Interview With Oka

Oka briefly discusses his early life and childhood in Bali, before recounting his experiences of the 1965-66 Massacres in Bali.

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Born in 1942 in Denpasar, Bali, Oka fondly recalls a joyful childhood that he spent playing in the village hamlet. The Banjar (hamlet) was a community hall and a space for social gatherings across all generations. Both children and their elders alike would spend time there to play or rest, as it was the primary form of passing time before foreign films entered Indonesia. As a young boy, Oka would also help his father with farming, performing tasks such as watering the paddy and assisting to harvest it, or clearing leaves when planting tobacco. When he got older, he also spent his school holidays working ad-hoc jobs at the Bali Beach Hotel, from 1963. During his free time away from work or school, he enjoyed swimming in the river with friends or plucking fresh mangoes to eat during the mango season.

When Oka first entered secondary school he joined the student organization IPPI, the Indonesian Association of Youth and Students, which had not yet developed its strong ties to the Communist Party (PKI). Although student movements were not yet politicized, Oka could sense that the student body was split between the IPPI and the PNI-affiliated GSNI from 1963. He witnessed the growing politicization of these parallel student groups during his time in secondary school, reflecting that perhaps he chose to join the IPPI because he felt they were a more disciplined group. However, he is unable to explain how his student group came to be connected to the PKI.

Yet, the influence of the communist party spread very rapidly across Indonesia, and the party leadership supplied reading material for the students. Oka remembers it operating like an open-ended book club, which called on students to reflect on their personal opinions of the materials being shared. Students had access to Mao’s little red book, which was convenient enough to carry around in pockets. Oka grew to become a Communist sympathizer. He also explains that the PKI grew in popularity for its strong embrace of gotong-royong, building strong community spirit through means such as helping out when the community needed massive manpower for jobs. He also explains that many teachers joined the PKI, and many became victims of the massacre in 1965. PNI-affiliated teachers were also given better job posting to cities, while PKI-affiliated teachers were sent to remote areas with poor accessibility.

When discussing his family’s experiences of the 1965 tragedy, he became emotional, questioning why he had to relive these traumatic memories. He recalls hearing of the killings in 1965 over the radio, before killings began in Bali the following year. The tabloids also published anti-communist articles. He recounts how Tameng agents came after him, yelling that he was a “snake”. The “snake” metaphor was a means to dehumanize PKI supporters as animals, granting the perpetrators the right to kill. He shares how the PNI’s militia entered their home to burn the place, attacking his 14 year old cousin. Oka and some of the older relatives were armed and on standby with water to put out the flames. He also mentions that the perpetrators attempted to use psychological violence against PKI supporters by disrobing the women of the household and violating their modesty. Later, when the Suharto administration forced the reluctant PKI remnants into Golkar, the Golkar leadership used the memory of the PNI’s use of force against their homes and families to encourage supporters to join their cause.

Oka himself was arrested and imprisoned during the Communist purge. He received advanced warning from his cousin that the authorities were looking for him, and had already detained some other relatives. However, he attempted to seek protection from his friend, who was also a Tameng leader from a royal background. While his friend offered him shelter for a night, he turned him in to the authorities. However, Oka does not view this as a betrayal. Instead, he explains that his friend had saved his life by sending him to prison, where it was less likely that he would be killed, than if he were out on the streets. 

In prison, he did hear other prisoners being taken away to be put to death. However, he evaded that fate by always behaving politely with officers. Notably, he also mentions being interrogated by a female police officer, and that he respectfully gave her information about his contacts, but only those that he knew to already be dead. He also remembers that one of his fellow inmates whom he knew personally somehow escaped in the middle of the night.

Finally, Oka also remains very aware of the broader repercussions of the anti-communist purge at the regional and global levels, beyond Bali. He shares how Balinese high school graduates who were attending university in Java fled back to their hometown to escape the persecution of Ansor. He also discusses the global dimensions of Indonesia’s Cold War by highlighting the role of American vested interests in removing Sukarno. Oka’s reflections thus integrate the personal, regional and global dimensions of Indonesia’s Cold War, providing a rich microhistory of the Cold War in Asia.

Interview with Oka

Saturday, October 3rd 2020.

16.00- 18.10

Taman 65, Denpasar, Bali Indonesia

2 hours 10 minutes,

Interviewee: Pak Oka Suparta, witness and victim – imprisoned for two years then he moved to Switzerland; born in 1942

His nephew Agung Alit and Termana were also attending the interview.

Short conversation before starting the interview; talking about different political and recent topics and about NUS project and the interview purposes.

Alit: Maybe you can explain to him you were very shocked… (about the day he saw Tameng militia yelling “snake” after him).

INTERVIEWER: The day I went to Denpasar to meet his father, my uncle. So I met him. The last day I met him, so on the way back here from Denpasar, I saw a big group of people with all their uniforms black: trousers, shirts, all were black.

INTERVIEWER: Was it Tameng?

Oka: It was Tameng (“Shields”, PNI militia). I didn’t know Tameng before.

Alit: He had a question for me. When I came back from Denpasar and I saw there were many people wearing the black shirts and then… Who organized that? That was the question to me I cannot answer. Now connected to your story, can be somebody trained because of… you know

Oka: The first time I saw that, all they were pointing the finger to me: “lipi, lipi! lipi!

