UCA News


A ray of hope for communist purge victims

Survivors see release of US documents on 1960s Indonesian massacre as a major step closer to discovering the truth

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
A ray of hope for communist purge victims

In This Sept. 16, 2017 photo, police block survivors of the 1960s communist purge from attending a seminar on the massacres at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation building in Jakarta. Survivors are still seeking answers over who was responsible for the purge that killed hundreds of thousand of alleged communists and their sympathizers (ucanews.com photo)



Share this article :
Indonesian Aris Panji Irianto did not mind traveling from his home in Central Java to Jakarta to meet with fellow victims of the nation's bloody 1965-66 anti-Communist purge.

He came to the capital in October to learn more about 30,000 pages of official United States records relating to the bloody repression of that time.

Irianto believes the documentation confirms the extensive role of the Indonesia military during the purge that killed more than 500,000 people and imprisoned a million more.

Now aged 66, Irianto was a teenager at the time of the widespread violence that followed the murder of a group of army generals on Sept. 30, 1965.

He did not know then why members of his family were dragged away by anti-communists in his hometown of Kebumen in Central Java.

He was lucky to survive, but to this day he is branded a communist, resulting in social exclusion and a ban on government employment.

Irianto is glad the stigma was not passed to his children.


New milestone

The U.S. documents counter military assertions that it was not involved in wholesale killings.

Irianto said the revelations brought new hope for victims by dispelling "black propaganda" under the 1967-1998 regime of the late President Suharto.

Bedjo Untung, 77, who suffered in the purge, told ucanews.com that he and other victims met members of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights to discuss the implications of the released records.

They were opened to the public by relevant U.S. security agencies and archives.

Untung called on the present Indonesian government to examine the records and take remedial action to help those who were mistreated.

Indonesian students have long been taught that military personnel were guardian angels who rescued the nation from communist subversives. 

"In fact, the document shows that the military was involved," said Untung.

He said new evidence included details of behind-the-scenes U.S. support for the purge.

The Indonesia military allegedly worked with several large Muslim organizations as well as recruiting and arming village anti-communist militias.

Untung called on the Indonesian government and the National Commission on Human Rights to act on the disclosures without giving in to military pressure.

Commission member Amiruddin Al Rahab said the U.S. documents would require further investigation before their validity could be accepted. 

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Wiranto, who uses only one name, said that verification would be necessary before use could be made of the documents in any legal proceedings

"Thorough examination is necessary to establish whether the information contained in the archives was factually correct," Wiranto, a former military commander, told reporters recently.

History professor at the Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta, Jesuit Father Fransiskus Baskara Tulus Wardaya, said that the military and government must allow Indonesian citizens to learn the facts about the 1960s massacre. 

"We should be open to historical documents, even if they come from outside Indonesia, so that we can know our history more completely and contextually," Father Wardaya said.

The priest admitted to studying some of the U.S. documents when he was conducting research back in the mid 2000s, but access had been on condition that he not make public the names of individuals while they were still alive.

Amnesty International Indonesia has also called the government to release all relevant historical documents.

Irianto, Untung and other victims are still fighting for truth to prevail. 


Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."