Interview With Mr M

Mr M recalls life growing up under the New Order Regime, as well as his father’s participation in the killing of suspected communists during the 1965 Massacres.

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The son of an ardent PNI supporter, Mr M begins by recalling how all intellectual space was under the tight control of the state led by Suharto growing up. His generation was taught that Communist Party (PKI) were dangerous and that followers of Communist ideology had to be avoided. As a student, he remembers being made to watch the state’s propaganda film about the events of 1965 every year on the anniversary date of September 30, and teachers would reinforce the official state narrative that the six generals were martyrs in the name of Pancasila. 

He also explains how the state created a binary lens for the people to view the era through, such that peoples and communities were either “red” and pro-Communist, or “black” and pro-PNI. Pancasila, he finds, was used as a tool to assess one’s allegiance to the state and to entrench the stigma against communists in Indonesia. One test of such allegiance was the requirement for all students applying to higher education and jobseekers hoping to become civil servants to obtain a Letter of Environmental Cleanliness certifying that they were not sympathetic to Communism. Mr M was quizzed on the official state narrative about the communist movement and the military’s role in suppressing it, and had to regurgitate the propagandistic narrative in order to obtain the letter.

While Mr M has no direct memories of the killings in 1965, he shares some stories passed down from his father. During the massacres, people only had two choices: to kill suspected communists or be killed themselves. He highlights one occasion when PNI and Communist supporters fought each other over a Wayang Kulit performance held in a “red” village, when a PNI supporter threw a stone at the screen. Mr M’s father was trained in the PNI’s militia group, Tameng, by then-PNI chief Widastra, and was personally involved in some of the killings of suspected communists during the purges in 1965-66. The perpetrators were largely following orders from authorities above, and would even pray before and after committing the murders. Before killing, they would collect holy water from a Hindu priest as absolution for their wrongdoings, and would do so again after the deed; asking that the soul of the victim seek its revenge upon the superiors who ordered the killing instead of the killers themselves. Mr M also notes that many of his father’s victims may not have even been real communist activists. However, the Hindu community strongly believed in the law of Karma, and Mr M’s father later considered the death of his son to illness as a form of retribution for his past actions.

Describing his father’s generation’s strong allegiance to the PNI as a form of fanaticism, Mr M recalls that much of the public’s enduring support for the party was out of admiration for the personality of Sukarno. His father was unhappy about being forced to join the multi-party amalgamation, Golkar, by the New Order regime, instead of the PDI, which the former PNI was absorbed into. This was a state directive and all civil servants and soldiers had to enroll so as to prove their anti-communist position. Mr M’s father was assigned to work as a teacher because of a shortage in educators after the killings, as many of the suspected communists who were killed were teachers. While he chose not to pursue his military ambitions due to family commitments, he rose to become a well-respected teacher, expanding his work from teaching mathematics to all subjects, and eventually becoming Headmaster. However, he never had to address the massacres in his classroom.

In closing, Mr M cautions that because the military maintains a strong presence in contemporary Indonesian politics, there are multiple avenues for the state and military apparatuses to reproduce and pass down their prejudiced narrative of the 1965 Massacres to Indonesian youth today, especially if they pursue a military career. However, he hopes that the younger generation will reconsider their nation’s history more critically and probe the authenticity of the sources presented to them in developing their own understanding of the events of 1965.

Interview M

Thursday, September 3rd 2020.

12.00- 13.10, WITA

Denpasar, Bali Indonesia

2 hours 10 minutes

Interviewee: M (he wants to keep his identity anonymous so I’ll just name him M); his father was a perpetrator during 1965-1966 tragic events; he experienced growing up during New Order regime

INTERVIEWER: First we can start about how was, how did you spend your childhood?

M: I spent my childhood in my hometown, it’s like a traditional one. I was living in the transition era. I was born during New Order era and I grew up with New Order’s story. And then when I was in the high-school the New Order fell down. It was like a freedom for me to find somebody’s stories that were forbidden during the New Order.

INTERVIEWER: I see. How was it when you started to grow older? What did your parents or what did you find out from your community about these events from 1965 against communists?