Alit: Screaming that, you know.

Oka: That means “snake” (in Balinese language), you know. They all said it to me, pointing the finger. (…)

Oka: Yeah. All the group. I was so (unintelligible): “What is that? Why they told me lipi?” Lipi that means snake, you know. The first time I heard that, I saw them the first time, all with the masks, with black clothes and yelling lipi, lipi to me. I just waited with my bicycle and after that I just wondered why they got this uniform: all were farmers or employees or lumberjacks? I just wondered if they came from the army or from what? I didn’t know. Maybe they are the Army or the Government, Suharto has already organized well this, maybe. How come Suharto (was thinking Indonesia) to be ever a kingdom (and himself) to be a king by killing hundreds of thousands of people and (then) he became rich and… I don’t imagine (what was in his) mind, inside (him). How come he felt like that? We couldn’t imagine you just kill without… guilty people, any, just killing them, they are all communists and (they want to) take the power.

INTERVIEWER: No trials, no nothing…

Alit: Maybe they said lipi to you because you are a member of IPPI. It’s a kind of… Ikan Pelajar underbow (affiliated to) PKI.

INTERVIEWER: What if it refers to IPPI?

Oka: No, even if…

Alit: You were a member, right?

Oka: Yes, I was still at school at that time. But even after I knew this, (they said) lipi to any people with... for them we are communists.

Alit: Not identical (similar) when they say lipi, that means you are a part of IPPI? That’s cynical.

Oka: They didn’t know I’m (a member of) IPPI. The organization of the Students of Indonesia (Ikatan Pemuda Pelajar Indonesia - Indonesian Students’ Youth Association).

INTERVIEWER: There are so many testimonies also about kids from schools who were also executed, taken with trucks. In one of the testimonies I read in some book, it was written like: “I saw them crying and calling after their moms.” What kind of things did they know about communism? What was their involvement in what happened in Jakarta?

Oka: Most of us here in Bali we never imagined about… We were wondering what happened in Jakarta and we were very, very destroyed (emotionally affected) by killings, the atrocities…

INTERVIEWER:  It’s also something, let’s say cultural. As you said previously that perpetrators and victims live together, also even in Heryanto’s book I think I have read for Western culture it’s so difficult to understand somebody who committed atrocities and they are still smiling, they are so nice to each other. In Indonesian culture the people are very generous with each other and very polite. You wouldn’t think that person committed this atrocities. For example, he was also describing one time the author of Bali bombings. He said when he appearing on TV he was smiling. In Western mass-media it was said it’s like laughing about the people he killed but in fact it’s a cultural thing to smile to the press. The same like in some interviews we already had even when people when they are talking about this massacre and detailing about what happened, very graphic imagines and they were laughing. It’s like a cultural thing, it doesn’t mean that… 

Oka: I changed because here is a tropical country. Because the climate is different, we never know winter, snow, cold… But here you know the people are close to each other and the nature it’s not so hard (weather is friendly). You don’t need winter clothes, you just dress in a very simple way. It’s ok. We are really close to each other because of the steam of our lives. We live here in community, especially in Bali. We know everything, we know everybody, their grandfather, their grandmother. Not now. Now it’s already different (laughing). It was like that before. That’s why I think the people smile easily as a nature (being their nature) and we also have maybe a philosophy that we come here and then we must go away.

INTERVIEWER: We are temporary here.

Oka: We are temporary in our present here. That’s why the people they are known to be afraid about the death. Yeah, maybe I’m wrong…


Oka: That’s normal. We are born anyway and in one day all will finish in the same way. Maybe we are not so serious…

INTERVIEWER: I have noticed that people here accept death easier than in Europe. For example, let’s say, somebody died from my own family, so everybody is destroyed, crying, and this will continue maybe for one, two months. They can do nothing. Their psychic is down. I see here the people are understanding differently the death, like a natural process: this was meant to be.

Oka: In French (we say) “Les d'oeil longue durée”. (literally meaning: “long lasting eye”) (laughing). It takes a long time to forget the soul of the bad past. I don’t know. That’s the nature here.

Alit: It doesn’t mean we accept the thing. We are smiling…

INTERVIEWER: Of course in case of those unnatural deaths, it’s different…

Alit: Normally it will appear in that kind of tragedy or event. For example if somebody died, a young boy died, automatically people will connect to this: his son died young because his father did bad things. It will become a rumor. That’s normally what happens.

Oka: That’s kind of karma.

Alit: In the daily life like this, we smile if we want, you know. It doesn’t mean we accept. When there was a moment, we talk and they will point it. Then, because, sorry to say, they won’t be happy if someone died, one of their family (members). A lot (of situations like this) happened here. I witnessed it, even (in the case of) the perpetrators who killed my family, (the person) who was the perpetrator, his nephew killed him. And the people weren’t surprised here. It will happen because he did like that before. And of course we are concerned about it: “Oh my God. That’s the punishment coming.”

INTERVIEWER: Like that old motto in Europe: “if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword”.

Alit: The cruelty is beyond, how you call it, is very deep. You cannot, you know, you cannot… it’s difficult to say that because it’s so touching. It’s like normal people cannot do it. How can we kill people?

INTERVIEWER: Without knowing they are guilty or not of something.

