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Truth Will Out: Indonesian Accounts of the 1965 Mass Violence

At ‘Australia bridge’

The following narrative, full of interesting information, was conveyed by an ex political prisoner from Buru Island, Maluku, Indonesia, who has the pseudonym Al Capone. This is a name he chose for himself, because during his time on Buru Island, his friends – he doesn’t know why – liked to call him that. We have already made brief mention of this account in the introduction to the book.

It is an amazing feat for Al Capone to have remembered so many things in such detail about Buru island. He even recalled the names of the 123 political prisoners who were his fellow inmates in the special camp (Kampsus Jiko Kecil) together with the places they came from, their aliases, professions before they were arrested, and other details about them. He recalls and describes clearly the last days before his release from Buru, and then the ceremony of release in Semarang. All this he recalls and calmly describes more than 40 years after the event.

The original of this text was handwritten in various stages, based on requests and clarification from researchers. Everything was written entirely based on memory. To respect and avoid offending some of the parties discussed, some names have been deliberately changed.

My parents gave me the name ‘S’. I was one of nine children. My father worked as a guard at Beringharjo market in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, a job he had since former Dutch times. Among his friends, my father was often called ‘Market Tondho’. My mother worked as a housewife. However, after the death of my father in 1961, my mother also worked as a seller in the market, because she had to support three children who still lived at home, including me.

In Yogyakarta, my house was on the banks of the Code River, in the kampung (neighbourhood) of Ledhok Ratmakan in the Gondomanan district. This kampung was formerly called ‘Mantri Pamong Projo’. When the G30S incident of 1965 happened, I was just 19 years old.

Beginning of a long journey

I was ‘scooped’ or arrested on 21 December 1965 at my house by govern­ment officials, together with a group of other people. I was then taken, or dragged, to KMK [Keamanan Militer Kota, Municipal Military Security], or what is now called KODIM (Military District Command) just to the north of Tugu railway station. I was interrogated there. During interrogation I was beaten in the face and all over my body. Then, with other friends, about 25 of us in all, I was taken to the Vredeburg Fort in Yogyakarta which was formerly the headquarters of the army battalion 438. In this group of 25 there were two women, namely:

  1. Suhartinah from Prawirodirjan, who is now the mother-in-law of Mr Agus Gudadi from Gondomanan, Yogyakarta.
  2. Walbi Rahayu from Kadipaten Wetan, Kraton kecamatan, Yogyakarta

The Camp Commander at the Fort at the time was Infantry Major Durdjani. The system of command in operation there was military. For example, the head was known as the Dan Ton, which was short for Komandan Peleton (Battalion Commander).

At the time, the Vredeburg Fort (called Benteng Camp) where the 1965 tragedy victims were housed, was home to 41 male inmates. There were 40 soldiers. The male inmates were housed to the west of the female ones. All that divided us was a barbed wire fence with woven bamboo. We were given food only once a day. It was sent from the guards at Wirogunan prison, and it was just boiled corn (grontol) in tiny portions – there were only around 80 grains of corn per serving.

On 25 December 1965 we were told that we were going to be screened by RPKAD (Army Para Command Regiment) which was under the com­mand of Lieutenant Colonel Sarwo Edhi Wibowo at the time. How­ever, we actually were not ‘screened’ at all, but given cruel and inhumane torture.

In that short time while at Vredeburg, all of us lost weight drastically. Many among us even got malnutrition. This happened because the commander forbade any visits from family, or for families to send any food. In February 1966 the first summons came from outside the Fort. But strangely, it came at night. And what really made us worried was that those who were summoned were had a kind of identity sign put around their necks. Our intuition told us that those who had been given this sign were about to be killed, but we had no idea where. Fortunately, God was still protecting me so that I did not get the call.

In mid April 1966 I was moved to Wirogunan prison, still in Yogyakarta. There, the camp commander was Serma Sudarman, who came from Prawirodirdjan in Gondomanan. The prison director was Romli. While I was at Wirogunan prison I gradually adapted to my new surroundings. At the same time, between the inmates there developed a strong solidarity, both with friends from outside Yogya and friends from Yogya. There developed a deep sense of true friendship even with friends from other regions [i.e. not Javanese, trs].

In the prison, there was something called ‘collective punishment’, meaning ‘if one person does something wrong, then all inmates will be punished’. This made us look out for each other because we felt we were sharing the same fate, the same suffering and the same fight. We political prisoners knew only three things: exile, prison and murder. A few of the inmates were put to work at the Wirogunan prison, mending shoes, doing leather work, working as barbers as so on. The ones who worked got an extra rice ration or got to eat twice a day. But all the rest of us without work could do was just sit waiting to eat once a day. There was a ruling from the camp commander that every prisoner’s family had to send 10 kilograms of rice, or, if they preferred, Rp 25. This was in 1967. Families who could not send rice or money were not allowed to visit the prison or to send food.

So every month, the victims’ families had to find 10 kilograms of rice or Rp 25. We used to ask ourselves, where is there a country that detains political prisoners and does not give them any food? I don’t think there are any. There is only this one, my beloved country, the country said to be based on Pancasila – the country that is so ‘Pancasila’ist that its rulers at the time, the New Order that is, were extremely cruel.