M: Since I lived in the… how we call it, “the glory time of the New Order”, that’s Golkar era, so almost everything, the party, the politics were under control of Golkar (The Party of Functional Groups; Indonesian: Partai Golongan Karya). So, we had to follow the instructions from Golkar. We had to follow the instructions from the president and use Pancasila (Indonesian state philosophy founded by former president Sukarno) as reasoning. We had to follow this. If we didn’t follow this, so people could accuse us as communists.

INTERVIEWER: So, they used Pancasila as a tool against, to continue the purge against communists, the stigma against communists…

M: One interesting thing, when I passed (graduated) the high-school, I needed to find (to get) something like a letter (so called “environmentally clean letter”), how we called it, to continue…. Like this person is “free from everything”. And I had to tell the story about the Communist Party: they did the rebellion against our country and the Army defeated them. I had to tell to the one, the officer like the history that they made up. I had to tell them: “Who defeated communists?” “Army.” “Under who?” “Under Suharto.” I had to tell them this, so: “Ok, you are free of communism. I give you a letter”. So I could continue to do the next step.

INTERVIEWER:   Did you need a letter even to go to school, like from your local administration?

M: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Also for the older people to get a public job, to become a public servant?

M: Yes, that’s a… yes.

INTERVIEWER: You mentioned before that somebody from your family was involved in those events. Can you tell us something about that?

M: It’s like I told you… the situation at that time was like “we didn’t know who will be killed”. It was only red and black. Red were the communists and black was (representing) the PNI. Since one of my family (members) was a PNI participant, like a supporter and then he had to do something with that, including killing one accused as being a communist. 

INTERVIEWER: As being a member of PNI he had orders from somebody else to conduct the killing?

M: Yes, to conduct the killing. Before doing the killing, usually the Balinese (were) accompanied by priest. The priest gave the Holy Water and then did the killing. After the killing, (they) come back to take the Holy water and then speaking to the dead body, to the spirit of the dead body: “it is not my fault doing this but if you want to do something like a revenge, please find out that person! That person is the one that gave the command to kill.” In this case (is) that one responsible. In my opinion, I think this one who supposed to be responsible for the killing is the head of the Military or this Holy priest. This is still… I need to ask the details about this. 

INTERVIEWER: Can you give us more details about the rituals that your father had to do in order to go and then commit the crimes? How was it specifically? Did the local and religious leader give them the blessing before or how was the process?

M: I need to ask details about this. From the story (he told me), I think before doing the killing and after doing the killing, the Hindu (priest) used the offerings like that and give the Holy water as the purification. After you do the bad things, like this killing, (you got) purified by the Holy Water.  

INTERVIEWER:  Did the Hindu priest come with the perpetrators at the place where the crimes were committed? 

M: Yes. (…)

INTERVIEWER: You said that after they gave the blessing, (and invoking) the laws of Karma to the soul of death body to not come and take revenge, they did again the blessing. This ritual is very interesting. What other things did your father mention about the mass-killings? You said about one time when it was involved also some friend from the same party?

M: (It’s about) the way how to kill someone. He used one iron stick and hit the head of the victims meanwhile his friends did the horrible things like using blades and then stabbed (the victims) in the heart. That’s a very horrible thing. That is not good, you know….

INTERVIEWER: Did you find out these stories from your father?

M: He told me many times about this and he also told me about the high tense of that time like a competition between these two parties, between these two colors, black and red. It was like: “If you don’t do this, you will get this… Kill or be killed”. It was very high tense situation at that time. 

INTERVIEWER: You mentioned before there were some clashes between PNI and PKI’s supporters, when they had the “land reform” and that traditional puppet show?

M: Yeah. It was like the communist one, (was) the red one. You know, in some places (it was) like: Ok, this place is black, PNI (sympathizers area), this place is red (communist area). When you visited one place with black or red (color) usually they will give (have) the performance, the shadow puppet, Wayang kulit. One place that he visited, a red area at that time, you know the propaganda…. and one of the characters in the shadow puppets said: “Hey, let us take the red flags!” And whenever they said red, it meant the communists. It was propaganda… A riot started from the supporters of PNI who threw one stone to the screen and then the riot began. They fought with each other, the supporters (did).

