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Breaking the Silence: Survivors Speak about 1965–66 Violence in Indonesia

Chapter 3


I Ketut Sumarta

Guilty until never proven innocent

Many people say that life is choice. If so, then each of us would of course have the freedom to choose the kind of life we want. However, the reality most of us experience does not resemble our ideal choice.

No one knows what is written on the palm of their hand, other than how to live out the years the Almighty has granted. However, we all believe that what we plant in this world we will reap in the world to come. If the seed is good, then so too the fruit. But if the seed we plant is rotten, then a harvest of good will remain the stuff of dreams. So no one wants to travel the journey of life with bad deeds. Including Ketut Sumarta.

Born in Gianyar, Bali, 68 years ago, Ketut Sumarta lived a simple life. His hopes were merely to become a person who meant something to those around him, and most particularly to God. However, one fragment in his life suddenly made him confront a bitter reality, when his feelings and self-respect were cruelly oppressed.

Sudden target

In November 1965, Ketut Sumarta became a target.

I was arrested and thrown into prison with no warrant. While in prison, the treatment was also not according to any clear legal process. Instead I was interrogated based on some made up scenario after being asked my name and age. Eventually I was given a letter of release, after more than two years of imprisonment, because there was no clear evidence to prove my involvement.

Ketut Sumarta cannot easily forget those bitter days in the prison cell.

After his release in 1967, Ketut Sumarta returned to his village. He went back to his old life. The difference, though, was that he could no longer be involved in the arts. His movement was restricted. He could not talk freely with people around him.

Even so, all this did not prevent me from rebuilding the life that had been turned upside down by unjustified accusations. I married a woman I had met at a performance. We married on 7 August 1968.

Ketut vividly remembers what happened next.

One night, on 4 October 1968, the police and the village head came and forcibly arrested him. He was taken off to the regional police headquarters. Together with others who had been forcibly arrested, Ketut was tortured at a motor repair workshop. He does not remember his torturers’ names. Ketut Sumarta recalled,

They were police, but sometimes they were joined by members of the Military Police Corps (CPM). Each one of them would form a group, and each group would investigate one target detainee. I remember that I was in Captain Manubelu’s group.

Throughout the interrogation, Ketut Sumarta sensed there was something odd. If a detainee who was the target of group A gave a statement that was not the same as another target in group B, then the target whose statement was different had to revise his statement to fit the prepared scenario for both groups. When the prisoners gave an explanation that did not fit, or refused to agree, or remained silent, the interrogators accused them of being members of so-called ‘Formless organisations’ (Organisasi Tanpa Bentuk, OTB) or ‘Keep Silent Movements’ (Gerakan Tutup Mulut, GTM)]. ‘Everything had been pre-fabricated. And probably the punishments as well’, said Ketut Sumarta, unable to stifle a cynical chuckle.

The detainees had absolutely no idea about their dossiers; how they had come about, why they were made, or what was in them, except for the fact that they had to sign them there and then. If they did not, not only would verbal abuse be hurled at them, but also inevitable physical torture.

If you refused … well there were consequences … a friend had his foot broken when stomped on with a table leg. Some had their bottom jaws moved around a bit. As for me, one of my vertebrae was broken.

Eventually Ketut Sumarta and the other detainees ‘gave in’ and agreed to sign the dossiers, but actually this did not mean the torture stopped. There were now fabricated reasons to sentence them with physical punishment. If you defended yourself, or worse, resisted, even a little, then the response was even worse treatment.

Ketut Sumarta was accused of being a night-operating communist. He said with a tone of growing anger,

So, they made up such and such a group with such and such leadership and so on … all complete fabrications. With this, I could be ‘tried’.

He had no idea about any of it. He was just an ordinary person who wanted to do the best he could for his country and his nation. He had joined an arts group. He and his group often put on small performances of drama and dance. ‘Back then I didn’t earn anything from the arts, so I reared ducks’, he went on. ‘Now tell me, how could a duck farmer lead an organisation declared forbidden and endangering the state?’ Ketut Sumarta never stops wondering about how to find the answer, which would offer a glimmer of light after the years of oppression he suffered.

While awaiting their sentences, Ketut and the other detainees still had to accept continual torture. For months, even years. There was nothing they could do about it. There were multiple locked doors leading to their cells. Ketut was in one cell together with 14 other prisoners who had been taken in 1965. Every night someone would get ‘the bill’, as they called it, namely when someone would be taken out of the cells to be finished off or disappeared, no one knew how. And outside of the cells, there were always people being suddenly targeted, as Ketut himself had been.

