being used as proxies by the west’s political leaders to fight their wars. We should remember that those who preach their performative support for peace, freedom and human rights have a long history of falsehoods, lies and bloodied hands to account for. - FMT

Lim Teck Ghee is a public policy analyst.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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