Oka: Because in the street the situation was like that. You can say it (took) a violent form or (was) a hot situation if everybody maybe lost their mind or what. Me too, I had my own experience. I was in the same class, how can (a colleague) want to kill me for it? We were playing together during our childhood. When it happened this 1965 (tragedy), all changed. We were all really friends and (then suddenly) became enemies. Not “ami” (French for “friend), but enemy. (laughing)

INTERVIEWER: The issue was like every aspect of the society was highly politicized in Indonesia. Politics was in everything, so that’s why there were political organizations even since the school time. The kids were already joining this kind of… and then because Sukarno had suspended the elections during Guided Democracy, the parties started to have huge marches and each one wanted to show to Sukarno that they are the best and they support him like PNI did here, like PKI, the same. This in fact attracted so many people to politics and then …

Oka: Explosion.

INTERVIEWER: Exploding… Yes, later on. In one point, it created this big divisions between people like to be labelled as PKI, being dehumanized. In order to commit such an atrocity, the people, in their mind, they didn’t think they are killing people. As you said, maybe they are thinking they are killing a snake.

Oka: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Dehumanizing is a process of propaganda. It makes you think by brainwashing that you commit a crime and it’s already: first, it’s blessed by also religious authorities and second, by the government. So you are already protected by…  

Alit: Back to the smiling (laughing). I think on the first hand, I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I don’t know what to say because sometimes we are too much controlled by the law of karma. On the first hand it is good, on the other hand… Suharto will be happy if we talk about karma and then Suharto will run smoothly in everything. Nobody will… you know. On one hand, in Bali, that’s very strong. What do you think, Oka? That’s why…

Oka: It’s difficult, yeah? We also have a word here, it’s famous: if you plant rice, you cannot recolt (from French meaning “harvest”) pineapple. That’s the reason of what… 

INTERVIEWER:  We have it the same in Europe: “what you seed that’s what you will harvest”.

Oka: Maybe because of the effect of the Cold War. During the Cold War, we were really sympathizers, (caught) between socialist-communism and capitalism. 

INTERVIEWER: I have read recently an article about the American interests in Indonesia.

Oka: Yeah, that’s right.

INTERVIEWER: It’s already shown…some document were classified so they started to declassify them. In some of them you could see the interventions in the Indonesian politics. They tried to attract the generals in the Army to the US side. So, they proposed this kind of military aid to Indonesia and also to attract the generals and the high-rank officers from the Indonesian Army and also Police to go and get trained in United States. (…)

Oka: Most of the Army generals were formed in United States, in West Pine Academy.

INTERVIEWER: In one of the memos from British or American ambassador in Indonesia was written that Suharto is our friend. 

Oka: Yeah, it was written: “our local Army friend”. They said that. But I didn’t know up to now about the document of Gilchrist (British ambassador to Jakarta, Andrew Gilchrist). That moving of a…  like a propaganda that the generals will take over the government of Sukarno. It is said like that. That’s why the Left wing of politics in Indonesia was in hurry maybe if (it was) true that the generals will take the government and there will be, you know, a big problem for Kodam (Regional Military Command) with the left-wing politicians in Indonesia. So, that’s why maybe. Oh, maybe the CIA was already forming well-organized secret agents of United States or to make peace because they already wanted to kill Sukarno many, many times and they always missed. Also, Sukarno… My understanding about this is that Sukarno refused the investments of foreign governments in Indonesia, economically.  

INTERVIEWER: Maybe Sukarno didn’t want to sell the resources of Indonesia…

Oka: That’s why maybe there is in Romania many Indonesian students who couldn’t come back to Indonesia. Sukarno sent many students abroad to study in West and East countries to learn. The idea was that after all these students came back to Indonesia, with them we could exploit our own country. That’s maybe my understanding about politics of Sukarno.

INTERVIEWER: But the same as Suharto did with his so called “Berkeley mafia”

Alit: Oh, yes. (everybody laughing)

INTERVIEWER: Because mostly those in charge in his regime studied at Berkeley University in California, In United States. They had already the education there and they got a capitalist vision.

Oka: But anyway they said they were successful in destroying the regime of Sukarno. The proof is… Irian Jaya, where they have mountains of gold and now they are all gone to United States. There is no country to do like that. As they sold the islands, Irian Jaya to United Stated: “ok, take it!” And Suharto became the most, a very rich one in Asia.

INTERVIEWER: At that time, the most important commodity was rubber. In order even to support the war you need rubber for tires for their trucks and engine parts. The fight in Indonesia was most for that rubber like it was in Sumatra.

Oka: Sumatra, Kalimantan….

INTERVIEWER: That’s why Americans invested there and when Sukarno decided to nationalize the resources and take from the foreign investors like it was Goodyear there and others so they tried to get it back. (…) If it’s an American company, the US government company needs to protect the company. If it’s an American investment. So, they tried afterwards to support the rebellion in Sulawesi and then rebellion in Aceh and then everything backfired. The other consequence. After the John F. Kennedy was shot, the American politics was heading to war. That’s why I’m thinking that the interests in Indonesia were higher than in Vietnam. Indonesia in ’50s and ’60s controlled almost half of the world’s rubber production. So Americans were concerned that Indonesia is selling too much rubber to Soviet Union and China. (…)

Oka: Yeah.