Towards August 1966 my friends had the idea of celebrating Indonesia’s 21st anniversary of its independence with a program of poetry reading and singing. And there was also a drama performance and ketoprak.54 The officials thought this was a good idea so we requested official permission. And the event took place, and the results were pretty good. Many of the wardens really liked it, and were fans of ketoprak. Among the detainees there were many who were formerly ketoprak players in the ‘Kridomardi’ group. These included Mr Sasmito, Mr Siswadi, Mr Tjokro Djadi, Mr Sasto Siwi, Mr Rachmad and many others. It seemed that slowly but surely we were getting some concessions, which meant a lot to us. And although every day all we had to eat was grontol and cabbage, we were happy. For entertainment, one of us, Mr Saptopriyo who was formerly a lecturer at the Music College (ASMI, Akademi Seni Musik Indonesia) tried composing songs. Here is one of them:


He came from Brontokusuman in the area of Mergangsan, Yogyakarta, where the road meets the road to Imogiri, Jalan Sisingamangaraja. Here are songs he composed:

  1. Mawar Merah (Red Rose) (in langgam kroncong style)
  2. Lusi (in langgam kroncong style)
  3. Susi (in langgam kroncong style)
  4. Romantika (in langgam kroncong style)
  5. Di Kala Sinar Bulan Purnama (At the full moon) (langgam kroncong style)
  6. Suratku (My letter) (popular style)
  7. Cadong (Portion) (cha-cha, the song above)
  8. Bertamasya (Going on an excursion) (cha cha)
  9. Cipayung (waltz)
  10. Berat Jalan (Sad to go) (popular style)

At the time, the Jefferson Library in Jalan Pangeran Diponegoro, opposite the Kranggan market in Yogyakarta, was a place where we victims of the 1965 tragedy were interrogated. It was also a headquarters for the interrogators, who were from the legal fraternity, the police, as well as the military (regional command, Kodim) assisted by local kecamatan mass organizations and political organizations. Back then, in 1965, everybody felt afraid. They were afraid they might be ‘scooped’, arrested or accused of being a communist. Back then a dog had more worth than a communist. It is not surprising then, that suspicion arose between people. And from this suspicion arose what was called ‘fitnah’ or slander. People were slandering one another. The result was that the victims of the 1965 tragedy were not necessarily communist party people. Some became victims just because of some long harboured revenge, or just bad feeling. This was proven from the fact that in the camp there were also people from the Indonesian National Party (PNI) and others.

And that is exactly what Soeharto’s New Order government wanted. The government deliberately made the people uneasy and anxious. Everywhere, in cities and in the regions, there emerged what we called ‘Petruk’ or ‘Pointers’ (tukang petunjuk), alias spies.

Becoming ‘exiles’

In July 1969 at the Wirogunan prison there was a largescale movement of detainees. But we didn’t know exactly where we were being sent to.

It turned out that we were being moved to Nusa Kambangan island in Cilacap, central Java. With that, all my hopes of meeting my parents and my family were dashed. We were taken from Wirogunan just before dawn, by bus. We got to the ‘Wijaya Kusuma’ harbour in Cilacap at 8 in the morning, were immediately loaded onto the dock and ordered to crouch with our two hands clasped behind our neck beneath the barrels of the guns of the ‘Polsus’ or special police (polisi khusus) from Nusa Kambangan. We were taken from the harbour on the ship Anjing (dog), the ship for taking detainees to Nusa Kambangan. On Nusa Kambangan island there was a harbour. It was called Sodong. From Sodong, we were led into prison. I was put in ‘Gliger’ prison. On Nusa Kambangan there were nine prisons. They were:

  1. Besi (iron)
  2. Batu (stone)
  3. Gliger
  4. Permisan
  5. Limus Buntu
  6. Nirbaya (without fear)
  7. Karang Tengah (central residence)
  8. Karang Anyar (new residence)
  9. Kembang Kuning (yellow flower)

According to information from an ex-warden called N.K, the island of Nusakambangan was about 27 kilometers long and about 7 kilometers wide. Our activity there was to receive ‘counselling’ (penyuluhan), and training or ‘Santiaji’ in spiritual affairs, agriculture, horticulture and fisheries. According to the officials in charge of these courses, this was only temporary. We were going to be sent to some land which would become our own property, a kind of transmigration program. Even so, the officials would not say where this land was located.

And it turned out that what the official said, happened. On 15 August 1969 the first batch of political prisoners in period I, a group of about 2000, was dispatched on the Motor Boat ADRI IV.55 But none of us had any idea where the ship was going to, or where our friends were being taken. All we knew was that the Nusa Kambangan prison was actually just a kind of transit place.

And during this time of waiting, a friend of mine called Suyanto alias ‘Thole’ from the kampung of Tukangan in the kecamatan of Danurejan, Yogyakarta, wrote a song called ‘Kampung Laut Tanggo’. This is how it went:

Kampung Laut Tanggo
Come on friends, towards Kampung Laut
Through what was once mangrove swamps
Rowing the raft all together now
Make the water ripple

Chorus:The kampung houses of bamboo
Floating in water so pretty now
The fishermen’s boats calm too
Shrimp and fish their work to show

Kampung laut, the fishermen’s kampung
It’s just kampung laut

Apart from this he also composed a dance called the ‘Kite dance’. His dances and songs were very popular with the victims. They were often performed in arts events. But now I have no idea where my friend is. When his older sibling died in 2008, I did not see him at the funeral. Anyway, I was at Nusa Kambangan for about 3 years. Then I was sent to Buru Island as part of the second wave. On 26 September 1969, I arrived on the island of Buru, Ambon, Maluku.

The birth of ‘BAPRERU’

The island of Buru was the last place the New Order regime chose for us. It was the New Order’s ‘Rubbish Dump’ for us. The mandate and the execution of it were the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General at the time was Ali Said SH. The Attorney General’s office co-ordinated with the Commander for the Restoration of Security and Order Operations (Panglima Komando Pemulihan Keamanan dan Ketertiban, Pangkopkamtib) which was General Sudomo at the time, together with other related organizations like the Ministry of Transmigration and Cooperation and the Ministry of Agriculture. So in 1969 a new body was established with they called ‘BAPRERU’ or the Body for the Administration of Buru Resettlement and Rehabilitation).

The security officials and guards were from the territorial forces of the Pattimura Regional Military Command with battalions 731, 732 and 733. The island of Buru with its capital Namlea are part of North Maluku. In 1969 the ‘Tefaat’ (Tempat Pemanfaatan, Place Utilization) Commander was Mayor CPM [Military Police Corps] Rusno. He was in this post from 1969 to 1971.

