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Truth Will Out: Indonesian Accounts of the 1965 Mass Violence

It was just unavoidable fallout

The 1965 tragedy in the eyes of a member of the military

Born in 1938 in Malang, East Java, Indonesia, Dr. Sofyan Djaenuri (not his real name) is our narrator below. His father was in the army. After he graduated from high school Sofyan continued his sudies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, as a student on a government bonded scholarship. While he was at university he became active in student organizations.

Having completed his studies in Yogyakarta he did further study at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, and later worked at the Institute for History and Anthropology in Jakarta. One of his assigned duties was as Assistant Researcher at the National Monument (Monas). Apart from this, he had a military career for 30 years. In 1995 he retired, at the level of Colonel. Even though he is retired, he still works as expert staff.

The following narrative is an edited transcription from a written interview with Col. (ret.) Sofyan Djaenuri. The writer conducted the interview at the Museum Satria Mandala in Jakarta, a museum run by the army.

My name is Sofyan Djaenuri. I was born in 1938 in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. During the Japanese occupation (1942–1945) I started school. But then along came the revolution which began in in 1945. My father was in the army, so my family had to keep on the move. But I was not allowed to say that my father was in the army. We moved from Jombang to Ponorogo, to Malang, Plaosan and so on [all in East Java]. I was even ‘orphaned’ because I was always being left by my father. I went into an orphanage. My father was always moving. My schooling was also inter­rupted, because I had to move too. I then returned to Malang in East Java to go to high school there (SMA Negeri I) and I entered the ‘A’ section which was for literature, and followed the Dutch educational system. In 1958 I graduated from high school. I then continued my study at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta on a government bonded scholarship. This was the easiest way to study at the time – there was no selection or enrolment, you just turned up. But after I passed I had to work for the government.

Then I went to work for the History and Anthropology Institute. I had many duties. One of them was as Assistant Researcher at the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta. I worked in the military world for more than 30 years. After I retired in 1995 [Sofyan Djaenuri’s last rank was Colonel, ed.] I continued to work as expert staff.

Speaking of history, to me history is change. Every generation has its own history.

Heating up

As for the 1960s, I can speak from personal experience. I experienced this time with awareness, and as an educated person. I was aware because I was already educated, I had higher education.

I started out as a student in Yogyakarta in 1958. I studied in the Faculty of Literature and Culture (Fakultas Sastra and Kebudayaan) in the History Department at Gadjah Mada University. My background was Muslim. Therefore, when I was studying at Gadjah Mada I became a member of the Association of Muslim University Students (Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam, HMI). The name of the head of the Commissariat at the time was Taufik. I was a member of the HMI Commissariat of the Faculty of Literature.

At that time, relations between students were friendly enough. There were large student organizations, like HMI, GMNI, CGMI, PMKRI, GMKI and PERHEMI,25 but relations between them were fine. In my department there were about 50 students, and we all got on with each other, we even felt we were one ‘corps’. That’s how it was. There were no problems. This was the situation around 1958–1959. It was fun being a student at that time.

But little by little the situation was heating up, and it got hotter by the day. Particularly as of 1963. Groups began to compete with each other. There was competition here and there. And along with the rise in the political temperature, competition between students became more overt. Moreover, the atmosphere at the time was ‘revolutionary’. Competition between student organizations was on the rise.

How to measure this? By observing the process of the election of the Head of the Student Senate. The situation was tense, then it was hot. There was heavy conflict between leading figures and the various groups. The figures at the forefront of the Association of Muslim University Students (HMI) were Taufik, who I mentioned earlier, and later Yusuf Sakir – the same Yusuf Sakir who was once a Member of Parliament. There was also the late Muhamad Qolil. At the Indonesian Student Movement Concentration (CGMI) there was Mas Tjipto. I am referring to the one who was nicknamed ‘Short Tjipto’, not F.A. Sutjipto who later became Dr. F.A. Sutjipto. There as also Suparto Ibnu Ruslan. He was a member of CGMI. Between these figures there was competition. Competition to become head of the student senate. When the elections were held, it was not CGMI that won, but GMNI, because it was more popular. The election itself went off comfortably, but the situation was heating up. This was 1962.

Open competition

The heated situation of the time was also seen in the competition and ‘affiliation’ claims between groups. One group would claim itself to be ‘communist’ and another ‘nationalist’. The Association of Muslim University Students (HMI) was said to be ‘counter revolutionary’. But HMI was daring too. Basically, all three groups were about the same in this. Well this is understandable, as they were all made up of young people.

In this kind of situation, I ‘knew my place; as a bonded student. For someone like me, there were certain requirements. Actually, we were free, but after all we had a tie to the government.

When I finished my studies with a Bachelor of Arts degree, I immediately looked for work in Jakarta. And from then on, between 1962–1965, I didn’t know what the situation was like in Yogyakarta. People said that it was heating up. In Jakarta I worked while I was attending lectures in the Faculty of Literature at the University of Indonesia. Well, it turned out the situation there was just the same. Just as hot.

At the University of Indonesia there was competition between CGMI, GERMINDO (Gerakan Mahasiswa Indonesia, Indonesian Students’ Move­ment), PMKRI, GMKI and others. And there was PERHIMI. This was the association of Indonesian students of Chinese descent. It was a minority group. Its orientation was ‘leftist’. Those on the left were, for instance CGMI and PERHIMI. Those considered ‘right’ were, for instance, HMI, PMKRI, GMKI and PMII (Pergerakan Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia, Indonesian Muslim Student Movement). But PMII was small.

When I was in Jakarta [between 1962–1965, ed.], you could already feel the heat of the conflict between HMI and students whose position was centrist but revolutionary, namely GMNI. GMNI was left leaning. But the real left ones were CGMI and GERMINDO. I didn’t see any PERHIMI in the Faculty of Literature at the University of Indonesia. Perhaps they were there, but I didn’t see them.