Alit: That’s my step mother. She was a teacher before but after ’65 not anymore.

INTERVIEWER: Was it also because of that (1965 tragedy)?

Alit: Yes, absolutely yes. Also my mom was working in the Health Ministry in Bali. The youngest victim is from this house also. Others than my uncle here, two of them were killed. He didn’t know nothing about politics. 

INTERVIEWER: Just because he had a connection (with PKI)?

Alit: Yeah. I don’t know at that time… What do you think, Oka? 

Oka: Normally, it has nothing to do with the tragedy. Because here Tameng, they said that here we are all communists. So, they really wanted to burn our house, our compound. The youngest one, here at the corner, because on those days the roof was made always from grass. There were no tiles like now. The Tameng tried to burn the corner of our house nearby the road and the youngest one was over there. We were already standing by. We were all armed.

Alit: Ready to fight?

Oka: (We were) ready and we prepared many, many, many (probably buckets) of water if it’s a fire so we can help. So, when Tameng came to put fire on the roof and he was there so he saw who did that. So, he was just yelling: “I know you!” He saw also the boy and the boy saw him. That’s why, (Tameng wanted) immediately to kill this boy. So the news spread out about who came to our house.   

INTERVIEWER: How old was he at that time? 

Oka: 14 years old.  


Oka: Why you want to do this first before I’m answering your questions? What is the purpose (of your research)? Why do you want to know especially about this 1965? Why do you want to do this? You came from Romania and you are landing now in my home. Why do you want to do this because many people already came here for research or book or I don’t know whatever… Many wanted to ask many, many questions about this, about that… we want to know what for. We are already victims and you come again to bring back (in our memory) our experience, our suffering… You know the feeling I cannot explain with words. Except if you have the same experience like me. Then you will know what is that, the atrocity of… how come we are… I’m in a good heart, you know. (Then remembering): “I’ll get you! I’ll get you!” (They) came out at night and then (bringing) us to this cemetery. Even they ask to take you from home. 

Also there is an experiment here. But I never saw that because I always stayed home. When the sunset came, it was already the worry that… we were afraid that tonight it’s my turn. Always the same feeling every time, every time until we knew the killings have stopped. But I spent two years in prison. Until now, if I sleep, even though I close the door with the key, I don’t feel secured. I know already there is nothing but inside, automatically, I feel that when I want to sleep, I close the door. It’s difficult the experience that we never imagined at all, the hard atrocity that came to our life, you could imagine, you know. Like you are coming here and I take your hand and (then say): “Now you must die! You are a communist from Romania”. You could imagine the shock. 

We were happy, having a good life, peaceful life, suddenly, immediately, it came this era, this sudden flash, the same explosion in Jakarta: they killed 6 or 7 generals. We never knew that people before. We never imagined at all. After three months that came to Bali and started first on the house and then destroyed the house and take everything. They said even in the sexual organ of the women there is a communist logo: hammer and sickle. They took the woman inside the room and open her clothes, just to destroy our mental (health). I read some books about that, especially about ’65.

Alit: They even did it to my mom.

Oka: Yeah, even you know that… to destroy our mentality (psychic), our morals. Until this kind (psychic) was very low. (Imagine) the level of humanity to do that. That’s why we couldn’t eat, we couldn’t sleep, yeah… All the suffering, all the death, suffering we experienced.


Oka: Yeah. Even still (while continuing) the killings, they took me to the prison: “I’m sure that we take care (of you)”. Many people were taken to prison and brought to cemetery every night from the prison. When I came to prison, I met even with (a colleague from) the same class with me in the school: 

“-I thought that you already died.” 

“- Me too.”

“- How come?”

So we met inside of the prison’s cell. 

INTERVIEWER: So you experience that moment when you came to the prison?

Oka: Yeah, I spent two years in the prison. It’s been already… then came back and started normal. I started going out after that until suddenly, we were three from this house at the prison. Yes, I spent two years in the prison. But (I was) lucky, if they were still free, they killed people. It was very easy for them to take us to prison and come here inside my family (compound).

INTERVIEWER: What are your memories before ’65 tragedy? I mean about childhood, about how was your time in school? 

Oka: Bali was still an agricultural island, most people went to rice fields. Me too. I worked after my school, I helped my father. I went to rice field for watering the paddy, the rice. After I harvest them, I must cut the grass, after we burn it and use it as fertilizer. If you plant tobacco, I must take the bad leaves and leave the big leaves. Or I helped my father planting the coriander, so I must take the tanah (soil) and I had to pull out the grass we didn’t need. Yeah, very, very… you know... after this village, there were rice fields. We could see the Sanur Street from this side. So, in Taman Baca (area) was nothing else than rice. You can see Sanur, you can see the beach after the cemetery…

T: So, you could see the beach from here?

Oka: Not from here, but after the cemetery, there is a medical (clinic) where there are many trees. There were all rice fields and beach after cemetery that we could see.

Alit: We could see Bali Beach (hotel)?

Oka: Not yet. There wasn’t yet Bali Beach (hotel). Also I worked during holiday for…

INTERVIEWER: In Bali Beach hotel you mean?

Oka: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: So, this was around 1950’s?