INTERVIEWER: What do you mean by saying that this place was red? Does it mean a house which was owned by a PKI sympathizer? 

M: For example, banjar (hamlet) or the area (around it): we had red banjar and black banjar. Most of the people there were communism sympathizers. One area was red, one area was black. So, whenever the people from these areas met, it was like “we have to fight” or something like that. (There was) hatred, a strong hatred between them.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us about the laws of Karma in Hindu religion?

M: I lost my youngest brother in 2014. He was a doctor and he passed away because of an infection and also because he was too weak and tired after doing a 12 hours long operation. At that time, I just remembered my father’s story about killing someone, the communist sympathizer. And then it was like a relation, like “you kill someone and you will be killed” or “someone you love will be killed”. The feeling of loss, like the sadness came back to the person who did that thing, the killing.

INTERVIEWER: Your father recalled those moments?

M: My brother-in-law was a witness of this because I was in the hospital with my brother and I called him. Then my father was with my brother-in-law at that time. It’s like a memory flashback.

INTERVIEWER: Did he expressed something, did he feel any remorse about those things that happened?

M: He just uncontrolled… like before you know, he said: “Oh, I killed that one. I think it happened to me because I lost my son now.” This was his misery, the sad thing. 

INTERVIEWER: Because of the things that happened in the past?

M: Yes. 

INTERVIEWER: What age was your father when it happened G30S?

M: My father was born in 1940. So you can count it, in 1965 he was 25 or 26 years old. He is almost 80 now.

Small break. 

INTERVIEWER: You started to tell me about Bali system (laws of karma).

M: The Bali system is up to now… the most of Balinese they still believe in the tradition and customs, the rituals as well. So, that’s why, whenever something comes from priest: “Do this without thinking, do something!”. We don’t know if that’s something bad or not, like the killing. When the priest said: “Ok, you may or you are permitted to do this” and give you the Holy Water with the offerings and suddenly you do that. At that time, there was no literacy, no internet like now and then people believed Military, people believed this one and people believed the Holy priests as well. 

INTERVIEWER: In case of your father, what was the reason behind killing? What motivated him?

M: The motivation was … because he was a sympathizers of PNI, that’s the point. It’s like PNI is communism’s enemy. Communism is the enemy of PNI. It’s like to the bones (deep hatred), you know. (…) This is like: we hate each other, hatred. I think that’s the motivation. One thing comes from that Holy priest (a motivation to commit the killing), because of believing in the priest (when he said): “Ok, you may kill, you may… you get the blessings to kill and after that you are purified by this one! And you do this!” “Please…!” the dead body, if the spirit wants to take a revenge or something, you just tell to the dead body: “please find this person!” That’s why… He did that.

INTERVIEWER: Did the order come from the Army or from the religious leader to do the killings?

M: From both of them. Everyone I think at that time only just did it. So, one that came said: “ok, this one is worth to be killed”.

INTERVIEWER: What happened afterwards, after he committed these killings? Did he feel any remorse? Do you know anything about that?

M: Not exactly. After that, when I knew the story from my dad, it’s like not (with) a happy-ending. Killing one accused of being a communist make people happy? In fact no. After that, in my family there was trouble. Trouble means my dad married and married again and then (there was) conflict in the family. And up to now the conflict (is that) we fight for the land. The land belongs to my grandfather but now I think with my dad and his brothers…

INTERVIEWER: Because of the land?

M: The problems came one after another. That’s not a happy life.

INTERVIEWER: Do you know what kind of information did your father maybe have about that person to be killed? Were they PKI sympathizers or were they just members of some organization related to PKI?

M: I think my dad only got order: “This one is accused to be communist, so (he is) worth to be killed. About the background, I think he didn’t know exactly.

INTERVIEWER: So he didn’t know exactly if the person is really guilty of something or not, just followed the orders.

M: It’s just like (being) accused (as being PKI sympathizer). Come (to) the accused people and kill (them)!