Competition between them was heating up. How did you know? Well, at student orientation time. It was really evident then. In Yogya, orientation used to go on smoothly. But at the Faculty of Literature at UI it was hot. Whereas in Yogya this heat only happened at the time of the election of the head of the senate, at UI it happened both at the time of the election of the head of the senate and at orientation. It was really sharp then. I was not involved, but I saw that it even came to fighting. I was not involved much, because from 1962 I was already a civil servant.

The heated atmosphere in Jakarta was seen in the street demonstrations. From 1962–1965 the atmosphere was getting hotter. Demonstrations were allowed. The political tension was between the ‘revolutionaries’ and the ‘counter-revolutionaries’. People said that the situation started heating up after President Sukarno’s speech titled ‘The Rediscovery of Our Revolution’ on 17 August 1950. Then there was public competition between the Murba Party and the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI). Both of them were leftist, but different. The Murba Party’s basis was ‘Madilog’ [Materialism, Dialectics, Logic], but the Communist Party’s basis was MDH or Materialism, Dialectics and History. They were under one roof, but different. They were even longstanding foes. So there was accusation going back and forth be­tween the Communist and Murba Parties. It was the most bitter com­pe­tition, number one. Number two was the competition between the army and the Communist Party, or the Communist Party and the army. But the Communist Party was on the one hand opposing Murba, and on the other, the army. Meanwhile the politics of the Indonesian National Party (Partai Nasional Indonesia, PNI) were different, split. Their concept was Marhaenism. There was competition between the PNI and the Indonesia Party (Partai Indonesia, PARTINDO). This competition was all open, and you could read about it in the newspapers. It was competition in the political arena.

In the fields of culture and literature there was competition between the Islamic group and The Institute of People’s Culture (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat, LEKRA). The Islamic Group was represented by Hamka, among others, while Lekra was represented by Pram [Pramoedya Ananta Toer]. You could see this, for instance, in the competition between the daily Harian Rakyat’s leftist column ‘Bintang Timoer’ and dailies like Merdeka and Berita Indonesia. Newspapers were divided into three groups at the time, leftist, centrist and rightist. The centrist was the newspaper called Suluh Indonesia whose orientation was Marhaenism. Suluh Indonesia was centrist in orientation but veered to the left and was owned by the PNI. You could not really gauge the voice of Suluh Indonesia. But its purpose was clear, to perpetuate Sukarnoism.

So, clearly at that time, if the left was oriented towards Marxism, the right was oriented towards Islam. Well, what was in the middle was not really clear. Basically, they wanted the status quo in Indonesia, and they were Sukarnoist. That’s how I saw it. The economy at the time was still based on ‘Dekon’, or Economic Democracy. Meaning that the economy was under direct state control. This was all totally open – you could read about it in the newspapers. They were all confronting each another, and competing in using the term ‘revolutionary’.

So, now for the open competition between the army and the Communist Party. The Communist Party attacked the army with its concept ‘Nasakom Unite/s’ (Nasakom Menyatu). The army answered back by saying ‘Nasakom is my Spirit’ (Nasakom Jiwaku). This became a serious political issue. The army supported Sukarno, but was anti the Communist Party. This was a problem. This was also open competition of the time.


Now, as for the role of Pak Karno, President Sukarno.26 At the same time, from 1959, President Sukarno had been proclaiming what he called the ‘New Revolution’ (Revolusi Baru). The idea was probably from the French Revolution. In the French Revolution,there were two stages. The first stage of the revolution was followed by the second stage led by Danton, Robespierre and Marat. This is what in world history is often referred to as ‘the second revolution’. Well, from 1959 Sukarno held up the ideal that there had to be such a ‘second revolution’.

In actual fact, his wishes at the time were noble and worthy. Put into words, they would probably go like this: ‘I want, before I die, for the nation of Indonesia to be united. Unity between the ideologies of ‘Nas’ (Nationalism), ‘A’ (religion, agama) and ‘Kom’ (Communism). Return to the 1945 Constitution which will support Indonesian socialism, because the ideals of the revolution are for the realization of Indonesian Socialism or Social Justice. Return to the ideals of the Revolution.’ Sukarno judged that the democracy that had been in existence from the 1949 Round Table Conference until 1959 was what is called Liberal Democracy. Sukarno was the one who used the term ‘Liberal Democracy’. You can see that in Sukarno’s speeches of the time.

Sukarno conveyed the concept ‘“samen-bundelling van alle revolutionaire krachten”, namely gathering all the existing socio-political forces into one revolutionary force. That was it. The ideals were noble ones. Sukarno wanted to overturn the old, outworn values with new values. This was similar to Nietzsche’s ideas. He wanted to overturn liberal values. To overturn them, there had to be that ‘samen-bundelling van alle revolutionaire krachten’. That was Pak Karno’s intention.

Sukarno’s actions were closely monitored by the Communist Party and the army. They agreed. There was the concept of ‘Nasakom is my Spirit’ (Nasakom Jiwaku) supporting democracy, and so forth. And the Communist Party said ‘Nasakom United’ (Nasakom Bersatu) and wanted to dominate. Within the frame of gathering the support of the people and so forth, the Communist Party declared its revolutionary offensive. This was all declared openly. If you opened the pages of the daily Harian Rakyat, you would often come across the terms: revolutionary offensive. So all forces were summoned through mobilizing the masses and so forth for the purpose of that revolutionary offensive. In every field. For instance in carrying out the Unilateral Actions (Aksi Sepihak).27

In the field of culture and literature, there was tension too. For instance there was tension between the KKPI group and Lekra. The KKPI were then called the ‘Cultural Manifesto Group’ (Kelompok Manifes Kebudayaan), which was shortened to ‘Manikebu’. This was a term that sounded pejorative or insulting, because it was associated with the sperm (mani) of buffalo (kerbau). You can read about all this in books that discuss the situation at the time, for instance Sebelum Prahara by Rosihan Anwar.