After the formation was all in order and Buru island was declared to be ready, the political prisoners were sent there in batches. And in this way Buru was complete as a ‘rubbish dump’ for the 1965 tragedy victims. And in this way, too, the island of Buru became famous all over the world.

Stepping on the ‘unpromised land’

We were constantly being moved, like rotten, stinking, disgusting filth. We were kicked and driven out. To keep us uneasy. That’s pretty much the way the authorities thought of us victims of the 1965 tragedy.

In mid September 1969 I finally really left the island of Nusa Kambangan, as part of the second batch of prisoners. There were about 2500 of us in that second batch. We left at about 4 pm on the boat ADRI XI which I mentioned above. Those guarding us were led by Captain Yoes Padaga from National Strategic Command (KOSTRAD), RPKAD. Our journey started out well enough. But around the fourth day, we felt that there was something not quite right with the boat. None of us knew what had happened, because we were inside the hold which was locked. Not long after, we found out what was going on because there some some news from above deck. The news was more or less like this:

Figure 2. A diagram of the emergence of ‘BAPRERU’

There had been a small fire on the ship, but thanks to the preparedness of the crew, they had got it under control. We could only look at each other, thinking about what had just happened. Towards evening, the boat docked at Makassar harbour to refuel. We had to wait until the next day to continue our journey. After ten days and nights, we finally arrived at our destination. However, the boat could not berth at the dock. The reason was probably security. So we were taken off with small boats like landing craft.

It was only when we got on land that we knew we were on Buru island. This was 26 September 1969. The harbour was called Namlea, in north Buru, north Maluku, Ambon. From the wharf, we were immediately loaded onto trucks and went to a location called ‘Transito Jiko Kecil’

Figure 3 shows a diagram of Transito Juko Kecil, as I remember it:

In this transit camp we were told that in our new place we would have to work the land, as farming and plantation, and the produce would be for us, the residents. For this we were given instruction about correct agriculture and horticulture. It turned out that after just on 3 weeks we were sent off to units, taken by those same landing craft. There was no land transportation at the time, so we had to travel to the units by water. The Wayapo river was the one and only river for this. The river was deep, but also pretty wide. When we arrived at the river mouth we saw a Bugis fishing kampung, called ‘Kaki Air’, and we then started going upstream. The journey was fascinating because the Wayapo river has lots of bends, like a dragon stretching itself. After travelling for about 2 hours we arrived at our destination, our unit.

Figure 3. Diagram of ‘Transito Jiko Kecil’

An official member of Unit I

After arriving at the unit, I was assigned a barrack, and every barrack had about 100 inmates. My unit was made up of 10 barracks, and every barracks had been assigned a Barracks Head and a deputy by the Unit Commander. The Unit Commander had also assigned two other people to lead the barracks heads and their deputies. These two people were the Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator or the Chief Assistants of the Unit Commander. On the first day we were given time to rest.

The next morning was roll call. We were given duties according to our groups or barracks. In this roll call the Unit Commander gave us instructions. The instructions included:

  1. Whether you all go hungry or not is in your own hands. So you are all urged to work hard and seriously because your fate is in your own hands. And the Central Authorities do not want to take responsibility again if you fail.
  2. However, if your efforts here are not productive, or have not yet borne fruit, the Centre will take responsibility and allow time for consolidation for a period of 9 months, by sending goods and tools, also medicine, fertilizer and so on.
  3. Your harvest belongs to you.
  4. As Unit Commander I hereby forbid you to have any contact with the local people of this island, or the Bugis people, or anyone else.

And that was more or less the instruction from the Unit Commander, as I can remember it. And then we all worked according to the duties assigned to us.

In the first years, we in the various units planted non-irrigated rice in the yard around the barracks around 500 metres from the Unit, and also root crops and vegetables. To supplement the food supply, we pounded sago. In the second year we had (irrigated) rice fields. We also made a road out of the unit. This was important for going to the fields, for instance. And we built dams and housing.

Towards 1971, the Unit Commander permitted the inhabitants to sleep outside the barracks or the unit. But at the beginning the only ones who got this permission were those who worked in the fields (they were permitted to sleep in the sheds). Even this dispensation was given with the proviso that every morning they came for roll call. For those of us sleeping in the barracks, we had to attend roll call every morning and every evening before we went to sleep.

The unit was like this: each unit was made up of 10 barracks, every barracks had 60 inmates (this was the small units). Large units (like units I and II) had 100 inmates per barracks. Every unit had one battalion to guard it, plus one PHB squad and a force of combat engineers (zipur). Added to all this there were still another 10 officials from the Attorney’s office.

At one stage I asked myself, could all this be the will of God? Because while I was with the unit, and had not yet adapted to the surroundings, suddenly I was moved to another unit. The Unit Commander’s reason was that this was to average out the number of detainees per unit. Together with 50 others I was moved to Unit III Wanayasa. Note: we were told this period of consolidation would go on for about 9 months, but in actual fact it was stopped after 4 months.

Unit names

In the period 1969–1970 the political prisoners on the island of Buru lived in units. These included:

Unit I Wanapura, with unit commander First Lieutenant CPM Eddy Tuswara from West Java.

Unit II Wanareja with unit commander First Lieutenant CPM Suparno from Yogyakarta

Unit III Wanayasa, with unit commander Captain CPM Daeng Masiga from Jakarta

Unit IV Sanleko (Savana Jaya) with unit commander Second Lieutenant CPM Suparman from central Java.