INTERVIEWER: Did he get any benefit after committing this?

M: During the mass-killings, you know, so many people died, right. So many, including the teachers, right. That’s why so many teachers were killed and then he was appointed as teacher, as we call substitute teacher.

INTERVIEWER: Were the teachers the main target of this communist purge? Was it against teachers mostly?

M: Yes, mostly. (…)

INTERVIEWER: In some cases, those who were part of PNI, the elite party from Bali, they got different kind of benefits. They sometimes confiscated the land or the houses or the belongings of those who were killed. Do you know something related to this?

M: About the benefits… I remember one story of my dad. He was well trained in the area of Bedugul, (training) for the PNI sympathizers/members and (he was under) direct command from Widastra. I just suddenly remembered this story.


M: He was the head of PNI, the father of the senator Arya Wedakarna.

INTERVIEWER: Here in Bali?

M: In Bali. Widastra, under his command, you know, he trained all the PNI members in Bedugul. They had to get up in the morning and then jump in the lake at 4 AM in the morning, 4 to 5 AM. So, (they followed) command and then prepare for the battle. “If we are attacked by communist we have to be ready anytime.”

INTERVIEWER: In fact like PNI giving training for its militia, Tameng?

M: Yes, like that.

INTERVIEWER: Did they receive some weapons?

M: I don’t think so. Because, previously, before my dad joined this PNI, my dad was like… He wanted to join the Military to be sent to Papua at that time. I think in 1962-1963, the Dwikora (probably referring to Trikora, Indonesian military operation, 1961-1962), ya?


M: (To) free West Papua. Then he passed the test and he got some military equipment but not weapons. But the funny thing is (something related to) my grandfather. He didn’t agree with that and he hide that military equipment and burnt it. So, my dad couldn’t join the military. After that my dad joined with the party, with sympathizers.

INTERVIEWER: With militias too?

M: Yes. From… That’s it…

INTERVIEWER: Did he have another job except this being a member of PNI at that time?

M: I think after that he spent his time in Denpasar, in Griya. Griya means the house for the Brahmana, of the Holy priest. He lived in Griya and helped with cleaning.

INTERVIEWER: After or before?

M: After my grandfather destroyed the military equipment, so my father couldn’t join the Army to (go to) West Papua. That’s why my dad moved to Denpasar and then lived around Griya Tegal. So… in his (time there he made) friendships, he made a lot of friends. I think, from my point of view, this is what we call it, (the moment when) he wanted to join the party. I think, at that time, Tegal was a “black area”, under PNI.

INTERVIEWER: He moved before the killing and what happened afterwards, after the killings? What career did he follow?

M: My dad became a teacher, because there were many teachers eliminated. That’s why the government put him to become a teacher. Then he was one of the “legendary” teachers in the village.  His highest (point of his) career was (when he became) a headmaster. And then he got pension after he retired. (…) The funny thing is that my father was in PNI but in General elections in 1971, after the massacre, Suharto created three participants, political parties: PPP, Golkar and PDI (Democratic Party of Indonesia). PNI merged into PDI. (…) Since my dad was appointed as an official governmental (servant) because he was a teacher, he had to choose Golkar. He told me the story how sad he was at that time to choose Golkar because he was previously the militant of PNI. But the system made him, you know… “I cannot do anything except to choose Golkar”, (he said).

INTERVIEWER: What were the instructions from the government? Did he have to sign to become a member of Golkar because he was a teacher?

M: At that time all of the military members, all of the official civil servants they had to choose Golkar. If not, they will be kicked out or accused to be communists.

INTERVIEWER: After he became teacher and then headmaster, all his career afterwards it was related to education until he retired? Why he didn’t want to pursue his military ambition?

M: (Because of) family reasons: “If I continue to the Military, I have children, wives so I have to work, I have to feed my family. It’s a very simple reason.

Small break.

INTERVIEWER: Do you know if your father had followed other rituals like political, religious rituals before ’65 tragedy?

M: As far as I know, he only joined PNI party. I don’t know about religious organizations. But as far as I know, I think it’s because of his friendship in Denpasar area with this strong influence from PNINTERVIEWER:  “Everyone loves Sukarno and Sukarno is the PNI”. The common thing was like that.