‘When there’s no rattan, find roots’

There is a saying ‘when there is no rattan, find roots’ which refers to a situation when someone has to strive to go on living, however one can, and not give up because of what one does not have. You use what you can. It can also mean that when you are in a tight situation, you have to solve problems in unusual ways. Ketut Sumarta had to face not only such situations, but those that were more tragic. He was powerless to get himself released, or even just to find a moment when he would be treated humanely according to his fundamental rights as a human being.

Blood gushing from gaping wounds, bruises all over his body, intense pain in every joint, and all kinds of unbelievable aches; these were all commonplace to Ketut Sumarta and the other political detainees. Or, to be more precise, the prisoners made them normal so they would become normal, so they would not be always complaining. To them, complaining was the same as surrendering without a fight. They had to remain determined at least until the day truth would be restored and they would be liberated from injustice.

Undergoing seemingly endless torture day after day had become a sort of routine to the other detainees and me. I could not get into a sleeping position that was comfortable for even a moment. The other prisoners and I, who had escaped the late night ‘call’, had to concentrate on getting well. We had to recuperate from the last torture in preparation for the torture bound to come tomorrow. We tended to our own bruises and the pains wracking our bodies with herbal medicine (beras kencur) we made ourselves.

These days you can buy boneless chicken. Well, back when Ketut Sumarta was detained the second time, there were detainees’ bodies without meat – just skin hanging from bones, the result of vicious treatment by the prison guards. For months, the only food was worm-infested and stinking red cracked wheat (bulgur), and many died from malnutrition. Bulgur was usually fed to the pigs.

We would even eat cockroaches. Anything at all, no matter how toxic, we would eat it. Rats, no problem. Basically, anything that entered the cell. Our rations never included any meat.

As he talked, Ketut relived the misery in his face. Diarrhoea and breathing difficulties that lasted days on end were common.

Like me, for instance. I still have breathing problems today. Finally in 1974 I was treated in hospital because my lungs were spongy. The doctor said this was from the time sleeping in the damp.

However, these dreadful conditions did not suddenly turn the detainees into cannibals. Quite the opposite, the feeling of solidarity between them became even stronger through caring for one another, and because of their shared suffering. If one of the prison guards caught red-handed, a detainee giving some of his food to another, then they would both be punished. It was only after 1974 that detainees were finally allowed to receive food parcels from their visitors. Later, after visits from Red Cross International, the prison relaxed the rules and prisoners were allowed out of their cells into the daylight after being incarcerated so long in such damp spaces.

Things began to improve for the prisoners. They began to learn about planting spinach or Chinese cabbage seeds that their families brought when visiting. Ketut said, laughing,

We planted spinach and used our own nightsoil for fertilizer. We would carry it in buckets, and then empty the buckets in front of the cell where the spinach was. So the spinach grew beautifully.

At last the prisoners could eat vegetables, and the prison guards also enjoyed their harvest.

We made a stove out of old light bulbs. We would hollow them out and fill them with ripped up bits of trousers. We would ask for some kerosene. And that’s how we did our cooking.

So, these were their happy days, even though they did not last long, and the prisoners were under constant surveillance by their ever-suspicious guards. Prisoners were now allowed to watch television until 8 p.m. Even though they were not permitted to watch the news, at least they could get out of their cells and relieve some of their loneliness. After returning to their cells, all they could do was wait, doing nothing except passing dark times behind bars, until their ‘day of justice’ would come.

Why would I plot?

Ketut thought that if he could just postpone dying, then he would have the opportunity to fight for his freedom, so that everyone would know what had really happened. He did not want to die as someone accused of an illegal action that he had never done. Even more, he did not want to end his days in prison as a political prisoner powerless to tell people at large, and especially people close to him, that he had done no wrong. He was not an ordinary prisoner, and so the punishment given to him was also no ordinary punishment.

In 1975, Ketut Sumarta was finally tried after being in prison for seven years, and was sentenced to one more year. After eight years of imprisonment, he was still not released, but received a new notice of detention from Kopkamtib (Komando Operasi Pemulihan Keamanan dan Ketertiban, the Command for the Restoration of Security and Public Order). He was now categorised as ‘category X’, unlike the ‘category A’ prior to his sentencing.

Finally, on 20 December 1977, Ketut Sumarta was released. The mass release of that time included those who had been tried and those who had not. Only those considered to be leaders and such like were not released.

