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Resurrecting the 'PKI ghost' and the commitment to resolve the 1965 tragedy

CNN Indonesia - October 1, 2018

Jakarta, CNN Indonesia – The banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) is like a ghost which every year is resurrected towards the end of September.

The dark tale surrounding the 1965 coup attempt, which is known as the September 30 Movement or G30S, has been is blown up regularly, particularly during election campaign periods since the 2014 presidential elections.

This social conflict became the subject of the 1984 film titled The Betrayal of the G30S/PKI (Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI) by director Arifin C Noer. Following reformasi – the political reform process that began in 1998 – the government dropped the requirement that all TV stations broadcast the film on September 30. Since last year however, a polemic over holding public screenings of the film has resurfaced.

Gadjah Mada University (UGM) political observer Arie Sudjito believes that the "ghost of communism" which is rolled out every year is no longer relevant in contemporary Indonesia. Because communism, particularly the PKI, is no longer developing and has been resigned to the history of the Indonesia nation.

"The fact is that it's impossible for the PKI to be revived, it was declared illegal long ago. And, in several countries around the world communism is no longer the ideological choice", said Sudjito when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Monday October 1.

The PKI was long ago declared a banned organisation in Indonesia through Tap MPRS [Provisional People's Consultative Assembly Decree] Number XXV/MPRS/1966. In addition to dissolving and banning the PKI, the TAP MPRS also prohibits activities which spread or promote communist, Marxist and Leninist ideas or teachings.

Sudjito said that the public should be more on guard against the political elite and Suharto era rulers who want to reestablish their hold on Indonesia following the collapse of the New Order (Orba) regime.

He said that the Suharto era elite are attempting to manipulate issues of identity such as the revival of communism for their own interests and political goals.

"So this is what should be watched, not the reproduction of the PKI ghost, this is a reproduction created by [ruminants] of the Orba", he said.

Sudjito also believes that the political elite and old political groups do not have any strategic or significant issues that they can use to garner public sympathy. Because of this, the strategy of "giving new life" to the ghost of communism is aimed at smoothing the way for their own political goals.

Even worse, these groups are becoming increasingly aggressive in using the PKI "revival" issue in the lead up to the election of regional heads (Pilkada) and presidential elections (Pilpres).

"These groups are reproducing identity politics in order to maintain hostilities, they have failed to find a basic national problem [which they can campaign on] so they are digging up past issues, this it think is a legacy of the Orba, yes", he said.

"On top of this, in the lead up to Pilkada, Pilpres or Pileg [legislative elections] it escalates again, I think that this is stopping the nation from becoming greater", he added.

Sudjito also suggests that the public could become smarter and clearer in looking at the country's current problems.

He says that the enemy of the Indonesian nation right now is not actually the PKI or communism, but rather it is social inequality and corruption which is being perpetrated on a massive scale by the political elite.

"Yes actually we don't need to be frightened by ghosts that we create ourselves, because our [real] enemy is injustice, inequality and corruption", he said.

1965 rights cases yet to be resolved

Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) deputy director Gufron Mabruri says that one of the reasons that the "PKI ghost" and the "Ghost of communism" continues to be reproduced each year is because the government has yet to seriously and fully deal with the 1965 tragedy.

He says that the current government has encountered a dead end in properly resolving the issues surrounding the 1965 tragedy.

"One of the main factors of course is the process of resolving the '65 affair which has yet to be fully resolved. Certainly there have been efforts to resolve it, for example by Jokowi [President Joko Widodo], but it is as if it always encounters a dead end", said Mabruri.

In 2012 the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) said that between 500,000 and 3 million people were killed on and around the 1965 affair. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) meanwhile has recorded that 32,774 people were declared missing between 1965 and 2013, all of which remain unaccounted for.

Mabruri says that the position taken by various social groups as well as sections of the political elite are still making it difficult for the government to raise the curtain on the tragedy.

"What emerges is reactions and responses that are reactive in nature, not just from the public, but also from the elite and the security institutions in relation to the affair", he said.

Looking at this, Mabruri believes that the PKI issue will continue to be "taken advantage of" by certain groups every year if the government remains incapable of fully opening the dark veil shrouding the 1965 tragedy.

"Because the problem has not yet been resolved, it will always resurface, not just today but in the future", he said.

Because of this therefore, Mabruri is calling on the government to have the will to resolve and reveal the real and objective history of the 1965 affair so this does not continue.

This, he said, is so that Indonesia can free itself from the burden of the past and help the Indonesian nation step forward into the future.

"The historical truth must be revealed, A makes this accusation, B makes that accusation, a position of counter accusations, what is the truth in relation to the '65 affair? The public doesn't understand. Now, this has to be revealed objectively", said Mabruri.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was Kebangkitan 'Hantu PKI' dan Komitmen Penyelesaian Tragedi 65.]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20181001144333-20-334651/kebangkitan-hantu-pki-dan-komitmen-penyelesaian-tragedi-65.

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