As of late 1970, there were new units, namely:

Unit V Wanakerta

Unit VI Wana Wangi

Unit VII Wana Surya

Unit VIII Wana Kencana

Unit IX Wana Mulya

Unit X Wana Dharma

Unit XI Wana Asri

Unit XII Birawa Wanajaya

Unit XIII Giri Pura

Unit XIV Bantala Reja

Unit XV Indra Pura or Unit Ronggolawe

Unit XVI Indra Karya

Unit XVII Arga Bhakti

Unit XVIII Adhi Pura

Additional units in 1971:

Unit Sawunggalling

Unit Trunojoyo

Unit “R”

Unit “S”

Unit “T”

Naming the units began with Unit II, whose Unit Commander at the time was Captain CPM Daeng Masiga. He called Unit III Wana Yasa or Wanayasa. Then Unit I and Unit II were also given names. The Unit I Commander was First Lieutenant CPM Eddy Tuswara, Kujang, Siliwangi who named it Wana Pura. Unit II was named Wana Reja by its Unit Commander, First Lieutenant CPM Sumardi, from Diponegoro. But actually the idea to give Unit III the name Wana Yasa came from Pramoedya Ananta Toer from Blora, Central Java, who was exiled to Buru island along with other victims of the 1965 tragedy.

There were only 500 inmates in Unit III Wana Yasa at the time. But later Unit I Wana Pura and Unit II Wana Rejo sent another 50 inmates. And after that there were more additions. So Unit III Wana Yasa then had 604 in total. I stayed in Unit I Wana Pura for just on three months. In Unit III I stayed in Barrack I, the head of which was Chris Hutabarat from Jakarta. He was a former journalist from Harian Rakyat, or HR for short. In my barracks I met older people like Mr Anwar Kadir, Mr Karel Supit, Mr Drs Bismo, Mr Rivai Apin, Mr Hasjim Rachman from the newspaper Bintang Timur, Mr Drs. Suniadi, Mr Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Mr Prof. Dr. Suprapto S.H., Mr Oey Hay Djoen, Mr Eddy Martalogawa and Mr Situmeang, and many others besides.

While at Unit II I was happy because I was able to learn from my elders, especially from Mr Rivai Apin and Mr Samandjaya or Oey Hay Djoen who mentored me in literature. It was as though I had been reborn. I wrote about my happiness like this:

My birth
Every person surely knows
Gall is bitter
But, to me it is something else
It is sweeter than sugar
Wonderfully coloured
Playing in torture and suffering
I am forged and born anew

Unit IV was given the name Unit IV Sanleko or Savana Jaya, because this unit was near the place where the Buton people lived. In 1969–1970 Buru had only four units, namely units I-IV. But in late 1970 we heard information that new units were going to be built in Buru. The labour for this would be found from the existing units. People said that when units I-IV had been built, victims of category ‘C’ in the city of Ambon had provided the labour.

We got this information from those who finished their duty and were about to leave Buru. And indeed it was true about the new units. Jakarta, or the central government sent its survey team to Buru in early 1971. When the survey team was about to begin its work, they took some inmates from Unit III Wana Yasa. I was one of those who joined, and had to carry their equipment and tools. The survey team was made up of geologists, agricultural experts, and combat engineers. There were only two guards for the group, namely two security guards from Battalion 732 Pattimura.

Local inhabitants of Buru Island

Even though this was really hard work, I was happy because I was able to explore places and get to know the situation outside the unit. For instance:

  1. The kampungs of the local inhabitants of Buru
  2. The existence of other rivers apart from Wayapo river
  3. The local customs and language of communication
  4. Methods of measuring land contours using a theodolite and other equipment

The local inhabitants of Buru were still nomadic, meaning they con­stant­ly moved their place of residence. Once the place where they were staying was no longer productive, they found a new place and fields. Usually they chose to stay near swamps because they needed to find fish to eat. The also hunted crocodiles to barter or to sell the skins to the Bugis people and others.

Their staple food was sago and banana, also kasbi or a kind of cassava, and sweet potato. Their main occupation was looking for sago to sell or to barter for things they needed. Apart from that, they liked to hunt wild deer, go fishing and hunt for crocodiles. And they were still animists. They believed in spirits and in spirits of their ancestors. The language they spoke was ‘Furu’. Some of the more progressive ones spoke Indonesian. Here are some examples of the Furu language:

Local LanguageIndonesianEnglish
HalaNasi atau berasRice
WamoMengerti atau tahuUnderstand, know
NgamaBapak Mr, sir
Ngana atau InaIbuMrs, madam

The weapons they most used were knives called todo and lances called hero. They carried their todo and hero with them wherever they went – they never left them behind. They still acknowledge a ‘king’ among them. There are two meanings of king to them. The first is the ‘Mountain King’. This king rules the people who live in the hills and the interior. The second is the ‘Land King’, the ruler of the people along the flatlands of the Wayapo river. This Land King lives in the town of Namlea. So among the people of Buru island there is a clear division. One can say that the level of culture of the original inhabitants living in the hills is still very backward, while that of the people living along the Wayapo river is more advanced.

Figure 4 depicts the structure of governance of the local people of Buru island.


  1. The king is everything to the local people; so they always obey him and follow his orders.
  2. The ‘kepala adat’ or ‘head of customs’ is the Elder of the soa, or the head of the group. His position is beneath the king, and he is extremely influential in the people’s traditions. The Kepala Adat determines everything concerning custom, like marriage, burials, hunting and other rituals. These days on Buru island there are rarely fights between soa or groups. However, when the first batch of victims of the 1965 tragedy arrived in 1969 there were still fights between the soa heads. Some people wounded by swords or spears asked for medical assistance at Unit III Wana Yasa whose Camp Commander was Captain CPM Daeng Masiga. To the local people, the issue that sparked outbreaks of fighting was women, because on the island of Buru, women were in short supply and very expensive. They had a very large bride price. It was though women had to be bought.
  3. Prusi, or police in charge of security. In their society, there are also police or prusi. A policeman is someone whose prowess is proven. He has to prove his courage, his skill in organizing war strategy, and also his dexterity in using both the sword and spear. In other words, he had to be good in warfare. This is why even today there are still war dances called cakalele. This dance is usually performed for important guests. The musical accompaniment is on a drum, called tifa.