Ketut Sumarta never stopped asking himself,

How could I be accused of having been involved in an organisation that was plotting against the state? I was just a singer for janger performances. I did once perform a drama about landlords which inserted messages about the Laws for Produce Distribution (Undang-Undang Bagi Hasil, UUBH) and the Agrarian Reform Bill (Undang-undang Pokok Agraria, UUPA). Many people liked our performances, especially farmers and workers. But there were never, ever, any negative reactions that threatened my safety. In the report, it said that I had opposed the government and this was linked to the Communist Party night operations, and that was why I was thrown into prison.

Ketut Sumarta was accused of plotting. Not a single person defended him or even approached him. No one in his family visited him in prison. His voice shaking, Ketut said,

It wasn’t just other people, even my very own father did not dare. My father had a few reasons for not coming to see me. Firstly, no-one told him I was still alive. Secondly, he would be in danger, even though he was just a farmer and knew nothing at all. In the village, anything could be used as a pretext for murder. Even little kids who didn’t know anything at all were killed. The murderers were called ‘Tameng’ (‘Shields’). According to stories from my friends, the killings were going on in many places.

Ketut Sumarta’s chances of escaping Tameng scrutiny were small. Especially when everyone in the village was summoned to the pura to make an oath in Balinese that meant, ‘I curse the deeds of the Communist Party and I no longer want to be a member.’ The way Ketut sees it, this oath was very odd. After all, organisations like the Lekra (the Institute for People’s Culture) for instance, had been sanctioned by the government, so why did they suddenly have to be cursed, and by their own members? People making this oath were supposed to be spared, to live and be left free. However, in actual fact the oath-making was used to take targeted people away to be ‘disappeared’. These ‘disappearances’ happened from around November to December 1965. ‘So now I think back and say, ‘you see, because we ourselves did the cursing, we acknowledged having done wrong and so we then could be killed. That’s how it went.’

Ketut Sumarta had no impulse whatsoever to be involved in any plots. All he ever did was join an arts organisation for the people, where he could devote himself, as a child of the nation, to furthering the destiny of ordinary people like himself, including via the Indonesian Peasants Front (Barisan Tani Indonesia, BTI).

Back then, I realised that the laws in operation were not in accordance with the Law for Produce Distribution (Undang-undang Bagi Hasil, UUBH). For instance, sharecroppers were given only one quarter of the crop, yet they had to cover all costs. I thought, just to cover costs two-thirds of the crop is not enough. And what about when there are no crops? Then the entire loss falls on the sharecropper. The UUBH stated it should be 50:50 division and the costs also shared 50:50. So, half for the landlord and half for the sharecropper, both produce and costs. The BTI was fighting for this, and as an artist, I participated too. So, on the one hand we distributed information about these laws to make the farmers aware so they could demand their rights. On the other hand, we also performed Janger with stories about this.

However, Ketut had no idea of the reality that would befall him. His involvement in the arts organisation and his fight to wipe out unjust treatment of ordinary people were used against him when he was imprisoned and accused of plotting. ‘Why would I plot?’ He asked himself this over and over again. Why would he destroy the county he loved, the country he had fought for and served with no care for position, wealth or power?

I distributed government laws. These were the government’s ideas, not mine. So why was I put into prison for them? As for me personally, I thought that apart from loving art, I could promote the government’s program.

Ketut shook his head. Until today it makes absolutely no sense to him.

Life is art

The arts have been extremely influential in Ketut Sumarta’s life.

With the arts, we can make an important contribution to the lives of others, for the wellbeing of others. Through the arts, I could inspire the farmers to fight for their rights.

Ketut had always loved singing and playing angklung. When he heard someone from Lekra singing a song, he became interested because the song spread information about the government’s laws about farmers’ rights in produce distribution. The song encouraged people to fight for the farmers’ welfare. So Ketut became more active in the Institute for People’s Culture (Lekra). Overall, the songs or plays that he and his group performed always referred to some aspect of farmers’ issues. They also promoted regulations that dealt with farmers’ rights. The idea was to make farmers more aware so they would not be so easily exploited by landlords who exploited the farmers who worked for them, just for their own personal wealth and prosperity.

It made no sense at all. There they were – they were civil servants now and still owned hundreds of hectares of land. The way we saw it, this was not fair. Distribute the land to the people who work it according to the work they do. And then – it turned out we were the ones sentenced for having committed crimes!

Many policies could be promoted directly through the arts. At the same time, the arts were also the most effective medium to convey ordinary people’s complaints to the authorities. Almost every village had a people’s arts organisation like the one Ketut Sumarta led. He himself led around thirty members, including children. Together with his group, Ketut put on performances accompanied by Balinese gamelan, moving from one village to another.