In the field of politics, tension broke out in August 1960. Sukarno banned both Masyumi and the Indonesian Socialist Party (Partai Sosialis Indonesia, PSI) [via the edict UU No. 200/1960 ed]. Leading Masyumi and PSI figures were arrested and detained, at Wisma Jl. Keagungan, Jakarta in particular. Others were detained elsewhere. This can be read in Mochtar Lubis’s book Harimau, Harimau [translated into English as Tiger! trs].There was also the polemic around the Murba and Communist parties, between Murba and the Communists, between the supporters of Tan Malaka and the Communists. Interesting. And then, the Communist Party drew up what was called ‘Teachings of the Grand Leader of the Revolution’, namely the teachings of Sukarno. This was just like the ‘red book’ with the teachings of Mao Tze-Tung. These teachings were published in all newspapers.

A strange thing at the time was the writing in the newspaper Suluh Indonesia. There was reaction against the ‘Teachings of the Great Leader of the Revolution’, namely with the way the newspaper published all Sukarno’s writings and speeches from beginning to end every single day. This was intended as a reaction against the writing of Sajuti Melik whose pen name was S. Juti, with the title ‘Understanding Sukarnoism’. That was the reaction. It was strange. For ‘Understanding Sukarnoism’ was first published in the newspaper Suluh Indonesia, which was an Indonesian National Party (PNI) newspaper. So, you see the study of PNI is important! Its mass media was like Murba, but then became leftist.

This was all going on around 1965. At that time, reading the newspapers was enjoyable. Newspapers were popular, because they all talked about politics. There was no just ‘so-so’ newspaper. Their political contents were clear. Once a newspaper was seen as ‘yellow journalism’ you could be sure it was considered problematic. It would certainly not get its publishing licence (Surat Ijin Terbit, SIT). This is was what happened until 1965, until the G30S (Gerakan 30 September, 30th of September Movement). This was what being ‘progressive revolutionary’ was all about. You could sense the atmosphere strongly at the University of Indonesia where I was studying, particularly around the issue of whether or not students’ initiation was necessary.

Another issue that raged at the time was of course Indonesia’s Con­frontation with Malaysia. This was 1964. It was big. But the thing that was the biggest at the time was the tension between the ‘revolutionary’ group, the Communist Party’s term, versus the ‘counter-revolutionaries’. If someone or a group was called ‘counter revolutionary’ you were finished. Done. You can read all this in the mass media.

In the field of the economy, Sukarno’s concepts were admirable. Amazing. For instance ‘berdikari’ [berdiri di atas kaki sendiri, or standing on your own two feet]. I admire Sukarno’s ideals in this. His ideals for changing society were extraordinary. In the terms that he created, Sukarno wanted to change Indonesia from a ‘soya bean cake nation’ to a respected nation. He wanted Indonesia to become the nation that led oppressed and colonized nations. Sukarno did not want to use the term ‘under-developed’ countries, but rather ‘developing countries’. If I am not wrong, this conference was held in the 1960s. The overseas visitors to the conference stayed in a place called the Colombo Complex near where the Sanata Dharma University campus in Yogyakarta is today. This is why the street near there is now called Jalan Colombo. The conference itself was held in various locations, including the Gadjah Mada University campus.

Good career

As for what happened in 1965, I have two sources, namely my own personal experience and the result of my study. My personal experience was like this. At the time, I lived in the area of Cikini in central Jakarta. I was boarding with a friend of my father’s called Mukhlas Rowi. He was head of the Islam Spiritual Centre. I was with him from 1962 to 1966. He was a sort of second father to me. He was on Achmad Yani’s staff. His office was not far from the Cathedral in Jakarta. When the 30th of September Movement took place, I didn’t know. Pak Mukhlas Rowi also did not know. Well, it was a coup d’etat after all. So it was secret.

Much later I thought about this, I researched it, wondering why so many people did not know [about the coup d’etat] except for those with interests in it. Then I read a book titled The Coup d’Etat. It was about cases of coup d’etat. I forget the name of the author. But he was an American. As for the 1 October Incident [1965], after I thought about it, indeed it was exactly as the book The Coup d’Etat said: the way it was planned, carried out and so forth. There was indeed a coup d’etat against Pak Karno. The theory and points are just like what is discussed in that book. There are other books that also talk about coup d’etats. The nature of coup d’etats is that they are secret.

The question now is who exactly were the perpetrators of that coup d’etat? It is clear that the coup d’etat was led by one group, one intrigue, that was secret, led by Lieutenant Colonel Untung. The first stage of the coup d’etat was successful, but the second stage failed. There has been much analysis about this. The second part of the coup d’etat was open, so that many people knew about it. And then a figure arose, called Soeharto. The question is, why did Soeharto arise so that Untung had to face him? Who was Untung, really? Why did he lead a coup d’etat force? What was his ideology?

If you read the daily Kompas, Untung’s original name was Untung Kasmuri. Not Samsuri. He was a member of the Digdo Battalion. This was one of the battalions from the Surakarta division under Brigadier Slamet Riyadi. Pak Digdo’s full name was Sudigdo Honggotirtono. Giving names to battalions copied the Japanese occupation. So when there was a battalion it was named after its commander. So there was Bedjo Battalion, Malau Battalion, Mukhlas Battalion, Sumitro Battalion and so on.

Pak Digdo was a former PETA soldier [Pasukan Pembela Tanah Air, or Defenders of the Homeland volunteers army formed by the Japanese occupiers to fight against the allies, trs]. But Pak Digdo was also leftist. And he had been involved in the Madiun Incident of 1948. He took part in the rebellion in Solo. One of the members of Digdo’s Batallion was called Untung. It is clear that he was a former NCO. Back in those days, if you were an NCO, your personal registration number [Nomor Registrasi Personil, NRP] had six digits. Officers had five digits. That’s back then. I have no idea nowadays. But your NRP was for life. Then Untung’s career just kept on rising until he became Commander of the Banteng Raiders. In Semarang. If I am not wrong, he replaced Pak Sugijono. That is, Lieutenant Colonel of the Infantry Sugijono, the Chief of Staff of KOREM 72 [Komando Resort Militer, Military Area Command] who was later murdered in Yogya. His second was Brigidier General Katamso, the Commander of Korem 72 Yogyakarta. But before this, when Pak Harto was in the Trikora operation, Untung was in the Mandala Army Unit that was parachuted into West Irian. And according to Ben Anderson, Untung once landed in a Dutch camp, or he was arrested or something … anyway, he came to a bad end there. But in the military, yes, his career was good. He kept rising up the ladder, becoming experienced in the field, even though he had little education. But I saw that, as an ex member of Digdo’s Battalion, he was already communist in ideology. Maybe later on some things changed, some things stayed the same and so on. That’s another matter.