Oka: Yeah. The Bali Beach hotel was bought in 1963. I worked at night for reel, for concrete and I had to go to school tomorrow morning. (I was) like drugged (laughing). (I was) sleepy. Yeah, because we needed… many people here, the young I mean, we had our father working. We were very happy. There were the seasons. There was the mango season, we just took mango as we wanted but didn’t sell it to make money. If you want to eat mango, we just ate it, any kind of tree, fruit season. We took it. We were very happy and always played near the river until our eyes were red. We didn’t finish, swimming… It was a happy life. 

We were poor, but we were always together. We didn’t have nothing to do after school, we were always together: talking, playing. In Bali, you know, every village has a community house, a banjar (hamlet). Every village has many banjar, so in banjar you can do whatever: you can sleep, you can play, whatever. So, the banjar is for old people and for young boys to play. That was the community (life). After it came the Hollywood films, when I already graduated from the secondary school to high school. That moment was influenced by Hollywood. I love Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, (…) Robert Taylor and also Indian films. We loved going to movies. That’s why for me… the father of Alit was a teacher and also he was studying until he could teach in Elementary school. And then, while teaching, he also continued to study until (he became) the first student in UNUD University in Denpasar. Alit’s father was the first student. He liked to learn English as tourists started to come to Bali. I was interested about… I was dreaming about life in United States, in Europe because of the Hollywood films.

INTERVIEWER: Seeing it in the movies?

Oka: Yes, in the movies first. (It was) beautiful. I was dreaming that one day maybe… I never knew… (laughing) I learnt from him, from his father. He read many English books. I didn’t have money to take a course for English. Of course, at school we had an English lesson weekly. I learnt English from several books of Alit father. After, there was a hippie period, in 1960’ – 1970’s, so I started already read what I wanted. I went to the beach and I was just swimming near the tourists. I tried to talk, to say anything to them. Sometimes, if we became friends, we invited them to come to my home to see our Balinese life… That’s the story until I met my wife and brought me to Switzerland. (laughing). 

Small break (A short story about Romanians going to Switzerland after Ceaușescu’s communist regime was over)

INTERVIEWER: How was the influence of politics in the school before ’65 if there was any?

Oka: Aaa, not so… because there were General elections only one time in 1955. I was still in elementary school in 1955 and we weren’t really into the politics. Our president was a very famous one, so he was from PNI. A lot of people voted for PNI. We don’t really knew about foreign countries, their politics like USA and England, Italy or… I don’t know if already existed a communist Asia to block…

INTERVIEWER: PNI and PKI? … Scholars are saying that the Cold War had started after the Second World War but others are arguing that it started even earlier, at the end of 19th century.

Oka: We weren’t that much interested about politics because we just became merdeka (independent). We got our independence in ’45 and from 1950’s to 1960’s we still live in a form of a Balinese style, not so influenced by politics. There was no difference between: “You are PNI”, “You are from another party”. We are really close to union. Still have a deep attachment to our culture, our condition. Not like now, it was much different, in form of the money, the technology. It changed a lot. I spent more than 40 years in Switzerland and when I came back I got lost because there wasn’t a runaway road (before) and many rice fields had disappeared. I got lost. I didn’t know where to go. It was very different in a short time, I mean. Relatively, it was already different in some couple of years.

INTERVIEWER: The explosion of tourism?

Oka: Yes, the tourism. I saw it massive developed.

Alit: Still connected (to the story). My dad introduced him to tourists. He introduced Western people to my uncle, Oka Suparta and then Oka Suparta continued (the “tradition” and hand it) to my brother, me and now him and then him.

Oka: It started the link, the connection with the Western countries. How is in the Western (countries), in Europe, how was the life there, the people and we see you are different: Europeans and Asian people are in a different form. In our mind, we were so curious and we wanted to know about the story, about the life, the level of economy. Always tourists (were) rich people who came (here). Of course, if you don’t have money, you cannot come here (laughing). That was the feeling for most of the people in Bali about tourists, about culture. We were more informed by the cinema, the movies (we have seen). Many movies (were projected) in Denpasar. We were so happy to see Hollywood films and (this) changed (our) minds. (laughing)

T: How about politics in school? Those group of students involved in PNI vs. those involved in IPPI. How about those tensions?


Oka: When I was in the secondary school not so (many tensions). I was also in IPPI. Before, we didn’t have yet alliance with Partai Komunis, PKI (Communist Party). (It was) still neutral for Indonesian students. After I went to high school, after secondary school, it started already different. It came the influence of politics to school: students from PNI and students from PKI. That was already the influence of politics.

INTERVIEWER: There were any events organized by these students groups in school like marches or singing of different kind of songs associated with the party they represent?

Oka: Yes. Why I liked (it is because) who is influenced by the communism, (sees that) the system is different: discipline everywhere, there are books. They told us: “Don’t waste your time! Read a book in your spare time!” After, we had a special moment to discuss about politics, about our school. We were in school, for Mathematics, for language, for story so we made a small group. I was in the Technical school and there were many Mathematic groups, technical (school) groups, so I had my group. It helped, we learnt really together about our program at school, studying together and after (the influence of) politics as I said, there is a preparation in our place, (it was) a room like that (with) many books: “Read the books, don’t lose time!” “If you stay without (reading a book), you won’t talk nothing.” That was good. That’s why I mustn’t (haven’t felt) threatened by this socialist system.