INTERVIEWER: Because Sukarno’s mother was from Bali.

M: Yes, from Bali.

INTERVIEWER: Was your father at that time, when the tragedy happened, was he joining some political rallies? Do you have any information about that?

M: No, no. I think he just… before the massacre he just became, I can call it, a fanatic one (supporter) of the PNI. PNI is being like that, like no other parties. 

INTERVIEWER: Did the members of PNI didn’t want to accept the existence of the other parties or in which way was he a fanatic?

M: Fanatic like… It’s like, how we call it… You know the first… I think because of the Sukarno figure. So, “PNI is Sukarno”, so that’s why… “If there are another (parties) that’s ok, but we are still PNI. PNI is the best.”

INTERVIEWER: When did your father mention first time about the tragedy in your case? When did he tell you first time?

M: I think when I was in high-school, when I was 17, 18 or 19 (years old), after I finished high-school.

INTERVIEWER: In which context did he mention it? Do you remember when it was first time?

M: We always had a chit-chat starting from education system and my father always told me about his difficulties during youth, his adventures, how he worked and then, just (started to share the) story about the communist massacre (which) he mentioned inside (his story). 

INTERVIEWER: There were many times when you talked about…

M: Many times, up to now I think more than five times he mentioned about the massacre.

INTERVIEWER: When he mentioned it, did he feel any remorse or was he proud about the things he did at that time.

M: I think the first time he said (about it), he was proud or something. After my brother passed away, it was like not proud anymore. It was like a compensation because you don’t kill someone or something like that. As his age got older, older and older and (when he) lost one of his beloved sons and then (there were accumulated) many tragedies, problems, difficulties. I think that kind of killing is not something (which) made him proud (anymore).

INTERVIEWER: Did he have afterwards some dreams that he told you about what happened like events haunting him?

M: I don’t think so. He didn’t mention about strange dreams or something haunting him. He didn’t mention this one. It’s only the process of the killing only.

INTERVIEWER: Did he know personally that person he killed?

M: Of course not. I don’t think so. He just accepted the order: “ok, this one is communist”. And then just bum, finish.

INTERVIEWER: After the killing, was he maybe more respected or the community was more afraid of him afterwards?

M: I think because people said the situation was like this: “the communists or those accused of being communists deserve to die.” That was a normal thing. As a youngster at that time and now, that’s not good, that’s not what those people deserved. Especially if we don’t know whether that one is a real communist or not. Because (there were) so many miscommunications and misinterpretations of the data of the one (referring to those) being accused of being communists. 

INTERVIEWER: Maybe he wasn’t even sure that person is a PKI sympathizer or just got the order.

M: We don’t know exactly who were those people, who is this one (talking from his father perspective). Because my dad never mentioned about the one and I think he just didn’t know who was that one. He just got the order and then ya…

INTERVIEWER: Afterwards did he blame the Military or religious leader for that?

M: For his sin.

INTERVIEWER: Both of them?

M: I think both of them.

INTERVIEWER: How was after he started to teach? How was your father doing in his career as a teacher? Was he teaching in the school about the Army’s version of the events or did he mention…

M: My dad, he basically taught Math and then all subjects. I think he didn’t mention about the killing and the massacre of the communists. I think he just became a good teacher and then became a headmaster.

INTERVIEWER: When you were in the junior high-school or primary schools did you also have to attend or see the Army’s movie about G30S. Do you remember when you saw it first time?

M: Yes.  It was like a horror movie, you know. It’s like… Ok, the PKI person is very horrible one and depicted in the movie as the dangerous thing that can come anytime to you and hunt you and all the bad things. And we watch it. That’s propaganda. Can you imagine when… from kindergarten….  

INTERVIEWER: In kindergarten? You had to see the movie in kindergarten?