Extremely close

Now, many people ask how come the relationship between Soeharto and Untung came to be so close, and so on. Well, you see in the Army there are certain ties. People who do not study the military often make wrong judgements. It’s like this. In the history of our army, the TNI [Tentara Nasional Indonesia, Indonesian Army] began as the Revolutionary Army. The Revolutionary Army was part of the 1945 generation and existed until around 1982 or so. Katherine McGregor [the author of History in Uniform, ed.] gets it wrong. She does not know about the Revolutionary Army. During the Revolution, we did not have an army. There was just the people’s army. And back then, everyone was free, anyone could take up weapons.

The organized army came later, namely after 5 October 1945. It began with the BKR [Badan Keamanan Rakyat, Body for the People’s Security]. The BKR was born from a suggestion, not an official directive. The BKR came out of Pak Karno’s suggestion: ‘Hey, you should form an army.’ But at that time the people themselves knew they wanted to fight for independence. So there were some who joined BKR, and some who joined militia, I mean militia with various ideological backgrounds. Basically, they were all revolutionary. And then came what was called the ‘revolutionary army’. But in order to understand this ‘revolutionary army’ a special study is needed. As for me, I compare our revolutionary army with the way the Soviet Union revolutionary army was formed. Or with the way the revolutionary army was formed in the United States. Remember that the American army started out as a revolutionary army too. As for the armies in Malaysia, India, Pakistan and so forth, none of them is a revolutionary army. They are ‘reform armies’. Many books discuss this.

So the revolutionary army has a special character. They are all like that. The Chinese army too. First is the strength of a sense of solidarity or kinship between them. Nowadays we would say their ‘esprit de corps’ is extremely strong.

The revolutionary army is also democratic. So our army started out with ideals like this. It was democratic. Might sound strange, a democratic army. A contradictio in terminis. But this was the revolutionary army. And people who write about the military in Indonesia just don’t get it. Even though our army started out with a background as a revolutionary army. So the ties are of one corps, one spirit: this is your ‘Father’, and the others are his children.

Apart from this, revolutionary armies also feel that they have political rights. They make no division between politics and the military. They see themselves as fighters, either armed fighters or political fighters. The person who made the division between political fighters and armed fighters was Nugroho [Notosusanto]. But it is clear that they all see themselves as fighters, as freedom fighters. That is the character of revolutionary armies.

But as for education, that is quite another thing. Back then, even illiterates were taken into the army. But their spirit of defending their right to freedom was extremely strong. So their motivation for fighting was strong. Even commanders might have only junior high school education. Just take a look at the backgrounds of those in the army. There were some with high school education or academics, but they were the minority. You could count them on the fingers of your hand. Nasution for instance. But most were freedom fighters. Just imagine, a Pak Bedjo who was illiterate was a battalion commander. And there was Malau, Abdullah who was a becak driver – all of them battalion commanders. And they got on just fine. Their subordinates were utterly loyal to them. It was rare for someone in the army to understand politics and so forth. But their solidarity was high. Just like the Soviet Union. So the character of a revolutionary army is a universal thing. And we in Indonesia were like that. Once you felt you were part of a corps, you became extremely close.

That’s why I find it strange that people puzzle about the closeness between Soeharto and Untung. When Soeharto came to Untung’s wedding, people saw it another way. But why shouldn’t he? He was his former battalion commander, after all. Untung was the commander of the battalion that was parachuted into Irian. And Pak Harto was an army man through and through. There are lots of stories about Pak Harto that point out the strength of his ‘esprit de corps’. And Untung was his subordinate. Many non-military researchers just don’t seem to understand this. They don’t get it. But to Pak Harto, anyone he considered had served under him was someone he would accept and help. This was because he had such strong corps solidarity.

This is the case not only with Pak Harto. Take Bung Tomo, for instance. I once went to his home in Jalan Blitar. There I saw lots of guests, and all of them were men who had served under him. This could only happen because of extraordinary ‘esprit de corps’. Even after so many years had passed. Bung Tomo treated me as his one of his men, and he felt he was my ‘father’. This was common back then, between members of the ‘1945 Generation’ army. We were never ashamed to ask our former superiors for help. But nowadays, well, don’t even think of it. Totally different.

From this strong ‘esprit de corps’, ‘bapakism’ (father-ism) was born. It was not a matter of primus inter pares, but a patron-client relationship. Non-military researchers usually do not understand this situation of revolutionary armies. To someone in a revolutionary army, even if you do not like someone, you will still show that person respect, because he is a revolutionary buddy. This is what many non-military researchers do not understand.

We are talking of the particular case of Pak Harto. But the same sort of thing could happen in Egypt or anywhere. The revolutionary soldier is a patriot, a defender of the nation. Pak Nasution once said that the army is the ‘primary stakeholder’ of the Republic. That’s what Pak Nas said. And this shows that the ‘esprit de corps’ of the military is very strong. This is what writers of military history often do not undersand. If you want to know more about the relationship between Soeharto and Untung, you have to know the relationship is of a Commander or Officer and his men.

If a former subordinate meets his former Officer, the former Officer will already know what his former subordinate is doing. I mean, he will know if there is a problem with his welfare and so forth, whether his kids are going to school or whether someone in his family is ill. Even though the relationship of the unit is broken, the spiritual relationship is still there. So if a former commander accepts an invitation by one of his former men, that is completely normal. I myself would do the same. I would take it as an honour. The honour of reciprocity between him and me.

So you shouldn’t see the relationship between Pak Harto and Untung as anything other than part of the nature of the revolutionary army. The relationship between subordinates and commanders is very close. If a former subordinate wants to ‘pay a visit’, then the commandant knows at once that he must need something, and he will usually give it. This was normal among members of the 1945 Generation army.

