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Truth Will Out: Indonesian Accounts of the 1965 Mass Violence

Never-ending suffering

The fourth of six children, Rahardjo (a pseudonym) is our next informant. He was born in the village of Gatak, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He spent his childhood as a village boy minding the family’s buffalo, although he managed to get some education up to high school [a high school that trained primary teachers].

In November 1965, Rahardjo was arrested and imprisoned, accused of being a member of Pemuda Rakyat (People’s Youth), a youth group affiliated with the Communist Party. He was finally exiled to Buru island in Maluku. Like other political prisoners, he suffered greatly there, including having to do forced labour. In 1979 he was released.

I was born into the Kartorejo family in Gatak, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, as the fourth of six children. When I was small I helped my parents who worked as farm labourers. I helped my parents from when I was just a kid until I was 20, minding the buffalo.

In 1952, I started primary school. In 1958 I went on to junior high school. In 1962 I began the high school for teachers, in the ‘C’ section.

In 1965 I got a summons from the office of the village head (kelurahan). It said I was to get a certificate from a military unit on 19 November 1965. It turned out that when I got there I was told to get on to a truck under army guard. I ended up being thrown into prison as a prisoner of the G30S war [sic]. I was put into prison, but I had no idea why.

In prison we had to line up to eat, and were served by criminals with food that was not fit for human consumption. In order to stay alive, I had to give up and eat it. At night, I was called for interrogation, and ordered to admit that I was a member of Pemuda Rakyat. If not, I would be tortured in an inhumane way.

Late one night I was summoned. I was asked to gather in a place that had been prepared. Then I was sent off to Nusa Kambangan on a train with locked windows.

This was in February 1966. When I got to Nusa Kambangan we were served our rations of corn by really cruel criminals. The way they treated my friends was truly vicious. There in Nusa Kambangan my friends and I had to do forced labour on corn food rations that were absolutely miniscule. Many friends at Nusa Kambangan died of hunger. Many were also tortured by other criminal inmates.

Figure 6. Because of some unproven accusation, detainees were often beaten.
Sketch by Gumelar Demokrasno

In mid 1966 I was moved again, to Ambarawa prison in Central Java. The food ration was still the same old prison ration. Luckily, my family was able to visit and brought extra food. From them I got extra food and some clothes.

In 1969 I was sent to Nusa Kambangan again, and then on to Buru island in Maluku. On Buru there were no criminal prisoners, but we were under army guard. There we were put to work to clear the jungle so we could plant dry rice, vegetables, cassava and other staples. We were also ordered to make dams, irrigated rice fields, roads and houses. And in the midst of all this, our rations remained miniscule.

In 1979 I was released and could return to society. When I was released my parents were not there to get me. They had already both died. I was deeply shaken with longing for them. At the time, only my siblings were there together with other family and neighbours. After I was released, I was given my identity card which had ‘ET’ stamped on it, for ‘Ex-Tapol’ or ‘former political prisoner’.

In 1982 I married and formed a new family. We were blessed with two children. Step by step I nurtured the family. I managed to make a very simple house. In 2006 our house was destroyed in the earthquake. So then we were given a house built through the P2KP program (Program for the Alleviation of Urban Poverty), the same kind of thing, basically just good enough for shelter. I am living there while earning what I can, because I am old now. Sometimes, someone in the family gets sick. When this happens I am often very confused because I don’t know how to get them checked or how to get medicine.

I used to be eligible for government assistance programs – ‘Raskin’, or rice for the poor, and the ‘Jamkesmas’ and ‘Jamkesos’ health assistance programs, but all of these were suddenly withdrawn by the local cadres.

I wondered, did they do this because I am an ex-political prisoner? Or what? I just don’t know. I just had to accept it. But as a result, if someone in my family is sick, I have to accept it. Medicine is just so expensive, and we don’t even have enough for our daily food needs.

So that is my story about facing life day after day. The suffering I have experienced from when I was born until today has been never-ending. I hope that God will bless those people or humanitarian organizations kind enough to help me.

I am writing just a small part of my story here. Because if I wrote everything, I would not finish for a very long time.

Truth Will Out: Indonesian Accounts of the 1965 Mass Violence

   by Dr. Baskara T. Wardaya SJ