INTERVIEWER: Who promoted to read books? 

Oka: From Partai Komunis, from PKI. They had different… there were libraries everywhere, where there was a PKI office.

INTERVIEWER: So the party provided the books.

Oka: They provided. They had the books. As I remember, (there was) the book of Mao Zedong. It was a small book. We could put in our pocket. It was about the politics of our life, about anything in the society which had contact (connection) with politics, culture and tradition, all that. There is the name for the small book…

INTERVIEWER: I know its name but I don’t remember now. It’s about the teachings of Mao Zedong and how he sees communism but applied to China.

Oka: That’s why there is a reason in what they wrote inside the book.

INTERVIEWER: They killed many teachers at that time. Many teachers were killed in 1965, especially in Bali.

Oka: That’s right. Why? Because the teachers who were on the Left-side (Left wing) of the high office for organization where did they put these teachers after they finished studying? When you were not PNI, they put you out, you know in the village, near by the ocean, like that, you know. Far away, you know. If you were PNI, they put you close, near the city, (in a) nice place anyway. That was the difference. They made wrong calculations. If they put you anywhere, the socialism will spread up over there. If you get close, (they would) put you together, between you and PNI, PNI, PNI, there wouldn’t be any development. They put you away so we (would) be so integrated with the people and local people in the village where we were. So, (to) make the people (to ask themselves) why we are interested about socialist system. That’s why the Communist Party had spread very quickly. Also we could give another example: how we were… if you had a job to do for many people, we just came and help you. We took the job together.

INTERVIEWER: Like gotong royong?

Oka: Gotong royong. That’s the right word. We were gotong royong, gotong royong. That’s for social job. For spiritual (side), there was a ceremony. If you got married, you had a ceremony at the temple. They said we don’t believe in God. We came to temple to help you, to join you with what we can… and donate for you. That’s why the people… and also I dirige the corale (French for: lead the choir). Many people were singing.

INTERVIEWER: To sing like in choir?

Oka: Yeah. I dirige (he was a bandmaster) because I love music. 

Alit: He played clarinet for a communist band.

Oka: I had two instruments: clarinet and saxophone. You know, when we talk about music, (I remember) I was always running after the military fanfare, on dit en français (meaning: “brass band, we say in French”), the military group. I must enter (enroll) in that. 

INTERVIEWER: Military parade? They had this kind of military songs.

Oka: Yeah. They had trumpet, clarinet… many of them to play the music in a group. I always followed, you know, I loved (it). One day I could have a clarinet. The first day I arrived in Switzerland, I went to a music shop. Here was very expensive and very rare. There wasn’t an instrument shop here. I’m lucky. (We have not) made yet a… how you say in English, legalize it. I was the secretary, the other friend was the boss for the party, for the young organization, Pemuda Rakyat. I was everywhere with my group singing.

INTERVIEWER: For celebrations?

Oka: There was celebration for the new organization in our party. I went with my group. I sang sometimes Genjer-genjer, Nando Jargo, all the Revolution songs. We had one (member of the group) was very smart to write our songs. The words were really all progressive, there is no cynical word in (unintelligible, probably referring to songs). All (words) were to make ourselves open, to open our minds, open our spirit, “go ahead (with) Revolusi”, as Sukarno said, we are still in Revolution (time), not finished yet. That was the rush of the people around me, in our ville (French for town). They didn’t know if… I’m the first in the elimination (process).

INTERVIEWER: So, this was in the high school at that time, making songs?

Oka: I was in the high school. Yeah, I was in the Technical school, after Technical school (I went to) STM. There was no STM in Denpasar so I had to go to Java (island). I didn’t have money to go to Java so that’s why I told you I worked in Bali Beach (Hotel), I worked for this construction here. After they opened the STM, I continued going back to school and stopped working… (It was) the only way…

(Meanwhile it started the music from a nearby temple)

Alit: Intrap, intrap! (Intrerupting, interrupting) This is religious harassment. (break)

INTERVIEWER: You mentioned before about this structure of PKI organization, IPPI in the school. Did GSNI have a similar structure, organizing the same type of activities like PKI did?

Oka: I don’t understand.

INTERVIEWER: You mentioned there were some events, movements of PKI like reading the books or they provided some books. It’s the same thing like what PNI did in school through their student organization GSNI?

Oka: No, no. There was the organization, but they didn’t have lectures like we had. We had many books about culture, politics about the story of communism, socialism, the history, dialectic… 

T: Dialectical materialism.

Oka: Yes. Dialectical history. (…)

Alit: That’s very good. We didn’t have that during Suharto (rule).

Oka: We had a special day for discussion like now: “What do you feel about this?”, “what is your thinking (about this)?”, “what is your idea?” That’s good (for you) to develop and let you free to think about what you read about, what is your opinion, what is your understanding about what you are reading. That’s good. We learnt. We didn’t stop learning. 

T: What about the teachers in this group of students from IPPI and then the group of students who wanted to (join) PNI?  How did the teachers let this kind of difference? (…)

Oka: That’s cool. They are all the same. They don’t make differences. I’ve seen, ya. I don’t know where I was... They don’t make differences. We are free because (from the perspective of) politics we are free. If you want (to join) PNI or you want PKI or another party, you are free to choose your opinion about politics. Of course, as I told you before, for the teachers of primary school, sekola guru, when they finish their studies they must be a guru, teachers somewhere. So, the office of this kind of organization put these teachers where they (the organization) choose, as I told you. When they are PNI they are chosen close in the city, easy and when they are not PNI they are thrown away somewhere in a very difficult village, like that. 

