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The year that never ended

Published: Jul 26, 2007

Oral histories of 1965

Tahun yang Tak Pernah Berakhir: Memahami Pengalaman Korban 65 (Mhe Year That Never Ended: Understanding the Experiences of the Victims of 65) is a collection of six oral history essays about the murder and imprisonment of alleged Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI) members after the 30 September 1965 incident, as well as other events that were linked to this persecution. The editors note that the lack of public discussion or research of these events during Suharto’s rule meant that witnesses kept their recollections to themselves or their immediate circle. The slaughter of suspected communists never became a part of the social memory of 1965–1966. The researchers even uncovered some secrets from their own families. One heard for the first time from their grandmother that their grandfather had been a local Indonesian Peasants Front (Barisan Tani Indonesia - BTI) leader and had disappeared in late 1965. Another heard for the first time the life story of an uncle whom he had known had been a political prisoner.

The ten interviewers from the Volunteer Team for Humanity (Tim Relawan untuk Kemanusiaan) interviewed 260 people between mid 2000 and May 2001. Their interviewees were ex-political prisoners and their families. The complete transcripts of two of the interviews follow the six essays. The book also contains a set of autobiographical sketches by Gumelar, four of which are excerpted below:

I was arrested in December 1968. An army jeep picked me up at my house at around 11 o’clock at night. A friend of mine was in the jeep. He pointed to me, although I had never been involved in any political activities. I don’t blame him. At the time all pýisoners were forced, by torture, to name other people. I was taken to an old house in Gunung Sahari and detained for eight months. The army took the house from a Chinese person who rented out pedicabs. They used the house as the headquarters for ‘Operation Kalong’ under the command of Major Suroso.

Around 120 people were detained in the interrogation house along with me. It was full. One small room would have 12 people living in it. We slept on the floor like sardines. My job was to boil water each night, from midnight until 5am, and distribute drinking water. These people were detained for various reasons, but many of them didn’t know anything, like a haji who continually chanted prayers every night.

While I was being interrogated a women was given electric shocks. I admired her because she didn’t shake. She remained calm. That woman was something. I don’t know how she withstood it. When other people were given electric shocks, they collapsed straighì away. I would urinate when given electric shocks. I was beaten and given electric shocks for a long time, because they thought I knew a lot. They didn’t believe that I didn’t have a network. Seven people beat me until I was bleeding.

Besides the army, several members of the Indonesian Communist Party Central Committee (Comite Central Partai Komunis Indonesia, CC PKI) acted as interrogators. Generally, they were forced to under extreme pressure. But there was one ex-CC member who was really cruel, so cruel that he was made a captain in the army.

There was a police officer who was also a political prisoner. He was really strong, physically. But when he was given electric shocks, he collapsed. Usually the cable from the electric shock device was tied to your thumb. The device was manual; it had to be turned by hand. People had no choice but to confess when they were subjected to that. I confessed too, but I kept my wits about me. I only named people who I knew had already been arrested.

In the interrogation room, besides the interrogator, there would be another person who did the beating (pictured left in sketch). He didn’t think: if he was ordered to do something, he would do it straight away. The commander of these people [who gave the beatings] was a Sergeant Major called Bob. He was big and tall. When we came home [from Buru Island] he had become a parking attendant in Glodok. Fate can be very good!

Tahun yang Tak Pernah Berakhir (John Roosa, Ayu Ratih, Hilmar Farid (eds)) was published in 2004 by the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) in cooperation with the Volunteer Team for Humanity (TRuK) and the Indonesian Institute for Social History (Institute Sejarah Sosial Indonesia). Australian readers interesting in purchasing the book may contact Rahadian Permadi (rahadianp@hotmail.com or 1/2B Yule St, Dulwich Hill, NSW, 2203).

Inside Indonesia 79: Jul - Sep 2004

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A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar

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