Buru Island

As for Pak Harto himself, he started out as a corporal in KNIL28, the Dutch colonial army, before the war. He joined in Gombong, central Java. It was there that he had military training. And he had cadet school. Basic training. Then from that he kept rising in the ranks until he finally became general.

When the 30 September Movement happened, Pak Harto knew who the leader was, namely Untung, because it was broadcast on national radio (RRI). Actually, Pak Harto already knew who Untung was. Untung had served under him, after all. He also knew that Untung was close to the Communist Party, to the communists. Now, not many people know this. Why did Soeharto act? There are many interpretations about this. Different ones.

Even though, it was actually like this. At the time, Pak Harto was second in command of the army after General A. Yani. He was commander number two. He was commander of KOSTRAD [Komando Strategis Angkatan Darat, National Strategic Command]. The first commander was named General. In June 1962, President Sukarno carried out a reorganization of the Indonesian Army. This is information from my reading. He changed the old system which was a staff system, like Army Chief of Staff, Navy Chief of Staff, Airforce Chief of Staff, into Commander. So the former Chief of Staff was now Commander. So now there were Army Commander, Navy Commander, Airforce Commander and Police Commander. In other words, it was a commanders all round. And these commanders were under their Commander-in-chief.

The Commander of the Army at the time was General A. Yani. Below the Commander of the Army, called PANGAD, was the Army’s National Strategic Command, called KOSTRAD. Even though it had commands, KOSTRAD was only a branch. It did not have special forces. Its forces were dispersed. KOSTRAD was led by the PANGKOSTRAD who was under the PANGAD. The PANGAD was also superior to the KODAM (Regional Military Command) and to their various PANGDAM (Military Region Commanders). The PANGKOSTRAD had no forces. Its forces were dispersed. Dispersed among the KODAM. Untung and the Banteng Raiders were a KOSTRAD force, or, more precisely, under KOSTRAD. And they were in Semarang. For instance, the Kujang Brigade. This was under KOSTRAD. But it was there, not in Jakarta. In Solo there was also a brigade. It was below KOSTRAD. KOSTRAD itself had no forces. So, KOSTRAD supervised territorial forces. At the time, the terms were A, B, C etc. Not numbers. For instance, the Katamso Battalion in Kentungan, Yogyakarta, was a territorial force. It was under PANGDAM. So, the managing was a local matter. The supervision was under KODAM, not KOSTRAD. KODAM was not allowed to mobilize forces.

So, the highest in command of the army was Yani. If the second in command was Soeharto, then why did Soeharto take action? Because he knew that his commander had been murdered. Six high-ranking generals of the army had been murdered. Who had murdered them? It turned out to be Untung. What a bastard this Untung was. And here was where the esprit de corps came to the fore. Because he then studied, who was this Untung? How could Untung be a traitor? And who was behind him? It turned out to be the Communist Party. And apart from the Communist Party, who else could possibly be supporting Untung? It turned out to be the Air Force. This was the result of his interrogations, of course. Pak Harto analyzed everything that had taken place on that 1 October. Very fast. Soeharto was really amazing. We have to give credit for that, his speed in analyzing situations. Who was this? Untung. So then. Untung must be the Communist Party, that was his immediate conclusion.

How did Pak Harto know it was Untung? Well, of course because he already knew him. Untung was his subordinate. Where was he based? Halim [Halim Perdanakusuma airfield). Who was there? Omar Dhani? So he summoned the RPKAD (Regiment of Army Commands) to secure the situation. To restore the situation. This was called the counter-coup. So there was a coup d’etat and then a counter-coup to topple it. So the coup failed. And who was the perpetrator? The Communist Party. The Communist Party, you see? The PKI was an element of Nasakom. The army then asked Sukarno: ‘So Pak, how about the Communist Party?’ To the army, it was clear ‘They have murdered my colleagues … So, in short, what’s to be done, Pak?!’ The army or Soeharto firmly demanded for the Communist Party to be banned. So Sukarno was in a tricky situation.

So – let’s cut it short shall we? Basically, the army could not accept that their Commander-in-Chief and his colleagues had been murdered by the Communist Party using Untung. So they complained to Sukarno: Pak, what about the Communist Party, the matter is clear, and so on. But it seemed that Sukarno was dragging his feet or something. But that’s my own interpretation, okay? Based on what I read about the dialogue between Sukarno and Soeharto, basically Soeharto said: ‘Pak, ban the Communist Party. If the party is disbanded, then we are safe, Pancasila is safe.’ That was the conversation. Then Pak Karno answered as usual: ‘To [meaning Soeharto], we have Nasakom. And I have made Nasakom renowned the world over. We have unity between the nationalists, the religious, and the communists. They are all one. If the Communist Party is banned, then what about this concept of mine? I will be ashamed in front of the whole world.’ That was the first thing.

The second thing Pak Karno said was: ‘If the Communist Party is banned, then the party leaders will carry out political guerilla action. You will find it difficult confronting them’. Well, Pak Harto got that message, and he analyzed it. He thought: ‘Pak Karno, Mr President, actually does not want to ban the Communist Party. It is all just talk … promises, just promises. He is just delaying action.’ In Soeharto’s eyes, leaders such as this cannot be trusted. Pak Harto no longer had any faith in Pak Karno. Basically, in the eyes of the army, Sukarno’s prestige had declined. In Pak Harto’s eyes, Sukarno’s prestige had fallen. So the situation was ciritical. In the army’s eyes, Sukarno had become unjust. He had veered to the extreme left.

His conclusion was; if this is the case, Sukarno is defending the Com­munist Party. That was the first thing. The second, about the political guer­illa movement, Soeharto also analyzed those words of Sukarno. And he thought: ‘rather than … rather than be hassled by the Communist Party leaders, arrest them and their cadres. Gather them together in one place.’ So that was where the idea of exile to Buru Island came from. The basis of it was from Sukarno’s own words. To Soeharto, rather than have the trouble of political guerilla action, it would be better to take certain measures to avoid it. So Soeharto took Pak Karno’s own words to be used for his own thinking. Many were arrested, but then that caused problems to do with the provision of food and so forth. It was difficult. So they had to be put in one place. Once again, this was where the idea arose of sending them to Buru Island.

