ELIZABETH SOELISTIO WRITES – It has been 52 years, yet the ghost of the 1965 anti-communist massacre continues to haunt Indonesia. Today, communism remains one of Indonesia’s most sensitive topics. Not only is there little effort from the government to confront its darkest part of history, but also, recent fake news cases have propagated the spread of another rise in communism across the nation.
As one of the fastest growing internet users, Indonesians have been experiencing an increase in cases of fake news. The well-known online syndicate, Saracen, had allegedly spread fake news and hate speech propaganda for profit, charging 75 million rupiah (USD $5,700) per project.
Despite Indonesian National Police (KAPOLRI) arresting members of the Saracen syndicate, the spread of fake news has successfully sparked fear of communism once again in Indonesia.
Tensions continue to rise as the Indonesian government persistently shows sympathy for those killed during the massacre, rather than condemning communism and its supporters.
A 2017 seminar organized by Jakarta Legal Aid Institute on “Disclosing the True History of 1965-66” featured an elderly survivor of the massacre under the Suharto military dictatorship. The seminar hoped to reconcile and remind Indonesians of the 1965-66 massacre, where the Suharto’s military cracked down on the communist party and killed 500,000 to a million suspected communists, leftists and ethnic Chinese.
“People said we are PKI – that’s the hoax. They said PKI was holding an event. It’s not true. We wanted to hold an academic discussion about what happened in 1965,” said Muhammad Isnur from the Legal Aid Institute.
Those most passionate about anti-communism include the military, political parties, and Islamic religious groups, who had participated in the violence under Suharto during the massacres. Because of that, it is easy for these groups to divert the attention from the reconciliation to the rise of communism that had been dead for half a century.
On September 29th, thousands of Islamists came out to the street of Jakarta to protest the “revival” of communism and President Joko Widodo’s failure to address it. Islamist groups have been gaining ground, becoming more vocal in their resentment.
In 2016, a government supported symposium on the 1965-66 victims was held. However, the event was quickly disrupted when one of the planned speakers, the Research Foundation on the Victims of the 1965/66 killings (YPKP 65), was forced to relocate after harassment from Islamic hard-liners and anti-Communist groups in Indonesia.
Though symposiums and organizations have urged the Indonesian government to release an official statement and account of the massacre, the people of Indonesia must be ready to face the reality of the tragedy. However, judging from current anti-communist protests, Indonesians are far from ready for the calm discussion.