T: Do you know about NDH, basically from the student organization only or teachers who have taught you about that?

Oka: About politics? 

T: Yes…

Oka: There is no special teacher. But in a meeting, because we were meeting in a special day, we met together Saturday, (we have talked about): “What is our program?” We made discussion about another cultural activity. I was bandmaster in the cultural (section) for the music, for the songs. And after we talked together about our development of our party.

INTERVIEWER: So it’s only between students?

Oka: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: So no teachers involved?

Oka: No special teacher involved. So that’s why they recommended us to read as much as we can. Because there is enough lecture, we had many books in our Central Committee. That center was in a house or you can say an office and there were many books. We don’t know from where they did come from. We never asked where these books came from.

INTERVIEWER: Not from teachers?

Oka: There is no teacher. We were free. Just look (at books) like in Taman Baca. You can look: “Interesting, ya, I’ll read it”. After we made a discussion and that was the meeting about: the feeling, the understanding, your opinion about this book, what is your thinking about this book. There was a superior, a member of the party and we can ask for something to our superior in the group. He could explain… That’s why I love this. If this system would exist now, Bali (won’t be) like today. (It would) be different. Our motto was: “Labor and agriculture are our…, we say “soko guru revolusi” (meaning: “Pillars of Revolution”), the chiefs of our revolution. Culture is our “stone” and labor is our technique, product, our instrument for the agriculture to create the utilitarian of what we need as peasants or as agriculturists. That is very essential. 

Is (there) a proof that Bali (is) depending on tourists? Not the rest, not tourist. Could you imagine (how are) people suffering now? Because we are so dependent on tourists and there are no tourists (now). If this politics wouldn't be like this. Our rice fields are very important. They are our stomach. Don't destroy it! Don't touch it for something else! That was the principle before. And this labor which worked for the technology has helped us to develop our instruments to develop our land. That was very important. It was the basic part of our revolution. That’s why, the system I really… even now when communism is forbidden for (by) the government, why you don’t use this system which is not political? You are free to use it. Just communist as a… you know as my country became a communist one. Of course, in our imagination is 1965. If you heard about communist, (you would think): “Oh, many killings, killings, killings, killings”. They don’t know about them. 

For me (…), the key is America. They wanted to invest in Indonesia and Sukarno didn’t accept the capitalists to come here. That’s why he said, I remember: “Go to hell with your aid, America!” That’s why they sent many students (abroad). The Chinese, they swim from Columbia to Macao, to Hong Kong (maybe as figure of speech). Could you imagine? Because they work hard, work hard. Of course, like when you build the house and you start with the foundation. If it’s raining, you must dig the hole to make the foundation of the house. If the roof is already installed, you feel already the breeze of the air. When you start digging like when you go the rice field, you start digging and put the grains of the rice. (…) We must be patient. That’s why we worked hard for rice fields in Bali. That’s the proof, (why) now the Chinese are strong, (having) manpower, they are strong economically, they are strong militarily.   

Anyway, Sukarno had a good idea. Yeah, as human beings, we are always… there are some mistakes, there is something wrong. We are not perfect. But most of the ideas of Sukarno... it was a good president. If you go to Algeria, there is a Sukarno street. If you go to Tunisia, there is a Sukarno street. You can find it. That’s the proof that he is accepted by the people in Tunisia, Morocco, in Algeria.

INTERVIEWER: Also because of his initiative with non-aligned countries from 1955?

Oka: Asia-Africa. That’s why I remember Allen Dulles and Foster Dulles. They are brothers. Allen Dulles was CIA (‘s former chief), Foster Dulles was minister of Foreign Office. (When he went) back to New York, he said that Sukarno is very dangerous because they created the three A: Asia, Africa, Latin America. These three, all these countries to become one, so the capitalism will be done. These are all rich countries: Africa - rich countries, Asia - rich countries and Latin America - rich countries too: Mexico, Bolivia…

Alit: Have you (ever) been to Bolivia or Latin America?

Oka: No, (I’ve never been) in America. (Only in Latin) America, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay.  


Alit: He did that when he was in Switzerland. Not for the political party.

Oka: When I worked in Switzerland, I had a friend who was born in the same year, 1942. We met there. I worked as a bus driver for the Public (transportation) in Lausanne. So we made a small group and we kicked (saved) every month and then every year we traveled. We went to France, to London, to Berlin and every 5 years we went for one month. We paid everything, we (were) just really tourists: eat, travel and hotel. Everything included for sightseeing. So we went to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay.  

INTERVIEWER: Which year were you for example in Argentina?

Oka: In 1980 something, ya…

INTERVIEWER: I was thinking maybe you visited those countries when they had these kind of anti-communist movements?

Oka: No, it was already stable. 

Alit: Have you been to Cuba?

Oka: No.

INTERVIEWER: Going back to 1965, at that time you were around…?

Oka: I was born in 1942. I had 23. Still young boy, but got lost everywhere. (laughing)

INTERVIEWER: Have you already finished your high school at that time?