M: From kindergarten, yes. I was in kindergarten in 1985 and then I didn’t watch that movie (completely). I think when I was in the second or third grade, in 1988 or 1989 (I watched it again) on National Television (channel). Every year, always on 30th September, (we were thinking): “ok, it’s like compulsory for us to watch it.” (I watch it) previously in the cinema theater in 1985-1988. (…) That was the first movie about PKI and then there is an additional movie about the propaganda movie from the government. I was at that time about 9-10 years old and I watch it in the cinema theater. I got the ticket for free. (…) 

INTERVIEWER: The second version?

M: Yes, the second version. The first version I watched it in the National Television (channel) when I was 7 or 8 years old. It’s a very long movie. I just watched the first and in the middle I slept. I have never finished (watching) this movie up to now.

INTERVIEWER: Four hours and 30 minutes.

M: Can you imagine when you grow up with this movie and finish when you are in the third grade of high-school. Can you imagine? From the kindergarten, then elementary, junior high-school and then high-school.

INTERVIEWER:    Every year? It was compulsory for everybody to watch it?

M: Every year. Because it was played in the National Television. I just watched it. And then we had to put the flag in the half (meaning half-staff, half raised). Our Indonesian flag. 


M: In front of our house. We have a full flag, right? And then we just raised up the flag only half. It’s like condolences for the victims, for those 6 generals and then (but) forgetting about the victims of the massacre…

INTERVIEWER: Remembrance for the generals (only)? 

M: For generals, not for the massacre’s victims. 

Small break.

INTERVIEWER: This was the ritual made on 30th of September.

M: National ceremony.

INTERVIEWER: How was this ritual / ceremony compared with the ceremony that you maybe had (attended) during the Independence Day, August 17th?

M: This can… When we celebrate our Independence Day we are joyful, happy, independent, (grateful that we are) free from Dutch colony (system), free from Western colony but for this 30th September it’s like, how we call it, like a… For me it’s like a horror thing, you know… 

“Who is behind the horror tragedy? It’s the Communist party”. The New Order version was that the Communist Party wanted to change our ideology Pancasila to a communist ideology. That’s why in the New Order’s version, these 6 generals, like (they) sacrificed themselves for Pancasila. That thing is propaganda. 30th September is like the tragedy to defend Indonesia. It’s like Indonesia against Indonesia. But in 17th of August, Indonesians (celebrate) against colonization, (the Dutch being removed) outside of Indonesia. That’s the difference.

INTERVIEWER: Were there maybe any songs or any other ceremonies/ritual related to G30S, except that one with the flag half-staff you mentioned before? How were the people celebrating G30S?

M: I think the ceremony was like (marked with) silence and then by praying for the dead people, but not for the dead bodies of those killed in the massacre, those who were accused as being communists. Only for the dead bodies of the six generals. Because from the New Order version, once again, they sacrificed themselves to defend the Indonesian ideology, Pancasila.

INTERVIEWER: Were there any rituals in schools when it was 30th September except watching this movie?

M: In the school, as I remember, there was no ceremony. We had a National ceremony (for Independence Day), but for this 30th September (event), there was no ceremony as I remember. Only the flag half (-staff).

INTERVIEWER: How were the teachers introducing the movie you were watching every 30th September?

M: The teachers always told us that Communist Party is harmful for us: “Be careful, they are dangerous! They are still alive, sometimes they will get back and change the Pancasila!” It’s (they were described) like terrorists, you know but… that’s like the propaganda. So, we were afraid of communists: “The communist is bad, is dangerous”. That was the propaganda.

INTERVIEWER: Have you witness during your primary or junior high school or later on any discrimination against somebody who was a son or daughter of a PKI (sympathizer)?

M: We didn’t know at that time who was PKI (sympathizers’ son or daughter) or not. Because, it’s like a burden, a past memory, it cannot be retold to the youngsters like that. Because in my village, there was a rumor: one person as a PKI (being a sympathizer). Just a rumor. I didn’t see in my village any discrimination or something. The one being accused as PKI because it was like “cleaned” (before), you know. Previously, maybe, I don’t know, all of the people who were involved to communist (activities), all were dead because of the massacre, like a swipe, (being) wiped out.