Figure 4.

This is some of what I got when I joined the survey team. After that we returned to Unit III Wana Yasa with the results of the survey.

Forming new units

In about April 1971, the building of new units began. The Commander of Location Utilization (Tefaat), Major Rusno, ordered the Commanders of Units I, II and III to prepare the labour from their units for this purpose. The building project was entrusted to the combat engineer battalion. There were 14 new units planned, including units V to XVIII for the first period to 1971. In the second period, 1972, units ‘R’ through to ‘T’ or Unit Trunojoyo were built. In 1972, I was already in the ‘Special Camp’ (Kampsus, or Kamp Khusus). So the total number of units in Buru was 21. Here are the details:

1969: Units I to IV

1971: Units V to XVIII

1972: Units R. S and T

The total number of unit inhabitants (called ‘tohpol’, short for ‘tokoh politik’ or ‘political figures’) on Buru island was about 12,000. However, the government said there were only 10,000. The government was always like that.

Mid-February 1970 was the happiest time for me. Why? Because this was when I was baptized by Father Matatulla, the priest from Namlea. The baptism took place at the Maranatha church in Unit III Wanayasa. And from then on, my name was Joseph S.

Transito becomes ‘Kampus’

In mid 1971 there was a change of Location Utilization Commander, along with all the Unit Commanders and their staff. The Location Utilization Commander, CPM Rusno was replaced by Infantry Colonel Syamsu from the Kujang military unit, Siliwangi Division. The Location Utilization Commander for Unit III Wanayasa, Captain CPM Daeng Masiga was replaced by First Lieutenant CPM Sujoso from Brawijaya Regional Military Command, East Java. The intelligence section, or OPS Kasi I, was headed by Captain CPM Imam Suwarso, also from Brawijaya.

Now this man was cold-blooded. He would even boast, bragging about how he had ‘wiped out’ the South Malang and South Blitar movement in 1967. He also claimed that he had captured Suwandi, who was at the time head of the larger Malang region in East Java, and had killed him. With people like this, the calm atmosphere in the units vanished. And with these officers, like Captain Suwarso, who was extremely ambitious, there were re-arrests of detainees who were thrown into the ‘Jiko Kecil Special Camp’ (Kampsus Jiko Kecil). These re-arrests went on in mid-November 1971. It was because of this man that Transito Jiko Kecil was changed into ‘Jiko Kecil Special Camp’.


Actually, from the start of our departure to Buru island, the Jakarta central government had already infiltrated our group of detainees with three ‘informants’. The three informants mixed with us. Even so, there was a clear difference between them and us 1965 victims. We all had photographs with numbers and numbered shirts. They did not. The three informants were Dedy, Tedy and Tarfi Nasution. Tarfi Nasution was placed in Unit III Wan­ayasa. Dedy and Tedy were placed in Unit I Wanapura. These three were included in the second ‘shipment’ of detainees on the ADRI XI in 1969.

Figure 5.

The first victims of arrest and imprisonment in the Special Camp were inmates of Units I and II, in November 1971. Together with four other friends, I was put into the Special Camp. The five of us were:

  1. Kudori
  2. Sukardi Maryadi
  3. Prof. Dr. Suprapto S.H.
  4. Pramoedya Ananta Toer
  5. Myself

When we got to Namlea we were interrogated at Wisma Anggrek which was the base of the Commander of Location Utilization and his staff. While Sukardi Maryadi and I were taken to the Special Camp, the others were returned to Unit III Wanayasa. In the Special Camp there were only three barracks. But when Sukardi Maryadi and I were put there, only two barracks had inmates. Each barracks was behind barbed wire, and there was still another barbed wire fence around the camp as a barrier.

First Lieutenant CPM Munawar from Brawijaya [Regiment] in East Java was the camp commander. His deputy was Infantry First Lieutenant Sjamsudin from Siliwangi Division. As time went on, other inmates joined the Special Camp. At the beginning, we were not sent out to work, but the Camp Commander was able to talk the Commander of Location Utilization into putting us to work.

Inmates of Jiko Kecil Special Camp

Here are the names of the inmates of ‘Jiko Kecil Special Camp’ with their units and place of origin, as far as I recall:

From Wana Pura unit:

  1. L. Supriyanto from Yogyakarta
  2. Markum Sukarno from Yogyakarta
  3. Sudiarto from Yogyakarta
  4. Rubianto B.A. from Yogyakarta. His family followed in 1972.
  5. Sugiarto from Yogyakarta
  6. Sukardi alias Semplo from Semarang
  7. Harafanto from Semarang
  8. Nasoka from Semarang
  9. Dulmuri Sanyoto from Semarang
  10. Arnold Boyoh from Magelang
  11. Usman Djafar from Central Java
  12. Sugeng Pardan from Central Java
  13. Tan Hun Swie from Klaten
  14. Suwarno from Yogyakarta, shot dead on 3 Oktober 1972 by a security guard
  15. Suhardjono Kijang from Yogyakarta, shot dead on 17 Oktober 1973
  16. Alex Themo from Semarang, shot dead on 17 November 1973 by a security guard
  17. Kusnadi Hadi from Central Java
  18. Gombig

From Unit II Wana Reja:

  1. Djuhendi from West Java, survived being shot.
  2. Djuhandi from West Java
  3. Piin Sudiatna from West Java
  4. Oyok Sunaryo from West Java
  5. Suganda from West Java
  6. Machfud from West Java
  7. Inan Salyan from West Java
  8. Usman Salyan from West Java
  9. Amsyah Romly from West Java
  10. Suwarta from West Java, died from a poisonous fish sting
  11. Machruf Yoes from West Java
  12. M. Hamid from Jakarta
  13. M. Hadil from Jakarta
  14. Supardi from Jakarta
  15. Anang Suwarno from Jakarta
  16. J.J. Juwono from Jakarta
  17. Usman Naan from Jakarta
  18. Usman Aswadi from Jakarta
  19. Kusnadi S.A. from Jakarta
  20. Asman Leman from Jakarta
  21. Sugimin “Geblek” from Jakarta
  22. Jadjid Hadi Sutanto from Jakarta
  23. Rachmad Siregar from Jakarta
  24. Sutrisno from Yogyakarta, whose wife followed in 1972
  25. Suroso from Yogyakarta
  26. Djonediono from Yogyakarta
  27. Sumaryono “Bogel” from Yogyakarta
  28. M.Suhud from Yogyakarta
  29. Reo Sunardi from Yogyakarta
  30. Sumardiono Glatik from Yogyakarta
  31. Bambang Indiadi from Klaten, Jateng
  32. Bedjo alias “Bejat” from Jakarta
  33. Subita dari Brebes, Central Java
  34. AB Sunarto from Pemalang, Central Java
  35. Sarman Mamons from Banten
  36. Sutrisno B from Purwokerto
  37. Siswo Rahardjo from Malang, East Java
  38. Somad Sukoprayitno from Semarang
  39. Abdul Gani from West Java, shot dead on 17 November 1973 in front of his barracks
  40. Awang Dharmawan from West Java, shot dead on 17 November 1973 in front of his barracks
  41. Nono Sudiono from Yogyakarta, shot dead on 17 November 1973 in front of his barracks
  42. Gatot Widodo from Yogyakarta, shot dead on 16 November 1973 in the coconut plantation on the beach
  43. Gatot Sugoto from Yogyakarta
  44. Heru Sutrisno

From Unit III Wana Yasa:56

  1. Karel Supit from Jakarta
  2. Drs. Yacob Pirry from Jakarta
  3. Drs. Slamet Mulyono from Jakarta
  4. Rudy Iskandar from Jakarta
  5. Pramoedya Ananta Toer from Jakarta, originally from Blora, Central Java
  6. Prof. Dr. Suprapto SH from Jakarta
  7. Kudori from Kediri
  8. Eko Sutikno BA from Semarang, for only about 3 months
  9. Maryadi Sukardi from Malang
  10. Myself (Al Capone) from Yogyakarta
  11. Rivai Apin from Jakarta

From Unit IV Sanleko (Savana Jaya):

  1. Harry Winardi from Yogyakarta
  2. Kabul from Magelang
  3. Supriyadi from Yogyakarta, attempted to escape in 1972

From Unit V Wana Kerta:

  1. Y. Suparno from Pemalang, Central Java
  2. Paryusi from Pati, Central Java
  3. Saphiran from Rembang, Central Java
  4. Suparing from Rembang
  5. Basri from Rembang
  6. Hasan Basri from Lasem
  7. Leo Paidjan from Yogyakarta
  8. Sukadi from Yogyakarta, shot and the bullet lodged in his shoulder, but survived.

From Unit VII Wana Surya:

  1. Sukamto from Yogyakarta
  2. Kandam Sutardjo from Kebumen, Central Java

From Unit VIII Wana Kencana:

  1. Siman from Purworejo, Central Java
  2. Kemiso from Purworejo

From Unit IX Wana Mulya:

  1. Sulfi Rachman from Malang
  2. Suwono from Malang
  3. Pamuji from Malang
  4. Sarmo from Solo
  5. Sjawal Bagong from Purwokerto
  6. Mukidi from Brebes, committed suicide by drinking insecticide in Ancol Unit.

From Unit X Wana Dharma:

  1. Benny Chung alias Swie Chan from Jakarta, Writer
  2. Supratiknyo from Jakarta
  3. Petrus Paijan from Jakarta, only two months
  4. Udjang Umar from West Java
  5. M. Danafia S.H. from Surabaya

From Unit XI Wana Asri:

  1. Karnapi, a comic actor from Jombang, East Java

From Unit XII Birawa Wanajaya:

  1. Machmud Chairun from Jakarta
  2. Machmud from Jakarta
  3. Sri Dharmadjo from Jakarta
  4. J. Sukarno from Jakarta
  5. Masdur from Jakarta
  6. Zaenal Arifin from Jakarta
  7. Sasmon Pardede from Jakarta
  8. Thio Bhiechan from Jakarta
  9. Sumargono from Jakarta
  10. Salikun from West Java

From Unit XIV Bantalareja:

  1. Heru Santoso
  2. Bonar Siregar
  3. Note: These two came from Jakarta and once tried to escape Heru Santoso died of hepatitis

From Unit XV Indra Pura:

  1. Suwardiono from Jakarta

From Unit XVI Indra Karya:

  1. Abas Usman from West Java
  2. Dirdjo Panular from Jakarta

From Unit XVII Arga Bhakti:

  1. Drs. Mustadji Sangit from Surabaya, hanged himself in Special Camp barracks III because he could not bear the torture he was undergoing
  2. Supratikno from Surabaya
  3. Ibnu Haryanto from Surabaya
  4. Sukarman from Surabaya
  5. Paidjan from Surabaya
  6. Eddy Suroto from Surabaya
  7. Hartono from Surabaya
  8. Supaat Rachmad B.A from Surabaya
  9. Wiyono B.A. from Surabaya
  10. Sumardiono B.A. from Surabaya
  11. Rusdi from Pemalang
  12. Totok Andang Taruna, writer, from Surabaya

Note: Some of the inmates of the Jiko Kecil Special Camp later became (or, more precisely were made to become) ‘cockroaches’, alias informants, for those in power.

The total number of inmates in the Jiko Kecil Special Camp was around 123 people. I say ‘around’ because there were some who were just interrogated and then returned to their units. Some others stayed for only about 2 months.