Checkmate for Sukarno

Well, at the same time there was a political tussle going on, namely the political tussle between Sukarno and Soeharto. Political tussle. Yes? So if you read B.M. Diah’s book, Pak Karno lost this tussle. Why did he lose? According to B.M. Diah, it was because Sukarno was fighting alone. He was alone! Truly alone. He was alone in facing pressure from the army. Where had all Sukarno’s supporters gone? Well, actually Sukarno’s supporter in this time of crisis was the Communist Party. But there were already ‘operations’ against the Communist Party, it was already dissolved. It had not been formally dissolved, but it was already scattered. That was the first thing.

The second thing, apart from that, was all of Sukarno’s assistants had been isolated from him. The military term for this is ‘knocking the props’. The army had already carried this out. ‘Crash! Crash! Crash! There they went, the supports knocked down, and Sukarno was left alone. His props were his supporters, especially the masses. As soon as there was ‘knocking of the props’, dok-dok-dok, he was destroyed.

The third thing was that Soeharto succeeded in miniaturizing, diminishing, all of the organizations Sukarno had made. Not only the ones Sukarno made, but all the organizations that supported him. The ‘props’ were people. But this was organizations. These organizations were miniaturized.

Take for instance KOTI [ Komando Operasi Tertinggi, Supreme Operational Command]. As the head of government, Sukarno’s position was that of President. But as the Commander of KOTI, he was Supreme Commander [Pangti, Panglima Tertinggi]. As Supreme Commander of KOTI, Sukarno’s power was extraordinary. But Pak Harto was able to miniaturize it. At the time, it was the height of the ‘Crush Malaysia’ campaign. Pak Harto turned KOTI into KOGAM [Crush Malaysia Command]. Pak Karno was then no longer the Supreme Commander of KOTI but just the Supreme Commander of Crush Malaysia Command or KOGAM.

Remember that after the 30 September Movement, Soeharto was ordered to restore security and order, so he formed a command called KOPKAMTIB, or the Command for the Restoration of Security and Public Order. While diminishing the role of KOTI, the role of KOPKAMTIB increased. KOTI was miniaturized, while KOPKAMTIB was enlarged. And got really … huuuge. Even though KOPKAMTIB was just an ‘offshoot’ of KOTI. Sukarno didn’t even realize that he was being locked in. Done …! Then Sukarno couldn’t do a thing. The only thing he could do was ‘crush Malaysia’. Maybe he was ‘Supreme Commander’, in fact the power was with Soeharto. When KOTI was dissolved Sukarno had no power at all. Soeharto succeeded in miniaturizing Sukarno.

Soeharto used KOPKAMTIB firstly to wipe out the Communist Party, but at the same time to miniaturize Sukarno. And Sukarno was unable to oppose the force of the army which was extremely well organized. Sukarno was also unable to do much when there were student demonstrations. On the one hand the students were the spontaneous element, but on the other hand they were also part of the operation to miniaturize Sukarno. The students were part of the social-political operation.

In confronting their opponents, revolutionary armies use two ‘weapons’, namely technological weapons and social weapons. Tehnological weapons are used when confronting armed opponents, but social weapons are used to confront non combat opponents. These can take various forms: it might be pressure, or slander, or other things. Student demonstrations are part of the ‘social weapons’ to oppose non combat opponents.

And it turned out that Sukarno was unable to face this. In this contest he kept on losing. The climax of his loss in the contest was the emergence of the Order of March 11 [1966] called Supersemar (Surat Perintah Sebelas Maret). People might laugh, but the Supersemar letter showed that Sukarno could be tricked. It was ‘checkmate’ for Sukarno. Well, at least this is my interpretation. But it is based on analysis.

Power gone

It was clear that Sukarno could no longer do a thing. What could he do? Scream, not even that. His props had all fallen down. There were no more supporters. His supporters had been isolated. The organizations that supported him had been miniaturized. You see?

And meanwhile, the army was absolutely organized. Compact. The army was unified, except for those sympathisizing with the Communist Party. But those who sided with the Communist Party were quickly hunted down with full military force. Particularly after Sukarno said that revolutions often eat their own children. But it turned out that revolution doesn’t only eat its own children, but also its ‘Father’. The proof is that Supersemar letter.

As for the Supersemar letter, there are many versions of this story. But these versions are just lies. It is clear that Sukarno had lost, he couldn’t do anything. His power had all been locked up. He was finished. He even asked Soeharto, [in low Javanese] ‘So, what are you going to do with me?’ Sukarno was finished. Pak Harto was a Javanese. When he was asked this, he still kept his language polite.

There was no manipulation behind the formulation of the Supersemar letter. At the time, Pak Harto was sick. Whether this was sick of politics or not, I don’t know. But it is clear that the ones who went to the palace in Bogor were people loyal to Pak Karno. They were true Sukarno loyalists. Like Basuki Rachmat. He was Sukarno’s former secretary in his role as Commander of PEPERTI (Supreme Military Administrator). M. Jusuf was also a Sukarnoist. Amir Machmud, when he served Sukarno, was totally committed. He would do anything. Umar Wirahadikusumah even more so. In army circles he was known as ‘Sukarno’s stooge’. Sabur even more so. Sabur was Sukarno’s own adjutant. He was Commander of the Cakrabirawa, Sukarno’s personal guard regiment as president. His deputy was Maulwi Saelan. Panggabean did not go to Bogor Palace. You can check all this in the palace log book.

As for the text of Supersemar, according to me the first draft was handwritten, dictated to Sabur by Sukarno, and then typed up. The text of the Proclamation was written by Sukarno. But the text of Supersemar was written first by Sabur. Then it was typed.

Basically, with the Supersemar document, Pak Karno’s power was finished. It was checkmate. He was at stalemate. That’s how I see it. I have no interest here in defending Sukarno or Soeharto. According to me, there was no treachery in the formulation of Supersemar. How could there be? There were three people writing it. So it is impossible that they deceived Sukarno. Especially as these were soldiers. When soldiers see their superior commander, they are afraid. The distance is like earth and sky. The soldiers’ love of Sukarno was amazing. No one dared to replace Sukarno. And after all Sukarno was President for Life, right?