Janger was a social dance and had an important role in establishing solidarity and loyalty among the common people. The youth would gather and put all their energy into clarifying social problems and offering solutions through dance and song. Their focus was people around them who seemed to escape attention from the state leadership. The young generation felt keenly that they had taken on a sense of national responsibility. So Ketut Sumarta and his friends found it incomprehensible that because of their efforts to support popular art forms as a means of unifying people, as communication media and as a vessel of creativity, they were later accused of attempting to overturn the state.

His love of the arts makes Ketut Sumarta disgusted when he sees his own nation turning the arts of the people into commodities, with the pretext of cultural preservation. The arts used to be highly respected because they were seen as an extremely effective vehicle for the struggle for national unity.

For instance, I do not understand why tourists entering a pura have to pay to borrow a ceremonial sash. Is this what you call cultural preservation? I do not understand why to keep the arts alive you have to sell them. The way I see it, cultural preservation means education and teaching people about that culture without reaping profit from it. Is there no other way? Especially when the Balinese are perceived as unable to compete with foreigners, even though the only thing foreigners do is get highly paid for training.

Once I took a whole Legong group, dancers and musicians, from the village by truck. When we got to the venue, we got rained out on a grassy field, and were paid only Rp 5,000 per person. Now I ask you, is this cultural preservation? Isn’t it exploitation? Some say that culture has to be preserved, but then it is exploited like this. How can we preserve culture, but on the other hand not feel like this?

Ketut Sumarta does not accept that the cultural heritage he fought so hard for is now merely used by capitalists any way they like. But despite everything, he still hopes there will be better policies directed at the people.

People’s arts should be revived, if possible. The government can provide opportunities for these art forms. Perhaps even make a government program, so we can promote to the people arts programs that are relevant to them. Not like the situation now, with the leaders just politicising their own positions.

Life inside and out of jail

When Ketut was finally released, it did not mean that his life was free of trials and obstacles. On the contrary, it was then that he discovered new difficulties in re-establishing his life, beginning again from zero. Even so, he was grateful that all the time he had been in jail his wife and son had managed to go about their daily life. But what he was even more grateful for was the help of his friends and neighbours who had looked after his family. Ketut explained,

It was my neighbours who kept my son alive. One of them used to give meat broth. So when I came back home I felt very indebted to them. Well, at least this gave me the spirit to go on living.

However, as he had thought, there were many more trials to go through in returning to live in society, particularly living with the public opinion that had been formed about people said to have been involved with the 1965 incident.

It was not easy for Ketut Sumarta to even chat freely with a neighbour, or to build a small-scale business just to meet his family needs. He had to go back and forth to the police station dozens of times because people contaminated by New Order propaganda about 1965 victims made reports about him, and they were also easily swayed by others.

For example, there would be a visit by someone or other, and I would be summoned. “You cannot do this, you cannot do that. It’s best you stay indoors. Who knows, you might not be safe, and that would make things difficult for us …” That was the way it went. So the threat was always subtle like that.

Ketut laughed, but it was no ordinary laugh. He did not think of this painful segment of his life as a joke. Not at all. Whenever he recounted this story he felt as though his fellow countrymen had just toyed with his life, or worse, had made him into some helpless target. So his laugh was a laugh of grief. But Ketut refused to sink into depression remembering an earlier episode in his life. Despite all, he had faith in the Almighty. The proof was that God had given him a wonderful woman as his life’s companion.

His status as a political prisoner of course greatly affected the people around him, especially his wife. He was not able to fulfil his role as husband and father as in a normal family. It was the same for other families of ex political prisoners. He had to put on a brave front for the sake of his wife and son, to the point where he once said to his wife, ‘you are still young. I cannot buy you anything, I cannot support you. If you have an inclination … Who knows, it might help to raise our child, then feel free to marry again.’ He said this while he was still in prison. He did not want to be a burden to others. Particularly when he had no idea when he would be released, and had even heard rumours that he might be sent to Buru Island.

To his surprise, Ni Nyoman Sari, Ketut’s wife, absolutely refused her husband’s suggestion of finding a new father for their son. She was determined to wait for her husband to come out of prison, and they would raise their child together.

And that day finally came. Ketut Sumarta was free. Even though his freedom was not as complete as he had hoped, at least he was no longer continually beaten up, showered with verbal abuse and insults, and humiliated like an animal. His dream of being back with his wife and child had kept him going, and he did not want to waste this ‘second chance’ to write a new chapter in his life as a citizen of Indonesia.