Work Experience in the town of Namlea

Our first experience of working outside the Special Camp was to clean around the Wisma Anggrek or the quarters of the Commander of Location Utilization and his staff. Then we had to do road repairs on the road from Namlea wharf to the market which was about 600 meters. The material for this was stones we found on the beach which were brought by truck. After seeing how seriously we worked, the Commander began to trust us.

At one time there was a request from the Catholic presbytery, they were going to build a residence. Labour was needed, and stones for the foundations. At that time, the head of the Presbytery was Father Roovink SJ from Germany who had replaced Father De Blot from Holland. The building progressed smoothly. Our relations with Father Roovink were also good, and familiar. The residence was named ‘Wisma Kartini’. The reason for this was that there were more women than men living there.

Those who lived in ‘Wisma Kartni’ were children of the 1965 victims who had followed their parents. Others living there included children from around Namlea, namely free people who went to school in Namlea. There were about 70 of these children. As extracurricular activities at the presbytery, the children were taught various skills like sewing, weaving and so on for the girls. For the boys, other skills were taught, like trades and so forth.

We were once ordered to unload a ship with a cargo of about 600 tons. The cargo was sent from Jakarta and was made up of fertilizer, medicine, corregated iron, nails, sugar, cement, rice and other things. We had to unload the cargo to fit in with the scheduled departure of the ship. And this was despite the fact that there were only about 60 of us from Special Camp. As a result we had to work extra hard, push ourselves to the absolute limit. Luckily, it seemed that God was still protecting us. Always, in whatever difficulty, He was always with us.

Once we were ordered to clean the road from Namlea to the airport, which was about 6 kilometres long. It was the hot season at the time. As you know, the hot season in eastern Indonesia is incredibly harsh. Even so, working with gladness in our hearts, everything went smoothly.

The villages we visited included Ubung, Sawah, Jiko Morasa, Jiko Besar and the ‘Jembatan Australia’ or ‘Australia Bridge’ beach. This was a wharf secretly built by the Japanese army in 1942. At that time, the island of Buru was the last defence post for the Japanese in Eastern Indonesia. There we found many bunkers built by the Japanese in 1942. The wharf was used for the dispatch of Japanese troops to attack Australia. This is why the people nearby called it the ‘Australia Bridge’.

And that was my experience while at Jiko Kecil Camp, Namlea, Buru island.


•  On 3 November 1972, Mr Suwarno from Prambanan, Yogyakarta, was shot dead in front of the guard post by the security guard. He was buried in Namlea.
Orders given by: Second Lieutenant Mlw as Battalion Commander, and as Guard Commander, First Corporal Nlh

Execution Squad

•  First Corporal YK

•  Second Corporal Ply

•  Private Sml

•  First Corporal Tjg

Suwarno had been accused of attempting to take an officer’s gun.

•  On 16 November 1973, Gatot Widodo was shot in the coconut plantation beside the beach while looking for firewood. His four friends were shot in front of their barracks together with the head of their barracks on 17 November 1973. This incident occurred under the guard from Hsn unit, An Battalion with Battalion Commander Major JM. The Company Commander was Captain Hky and the Platoon Commander was Sergeant Major HK.

The execution squad included:

•  Battalion Commander Serma HK

•  Second Sergeant DB

•  First Sergeant Sb

•  Second Corporal AR

•  Second Corporal Shb

•  Mr Djuhendi from West Java was shot but survived. He was shot, but the bullet went through his left breast and came out the other side. The bullet then hit the left shoulder of Sukadi and lodged there. Until the time of his release and return, the bullet had not been dislodged. Actually, he had it until his death in 2001. He came from Yogyakarta.

•  The first friend to commit suicide at Special Camp was Drs. Mustadji Sangit from East Java, in March 1972. He hanged himself in his barracks towards dawn.

•  Those who died from illness included:

•  Suwarta from East Java. As mentioned earlier, he was poisoned by a poisonous fish when looking for stones on the beach.

•  Heru Santoso. He died from hepatitis at Mako Hospital, as mentioned above. He came from East Java.

•  Pak Mukidi committed suicide by drinking insecticide when spraying plants at ‘Ancol’ unit. He came from Solo, Central Java, and was buried at Unit IV Savana Jaya or Sanleko.57


While I was on Buru island, there were a few changes of personnel and official terminology for Buru itself.

  1. Commander of Location Utilization (DanTefaat)
    Period I, 1969–1971: Major Rusno
    Periode II, 1971–1973: Colonel Sjamsi
    Periode III, 1973–1975: Lieutenant Colonel A.S. Rangkuti
    Periode IV, 1975 – release in 1979: Colonel Lewerissa
    In 1969 we got a visit from General Sumitro and the Attorney General. A group from W.H.O. and journalists led by Bur Rasuanto visited in 1973. In these visits, the person acting as ‘host’ was Pangkopkamtib (Commander for the Command of the Restoration of Security and Order) General Sudomo.
  2. Guards (Satgaswal)
    The change of guards happened only once. The guards from Pattimura Regional Military Command who had been on duty from 1969 were replaced by guards from Hassanudin Regional Military Command Anoa Battalion in late December 1972.
  3. Terms for Buru Island
    As I mentioned above, at the beginning (from 1969 until 1970) the place of banishment on Buru island was called BAPRERU. In 1970, the name became ‘Buru Tefaat’. The term ‘tefaat’ was short for ‘Tempat Pemanfaatan’ or ‘Location Utilization. Towards 1972, the name was changed to ‘Buru Inrehab’ or ‘Instalasi dan Rehabilitasi (Installation and Rehabilitation’). At that time, the Inrehab Commander was Lieutenant Colonel CPM A.S. Rangkuti. He was once an actor in the film Sungai Ular (Snake River) in the 1950s.