Fomenting revenge

Well, once people began to see Sukarno as unjust, there was no other way. Sukarno was a leader but could not be trusted. The army felt that. That’s my conclusion. Sukarno had to be replaced. But how to replace him, that was difficult. Who would dare to replace Sukarno? Remember, he was President for Life. And that was legal. That had been a parliamentary decision. But Pak Harto was clever. He called parliament (MPRS). He called those members who remained after the cleansing.

You could not topple Sukarno with a coup d’etat. The people would not accept it. So Pak Harto called parliament. He said, your help is needed. Then Sukarno was summoned. And he gave various speeches. One of them was his Nawaksara speech. Bascially, in the interest of history he said that there were people who were not good, that there were the leaders of the Communist Party who had gone astray, and so on.

And there were various interpretations. But the question was whether Sukarno had dissolved the Communist Party. If he had, why had he not reported this. And this has given rise to various opinions. Some people like Asvi [Dr. Asvi Warman Adam] say that this was creeping coup d’etat, while John Roosa [Dr. John Roosa, the author of Pretext for a Mass Murder, ed.] said something else, and so forth. Pak Harto said to the Assembly: ‘This is the problem. It’s up to you what is to be done about it.’ As for whether the Assembly wanted to ‘cut in on’ Sukarno, that was their affair.

Now, in relation to this, there was one force within the military that was seen to be implicated in the 30 September movement, and that was the Air Force. According to my research about whether Omar Dhani was Communist Party, this has never been proven. In Javanese you can ask ‘how many things have you found’ (ketemu pirang perkoro) to show Omar Dhani is implicated with the Communist Party? Meaning, how could he have been involved? His background was different. He was an aristocrat. If I’m not mistaken, he was of aristocratic descent, wasn’t he? That’s the first thing. The second is that his life style was bourgeois, not proletariat. And what’s more, he was a handsome man. He was called ‘Gatotkaca’. According to the study of communism, how could someone like him be a member of the Communist Party? If someone wanted to join the party, they were ‘tracked’, there was a search on their family background, their profession and so forth. They had to be of proletarian descent. But Omar Dhani was of aristocratic descent, feudal. So he could not join the Communist Party. Impossible, in other words.

The question is, how did he come to be accused of being involved with the Communist Party? Because he was a Sukarnoist. He was ‘unreservedly’ Sukarnoist, as the phrase of the time went. Sukarno himself felt at home with Omar Dhani. He was able to raise in the ranks in super swift time. He told me that himself. I knew Omar Dhani.

He was Sukarnoist through and though. He was a sensitive man. The way he saw it, he would oppose anyone who interfered with Sukarno. He would defend Sukarno to the last drop of blood. Probably he got information or a whisper that there was going to be a movement that would endanger the Great Leader of the Revolution. So he immediately jumped in. But he forgot that he was Commander of a Force with extremely large power! The largest in Southeast Asia, probably. So, because of this I conclude that actually Omar Dhani did not understand politics but joined in politics. He was an army man who was used by politics. Used. He did not just let himself be drawn in, he was used. He was not a political man. He was a soldier. He did not understand politics. Yet he supported the 30th September Movement and even issued an order. To him, it was all Sukarno. Sukarno. He did not know that Sukarno had become the ‘pawn’ of the Communist Party. The theme of the 30 September Movement was to ‘safeguard Sukarno’, yes? And on the other hand Soeharto was accused of being counter-revolutionary and going to murder Sukarno. But the reality is that Sukarno was kept safe, wasn’t he?

Then there was the Supersemar letter I already mentioned. From then on Pak Harto took over various political actions, like forming the presidium and so forth, and Sukarno just kept quiet. He couldn’t do anything any more. He was still giving speeches about ‘Jasmerah’ [Jangan sekali-sekali meninggalkan sejarah or ‘don’t ever abandon history’]. But who were his supporters? There weren’t any left. Or if there were, they did not dare challenge Pak Harto. After all, those in the army that supported Sukarno and the Communist Party had been crushed. The Communist Party leaders were nervous. They were being hunted everywhere. The only one doing anything was Sudisman who was known for his ‘Criticism-Autocriticism’. He criticized Aidit’s leadership. According to him, Aidit had become a dictator. He was no longer democratic as he used to be. The tradition of criticism-autocriticism had vanished. Sudisman strongly criticized Aidit for trying to make Indonesian society like Chinese society. He wanted to just plant Chinese Communist Party ideas in Indonesia. The ideas and struggle of the Chinese Communist Party he just wanted to adopt. Aidit’s views were identical to Mao Tze-tung’s. No more than a ‘photocopy’.

Sudisman gave the example of Aidit wanting to instil ideas about evil landlords. But here we did not have landlords. There were kyai, but Aidit forgot about the social leadership of kyai. Aidit criticized them as landlords. Even though it is different. And then, well there were the Unilateral Actions [Aksi Sepihak] and so on. These direct actions later produced an extraordinarily strong sense of resentment, extraordinarily terrifying.

Going mad

My own views about the [1965] national tragedy are, well, complicated, aren’t they? What is clear is that the tragedy cannot be wholly laid on the army. After all, it involved the masses. And I, well … it was an outcome. The outcome of Communist Party actions at that time, which they called ‘progressive revolutionary’. They offended people, they offended their opponents. For instance, by considering our society to be the same as Chinese society, as I said. It seems that our society agreed and did not mount a counter offensive. But the instant their movement failed, the people who had previously been called counter-revolutionary took action …

But that’s that; this is the history of our nation that is really terrifying … and regrettable. Even so, it all happened. Was the violence that took place violence between the feudal class and the proletariat – well no. What happened was proletariat against proletariat, farmer against farmer. How could this be? Particularly when the Communist Party had already lost, there was no other way except … [the sentence was unfinished, ed.]. That’s enough … [sentence is unclear, ed.]. It was a conflict which … I cannot imagine. Even now, so long after the event, I still feel it.