INTERVIEWER: The Army’s orders to annihilate PKI “down to its roots” were referring to family connections too because there were many cases when these killings involved not only members of PKI but also his daughter/wife, because they were related in some manner? I would like to ask you: these families of somebody connected to PKI were they labelled somehow after having in their identity card written TAPOL, being like a former political prisoner? I was thinking that maybe during your school time you met somebody who was… (TAPOL)   

 M: I haven’t met. In fact after I finished studying I found about that news. I read a lot of literature and everything. So, I never met someone from a family that his father maybe, his grand-father was accused of being communist. I haven’t met. Then, all changed when I met the person from here, from this place. So, I know the real condition about it. And I also get a link (guidance to) so which (book) should I read. So, I read a lot after that.

INTERVIEWER: This propaganda was until New Order. Afterwards, after 1998, it was kept the same version of the events. 

M: I think Suharto quit in May and supposed to be (elected) again in September, but not anymore.

INTERVIEWER: (He was) not candidating anymore?

M: No. So, we can still watch the movie, we can download it or watch it on Youtube or some… video streaming. We can still watch this one.

INTERVIEWER: Why do you think the authorities don’t want to recognize the mass-killings?

M: I think there is something wrong here. So, that’s why… I need to read a lot and also to compare… so many rumors about this event, about 30th September (Movement) or 1st October 1965. It is like a… Up to now, we are still… I have big questions about this event. Did the Communist Party really want to do the rebellion (to rebel against) to Sukarno or is that a Military coup? Or like is the common thing said that (there was) an outside intervention, outside of Indonesia which wanted to “coup” (overthrow) Sukarno. I need to read a lot about this one.

INTERVIEWER: How do you cope, how do you think about your father past actions now?

M: About becoming perpetrator? Yeah, at that time, there were only two choices, I think: “you kill or be killed”.

INTERVIEWER: So, you think your father was in the same position?

M: It’s like the same situation but I don’t know… Killing someone is not… especially, (because) we don’t know (who was) that one, right? That’s not correct. That’s why always (there are) two sides (of the story): “Ok, that’s not a good thing, but on the other side, ok, this is the good thing. The good thing is that I need to survive.” I think the perpetrators and also the victims are both victims, you know, of the greed actions like the Military… That’s something hidden about our Military in that era, in 1965. Youngsters will find out (from) so many sources on the internet and then compare (each) one and compare that one with this one and then finally we will find so many versions of this story. It’s up to us which one we believe in. Ok, based on the events, based on the facts, based on everything.

INTERVIEWER: It’s interesting. Yes. Do you think that maybe in the near future there will be a reconciliation or any kind of remembrance of the mass-killings’ victims being recognized by the government?

M: So, the government or whoever will be the next leader of this country, he has to or she has to do the reconciliation like forgiving each other and then… refilling the truth, why not.

INTERVIEWER: Which do you think are the biggest obstacles in this reconciliation process?

M: The biggest barrier is the Military, of course. 

INTERVIEWER: By saying that, you mean Military still has a big influence in Indonesian politics?

M: Yes. The people, the youngsters in this case will find the information. And also the youngsters will enter the Military (enroll and then it will be) like (a process of) regeneration. I hope the young Military members will understand this. Before they join the military they have to read from a lot of sources, so whenever they get an order like this one, like that one, they will think: “is this true or is this not true?” Something like that.

INTERVIEWER: For now, I think that’s it. 

Interviewer: Robert Moisa

Interviewee: Mr M

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Transcript Notes


  1. Consider the role of social relations and networks in the Cold War Era in Indonesia. What does this reveal about the nature of Indonesian society and the conflicts it was facing?

  2. Discuss the role of education, and how the control of thought was used as a tool in Indonesia’s Cold War strategy. How does it highlight or diminish the agency of the Indonesians in navigating their Cold War?

  3. Consider the issue of responsibility for the killings and the problem of victimhood in the massacres. Can the perpetrators be considered victims in their own right?

  4. Discuss the role of the public memory of the Massacre in Indonesia today, its significance and its limitations in light of M’s recollections.

  5. How did religion shape the Balinese community’s response to Communism in Indonesia, before and after the massacres?