He returned to his village. As a newly released political prisoner it was extremely difficult to travel beyond the local town without first obtaining a permit from the regional military command. Obtaining this permit was more exhausting, mentally and physically, than he ever imagined. So there was no choice but to stay in his village, even though he had very little experience at digging and planting.

This is why I worked at whatever I could – from herding pigs, keeping chickens, even doing bicycle repairs, building labour work, carpentry … the important thing was that I could eat. I was determined not to be a burden on anyone.

He was fully aware that life outside prison required further sacrifice and struggle. Everyone around him was still haunted by severe trauma from the massacres of 1965, which they had witnessed happening before their very eyes. They were terrified that another incident like that could happen again. So they were totally bound up in their own private affairs. No one dared help anyone with a ‘red’ history like Ketut Sumarta, even secretly.

I’m not kidding. In my village there were guards called ‘babinsa’ (bintara pembina desa, officers for neighbourhood control) who watched us all the time. Even if we went to take a pee, they would know … let alone anything more than that. We were spied on constantly.

Even though he was under surveillance, just as he had been when still inside prison, Ketut did not see this as an obstacle to getting on with his life. Nothing had changed within himself, even though now he had ‘red’ status. He was still the father of two children, his son Guntur and daughter Tari, and as their father, he instilled in them values of daily kindness. ‘In Hindu teaching, we must always do good. What was done was done, but now we must do good according to our individual beliefs’, he said. Ketut has held these religious principles for a long time. He believes that life in this world is like cultivating plants. If the seeds that are sown are seeds of good, then later we will reap good. And if at the time we sow those seeds of good, the season is bad or there are pests, then all we can do is tend those seeds of good so they are not affected by the bad. Because of this, even though Ketut’s service via the people’s arts was seen as rebellion and resulted in his arrest, he still tries find insight from every obstacle in his life journey. Because in the end, good will win out, even though it goes through one tempest after another. The whole time he was in prison, Ketut never missed the religion sessions.

It was called Santiaji. The Hindus had their own spiritual leader, but he was from the military. We had this once a week. Islam was Friday, Hinduism Tuesday, and Christianity on Sunday.

Once outside of prison, Ketut Sumarta never wavered in his beliefs. He taught his wife and children to always do good, and to ignore it when people sneered and looked sideways at them because of their past.

What is important is not other people, but answering to God for what we do in this world, for it is only God who has the right to give us what we deserve for our deeds throughout our lives.

Holding these principles, Ketut was never despondent when he had to face social challenges, for instance, when his children were singled out by their teacher because they did not have the Balinese names Wayan, Made, Komang or Nyoman in front of their names.

Ketut took this in his stride. ‘I told my children, “you tell your teacher to ask me directly if she really wants to know”. But of course no teacher ever came.’ Ketut also did not get too upset when his children were not treated fairly in their formal education.

According to the rules, my children should have got scholarship support from primary through to junior high school. My children were clever, but their economic status was low, and this is what the scholarships were for. But it didn’t happen, because they were the children of an ex- … well, it doesn’t matter. They got no scholarship, but then they also were not indebted to anyone.

The fact that he had once been inside jail did not make Ketut Sumarta disheartened. By not being disheartened, he managed to prevent people from ostracising him. He managed to prove to them that he could still live a reasonable life without burdening anyone.

Ketut Sumarta today

Experience is the most valuable teacher in life. Ketut Sumarta has proved the truth of this. His bitter experiences proved to be the effective trigger to revive his spirit and resolve. And it was his bitter experiences that enabled him to find relief by accepting his past as salve for his inner pain. He became increasingly aware that holding resentment for a long time would only prevent him from being grateful to God for what God had given him. This would mean that the seeds of good he had sown would easily be destroyed by the pest locked within his heart. Ketut acknowledges that he did once have a period of religious doubt, brought about when he was forced to make an oath in the name of religion to satisfy the New Order regime’s accusations of him. ‘I had no respect for those people, because they used religion in that way’, he said with a heavy tone of disappointment.

He does feel ashamed and angry. Ashamed, not because he was once imprisoned as a political detainee. Angry, not because as an ex-political prisoner he will forever suffer discrimination. He is not ashamed or angry because of all this, because he must keep positive about everything he went through in the past.

I must keep moving forward and live for the future of those I love. What I do feel ashamed and angry about is those provocateurs who stamped Bali as the nest of the ‘forbidden party’. People outside of Bali praise it as beautiful, friendly, generous. But back in 1965, people in Bali showed absolutely no mercy to one another. Not even towards their own families.