At the time of the incident, I was in Jakarta. I had become a civil servant in Jakarta. But I knew what was going on in the regions. For instance, what my mother experienced in Malang, East Java. My mother had a big house. She worked as a trader. She bought food ingredients that she resold. Like corn. In front of the house was a field, or front yard, which was used for drying ingredients. And there was also a big shed where the foodstuffs were stored.

Now, at the time of the G30S Incident, the army asked to use the storehouse to house detainees. There were male detainees, and female ones. The purpose was unclear, whether they were being secured or imprisoned or what. My mother was terrified. She did not dare go out. There were many held there, but there was only one toilet.

The people there were ‘plucked out’ (di’bon’) by other people. There were only a few soldiers. After all, how many men did the Regional Military Command (KORAMIL) have? According to my mother, many were ‘plucked’. Meaning that they were taken away and usually never returned. Some screamed, they did this or that. Understand that among the detainees there were many women. Some were arrested in their homes, some were arrested at other places. Terrifying.

People who worked just as horse-cart or buffalo-cart drivers to carry goods were arrested too. The reason was just because their boss was a communist and they were his coolies. So they were arrested. Some of them were actually santri, but they also went ‘missing’, who knows where. Even though they regularly went to the mosque. Back then, if someone wanted something, they went to the mosque, did the ritual bathing, prayer and so on. So people were regularly going to the mosque. But because their boss might be communist, then they were arrested. There were women, men … look, talking about all this makes me sad. It’s uncomfortable. Yes, that was … I think that was just justification for … oh it was so savage when progressive politics was being proclaimed.

But this is all the way I see things now, after having the opportunity to think about it and so on. And these are also my reflections as an old person, whose knowledge is much deeper than a young person like yourself. I have been young, but young people have never been old, ha ha … Basically the situation at the time was really terrifying. Truly. I often reflect and wonder, if this is the path of Indonesia? What should a leader do, and how, with such heavy responsibility?

In East Java, the atmosphere was absolutely terrifying. So much so that when Onghokham29 went to East Java and saw the corpses in the Brantas River he went mad because of the stress. He couldn’t bear it. He started shouting: ‘Long live the Communist Party! Hidup PKI!’ As a result he was arrested and detained. He was released only after the intervention of Pak Nugroho Notosusanto.30

Politics is important

There are various lessons we can take. First, for leaders and political parties. Leaders and political parties, in their politics, should not involve the army. Do not bring the army in to achieve power, To achieve power, do not use violence. This is my reflection as a military man.

Secondly, for the military, if you do not understand politics, do not take part in politics. The result can be fatal for this nation. It should have stopped with the Generation of the revolutionary army or the 1945 generation. That’s enough. Enough.

So, if you join the army, be the army, do not join politics. Lieutenant Colonel Untung was army. But he wanted to play politics. The army should not play politics like those who have really been trained for politics. The ones who meddle in politics outside the military, and the ones who meddle in internal military politics both want political power. Intervention in politics can truly harm the nation. It is dangerous for the state. As for the ‘dual function’ of the army, that should stop with the 1945 generation. It’s enough. Done. Over. With Soeharto’s departure, that’s it for political involvement. Soekarno was part of the 1945 Generation. That’s enough. Let the generation of the revolutionary army be like that. But that’s enough. I am neutral, see? In today’s terminology, I mean, go back to being professional. There’s no need to take part in politics. And political parties should not drag the army in to intervene.

The danger is that people always want to have everything. Hey, what have you got? You’ve got intelligence, weapons, personnel, and so forth. So just touch them a bit and they can react.

If people want to attack one another in parliament or wherever, let them do it, but there should not be military intervention. It was enough for the revolutionary army generation to intervene in politics. Close the book, and let that be part of our history. They should not be blamed, though. Regard it as - that’s Indonesia, that’s our history.

If historians want to comment this way or that, well that’s their business. But it’s clear that this is our history. Politics is important. The army is also important, but the army that is professional. Not the opposite, where the army joins in organizing politics. I know, the Communist Party slogan back then was ‘Politics is the Commander’. So the army could also be political and be the object of politics. Well, this is what Pak Karno copied, and so did Pak Harto later on. But now all of this should be closed with the resignation and death of Pak Harto. So, that’s it, the revolutionary army generation is finished. And as for the ‘dual function’ cadres, what of them? Well, if they are still needed that’s okay, but actually that’s finished. Because dual function is the product of the revolutionary army generation.

25 HMI, Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam (Association of Muslim University Students; GMNI, Gerakan Mahasiswa Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Students’ Movement); CGMI, Consentrasi Gerakan Mahasiswa Indonesia (Indonesian Student Movement Concentration); PRKRI, Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Katolik Indonesia (Indonesian Catholic Students’ Association); GMKI, Gerakan Mahasiswa Kristen Indonesia (Indonesian Protestant-Christian Students’ Movement); PERHIMI, Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Indonesia (Indonesian University Students’ Association) [Chinese].

26 To refer to President Sukarno, the informant sometimes deliberately uses the term ‘Pak’ rather than ‘Bung Karno’ which, for Indonesians, is a familiar term of address that has revolutionary nuance and emotional intimacy.

27 The forced seizure of land by the people based on the Agrarian Land Reform (Undang-Undang Pokok Agrarian, UUPA) and UUBH (Undang-undang Bagi Hasil) of 1960. Most of these actions were initiated by the Indonesian Peasants’ Front (Barisan Tani Indonesia, BTI) which was under the umbrella of the Communist Party, ed.

28 Het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Indisch Leger, the colonial army of the Netherlands East Indies

29 Onghokham (1933–2007) was a lecturer at the University of Indonesia and a prominent historian in Indonesia. Amongst other things, the published Wahyu yang Hilang, Negeri yang Guncang (2002).

30 Nugroho Notosusanto (1930–1985) was a Minister of Education and Culture (1983–1985). He had previously been Rector of the University of Indonesia, Jakarta (1982–1983). His career was in the military and education. He is known as a historian was was extremely pro the New Order government.

Truth Will Out: Indonesian Accounts of the 1965 Mass Violence

   by Dr. Baskara T. Wardaya SJ