Complications of the journey home

In 1974, we were moved from Special Camp to Ancol unit which used to be the salt-making unit with the official name unit XIV Bantala Reja. When we were at Ancol Unit, the Unit Commander was First Lieutenant CPM Sumantha from Siliwangi Division. The Platoon guard was First Lieutenant Giyanti from Hassanudin Military Command, Anoa Battalion. After we had our own ricefields, the Commander of Location Utilization at Ancol declared that we were a separate unit and had our own unit commander. The unit command of Ancol was held by Sergeant Major CPM Sumadi from Diponegoro regional military command. In mid 1976 there were mass releases from Buru. This was the first wave of releases.

A few months later, in 1977, we were moved once again, to Unit XIII Giri Pura. The Ancol unit was declared dissolved. Unit XIII was the furthest away and it was at the highest altitude, in the hills. We were moved to Unit XIII because the inmates had all been released. However, the ricefields were full of rice nearly ready to harvest. And there were still piles of husked rice in the storehouses.

So while in Unit XIII you could say that we ate and slept while awaiting our turn to be called to return to Java. Our coordinator used this time for workshops. For instance, workshops in distilling eucalyptus oil, sawing planks and many other things. And we could save the proceeds from sales for our return. Even so, we were still under guard, but it was as though the guard had no meaning any more. We could go anywhere without a permit. And apart from that, we were not guarded at all. It was enough for us just to report to the barracks head, or the head of the group would report to the unit commander and the guard commander. When the political prisoners were released or sent back home, the guard unit was returned to Pattimura Battalions 731, 732 and 733 in Ambon, Maluku.

And then, at last the day we had waited for arrived. On 11 October 1978 there was an announcement about the third batch release. I was so very happy. On that day my name was there on the list. But my friends whose names were not there were very sad. You can imagine the cries that could be heard, echoing everywhere.

Before we parted, to meet again who knew when, we butchered a calf for us to eat together. We did not forget to offer prayers, in our own way, that God would always bless us and protect us all. The Unit Coordinator at Unit XIII then gave out pocket money to those whose names were called. This money was the result of our workshops and from the sale of the rice in the storehouse at the Command Headquarters. Our coordinator also gave batik shorts and shoes to those whose names were called. On 13 October 1979, we were in Mako to check our names, addresses, our parents’ names, health check-ups and so on.

After all the checks were over, the next day we arrived in Namlea. We were then taken by landing craft to the ships Gunung Jati or PT Arafat. These were formerly German ships, bought by Indonesia. They were about 80 metres long by about 20 metres wide. Their capacity was about 3000 passengers. The ships had 7 holds, from A to G. Apart from that, on deck there was recreation space, a kind of cinema and a bar.

The Gunung Jati left Buru island on 14 October 1979 at about 17:00 Eastern Indonesia time. I was so happy to hear the ship’s shrill whistle blast, the sign that the long journey was about to start. At the same time, deep inside I felt very confused, as to how I would go back to being in the midst of free society. Would this past of mine have a place? Or would I have to remember it and feel it alone? Even though this past could become a beautiful and moving story. That was what I was thinking at the time. What is clear is that I had to be able to deal with the ‘reality’ of daily life.

It turned out that in only four days and nights our group arrived at Tanjung Perak harbour in Surabaya, East Java. We got off the ship at around 16:00 western Indonesia time. We were then taken by truck to Turi station in Surabaya, and I was utterly surprised that there were our friends who had been released before us, waiting for us. When they saw our group, they shouted and waved with happiness. But they were not allowed to approach us, because we were under strict guard. We were then ordered to get on a train that had been standing by since early afternoon. At around 19:00 the train began to move slowly out of Turi Station.

At around 23:00 we arrived at Semarang Station in Central Java. We were again taken by truck to a building of the regional government to stay the night there. Sadly I can’t remember that place.

On 20 October 1970, after breakfast, we were once again loaded onto a truck and taken to the Sports Hall (GOR) in Semarang. There were many family members waiting there, including my family. Not surprisingly, the Sports Hall looked like an ocean of people. And then the official ‘Ceremony of Release’ began.

It was then around 7 a.m. First of all we had to sing the national anthem ‘Indonesia Raya’. Then we had to utter an ‘Oath and Promise’, which was said by three victims of the 1965 tragedy who represented all of us. After that climax of the ceremony was over, we were all given a ‘Letter of Release’. The ceremony finished with us being told to sing the song ‘Padamu Negeri’ (To you, my country). After that, the ceremony was over and we could meet our respective families. The atmosphere in the Sports Hall immediately changed with the noise of sobs of sadness and joy, and profound longing that had been stored up for so long it had thickened and had even gone solid. This was the moment when it all became fluid once more. This was the moment to meet each other again. It seems that all this was just His will. Amen …

Then my family and I quickly left the Sports Hall. We sped towards our house, where mother and my relatives had waited for so long. Yes, they had waited since I was just 19 years old.

54 A form of traditional theatre extremely popular in central Java.

55 The army motor boat XV weighed 3500 tons, and was an old ex WWII craft. In August 1969 this vessel was used to take the New Order’s political prisoners of the 1965 tragedy into exile on Buru island, Maluku. See Hersi Setiawan, Kamus Gestok (Yogyakarta: Galang Press, 2003)

56 The writer sometimes writes the name as ‘Wana Yasa’ and sometimes ‘Wanayasa’. So too with the other units. Sometimes the words are separated, sometimes combined, so ‘Wana Reja’ or ‘Wanareja’.

57 At Unit X Wana Dharma there was a beheading of inmates by a local native of Buru, for their sacred custom of requesting rain. This incident took two victims from Unit X Wana Dharma. (But I do not recall the date and year. The person who did the beheading was called Giling Tama). In unit V there was another ghastly incident. But I was in Special Camp at the time, so I am loathe to write about it.

Truth Will Out: Indonesian Accounts of the 1965 Mass Violence

   by Dr. Baskara T. Wardaya SJ