Ketut spoke angrily now, with his disappointment flaring in his aging eyes.

As a Hindu, he is ashamed to have witnessed his fellow men fighting, even though Hindu teachings strictly uphold harmony and peace. He is angry as a Balinese to know that his fellow men were provoked and encouraged by the interests of certain groups, so that their sense of solidarity was weakened. ‘Where was their sense of religious solidarity and their ideal of friendship?’ Ketut Sumarta challenges. As time has gone on, little by little the dark curtain has opened and Ketut Sumarta has begun to reap kindness from the seeds of kindness he sowed when fortune was not on his side. He is compassionate, as when he says,

I never show hatred. Now I realise that they did not know that what they were doing was not right, because they had been enticed, or coaxed. They themselves did not really know what they were doing. So I think that is not a problem for me.

This sense of compassion has also made Ketut Sumarta a positive force in his society. He never misses a village meeting. He comes up with ideas and contributes whenever there are ceremonies. ‘As for me’, he says ‘I like to deal with real issues. Like the pura, for instance. I see, “oh, this needs to be done”, and I am happy to contribute something.’ He has even been made a member of the Village Committee. His opinions and ideas are never rejected. Ketut says enthusiastically,

I fit in. When there is something needed, if I can propose it, I do so. If most people find it good, then my idea is accepted. I myself don’t have ideas for my own interests or for my group. So if it is for the majority and I can do it, I will volunteer.

He is never half-hearted in giving what is best for the community. When he first returned to his village, there were bad reports about him almost daily, so that he kept having to report to the authorities. And every time he was ‘accused’, he would always answer calmly,

I have never, ever committed crimes. I have never stolen, never committed fraud. I don’t think I’ve done things that are not right. But the landlords might have found them not right for them.

Ketut laughed and went on.

All I did was perform janger, make anglung instruments, and distribute information about land reform. So – please judge. That was the government’s program, not mine. I was only conveying what the government wanted to be conveyed. So I think that was good. I was helping a lot of people, wasn’t I?

I still like to meet my old friends. We might meet at cremation ceremonies and such, and this helps because we miss each another, but we never talk about the problems of the past. We might just say, “how are you now? How are your wife and children?” And as for the arts in my village here, most of my friends are no longer alive, they were murdered back in 1965. But there are the children who don’t know anything. They don’t know anything, because indeed there was nothing. There was only art, and us loving art. That’s all there ever was!

Now, as before, Ketut Sumarta never differentiates in his socialising. The strong family atmosphere in his village has also helped him carry on his daily life after the 1965 incident. He says, with relief,

It seems that now people can still look at me. Because I never offend them. I never talk about sensitive things. If I talk, I talk about general things, things that can be spoken about, and things that I know.

These days, he has no great hopes in the government. ‘I have no illusions and no great hopes that the government will do anything concrete to address this past history’, he says. Even so, he is happy when he can talk about the 1965 incident to the younger generation. Because in this way, the muzzling of witnesses to history will not last forever.

I value deeply any victory, however small. When I can talk to someone and someone writes down my story, this is a victory for me. A victory that I am no longer silenced and can speak about things as they really were.

As for the situation now, he senses that there is more openness about the 1965 events in Bali. The 1965 victims can share their stories with others, so that there is hope for a time when the 1965 events will no longer be deliberately buried or false stories perpetuated.

Ketut Sumarta hopes that the government will at least begin to take concrete steps in dealing with the victims of 1965.

The government must have the courage to state whether, according to law, the victims committed any crimes. If they did wrong, then how was that so, and if not, this must be clearly stated. So that the wider society can know that those victims were also their own friends. They were their fellow countrymen. They cannot be slandered forever!

Nothing would please Ketut Sumarta more than if he and the victims of the 1965 events in Bali were to have their good names restored, and for there to be no more slander and suspicion. ‘We too are citizens, we have a nation, we have relatives. We have never had evil thoughts about anyone.’ Ketut Sumarta closed his story, his eyes bright. There were feelings he could not express in words when discussing the bitter experiences of his past. His generosity in sharing his story is the same generosity that healed him.

Interviewers and Transcribers: Team from ISSI (Institut Sejarah Sosial Indonesia, Indonesian Institute of Social History).

Writer: Fati Soewandi.

Breaking the Silence: Survivors Speak about 1965–66 Violence in Indonesia

   by Putu Oka Sukanta