Oka: I just wanted to finish because I had a break from secondary school to high school. I must (had to) go to Java but I didn’t have money. My parents couldn’t pay (my trip) to Java to continue my studies. So, during the break I worked. After the high school, it was opened for Technique (area of specialization) so I went back to school.

INTERVIEWER: Was it here in Denpasar?

Oka: Yes, in Denpasar. (I attended) the first STM in Denpasar. I was already in 1965 in the third… before final examination and then Gestapu (G30S, Gerakan September Tiga Puluh, 30th of September Movement). So, I just saved my soul. I didn’t… go out, I stayed home. They started entering the communist... (laughing). I was still young when it was the tragedy. You could imagine the situation. You know, there was something mystique. The comet Harley, I have seen it here in the night very, very, very clear, you know. With the truck, the star… We call it “bintang kukus” in Bali. If there is bintang kukus is a sign of catastrophe. Catastrophe will come: bencana akan datang (Indonesian for “Catastrophy is coming”).  (…) 

They started with bombing the house, breaking the house and after killing started. 

INTERVIEWER: Did you join also like IPPI in STM?

Oka: Yeah, IPPI. I joined IPPI. Even before I was in IPPI, when there wasn’t any politics (involved). After the high school, I joined IPPI. 

INTERVIEWER: How was the movement when you were in STM?

Oka: It was the same. We always made (helped to) grow IPPI. All IPPI (members), we were in a group (...) There was one … we had the eruption of Agung Mountain (volcano) in 1963. We were in IPPI group who had to paint the singkong, cassava. (…)  

INTERVIEWER: How was the movement compared between IPPI and GSNI in junior high school? It was peaceful?

Oka: Yeah, there was already different. They were not so close. We knew they are PNI and we are IPPI (affiliated to PKI). It was different.

INTERVIEWER: Was there any sentiments between each other, like trying to mock each other or others? I mean tensions between them.

Oka: Yeah, a little bit. We felt the difference. Even they condemned, PNI – GSNI (vs.) IPPI. I don’t know how it become the brand of PKI. I don’t understand. We all went there together. 

INTERVIEWER: What was the main reason you decided to join IPPI?

Oka: At the beginning, there wasn’t any politics (involved). I watched already IPPI for the secondary school. And then in high school it started the political (influence) for IPPI.

INTERVIEWER: Becoming politicized?

Oka: Yeah, yeah. 

INTERVIEWER: So, at the beginning there wasn’t any party…

Oka: (It was) neutral. Everybody went to IPPI. And after it become the development of the Communist Party. Very, very, very quickly, ya. Many, many members of the Communist Party. They become more and more in some years. I don’t know… as I told you, the way we were maybe in the organization (made him to choose IPPI). We were more disciplined and more solidary between us, among us. The quality of the organization was different. And also when we sang songs like that, there is no cynicism about… to say that it’s bad or something or not a good word about it. Yeah, we were always in the Revolution… We develop our Revolution: how to do, how to use technique. That’s why the very important thing is nature. Without nature, you’ll be blind. You don’t know where to go. That’s good… Even now, we have an organization here in our family. There is also… It’s out of our discussion about 1965. (laughing)  We have in our family an organization (charitable). It’s very important. 

Alit: Doesn’t work, ya?  

Oka: Yeah, we started with that. It’s not working well (at the beginning). Let’s organize (ourselves) to help the poor young boy or girl who cannot go to study but he is good at school. So, we have a fund, we keep money together and give support. It’s very important that without… There is a beautiful word to say in Balinese that without education, you go nowhere! That’s a fund for education. (…) (It’s) like a light for you. Without light you just…

INTERVIEWER: You are going blind.

Oka: Blind, in the dark, you don’t see anything. 

INTERVIEWER: How were seen the events before ‘65 tragedy happened, after the killing of generals in Jakarta? How the events were seen by the people here in Bali like for example, by yourself. How did you hear about the killing of the generals?

Oka: Yeah. In 1965, September like now, I was still at school. But I didn’t have any imagination that the effect will be really worse. I didn’t imagine that these killings… I don’t know why, they started to say that the communists (were responsible) after (they) kill the generals. Would the communists want a coup d’état? But, the paradox, you know… they said the Military. They killed military (men) and they said it was communists (who did it). But the most (majority of) communists supported Sukarno. Here, in Bali the most (highest) support for Sukarno (came from) PNI and also PKI. But PNI wanted to kill PKI because they thought when there is no more PKI, PNI will be the first one in Indonesia. They didn’t know… There was no Golkar yet (Party of Functional Groups; Indonesian: Partai Golongan Karya). That’s why they also misunderstood the command from Jakarta: “Tumpas sampai akar akarnya” - “Kill the communism until the roots (down to the roots)!” To disappear completely. That’s why PNI, they must kill the communists, the mass-killings… because after PNI will be in the top of politics in Indonesia, they said. What they said here in Bali and after Sukarno is done, PKI is finished and then it came Golkar. Golkar is clever now. They are all now recruiting (at that time). They came to the rest of the communists: “They will kill your family, they kill everything or ban PNI! They now are with us, the Army.” That’ why the rest of our friends…

INTERVIEWER: Did Golkar obligate the former PKI members to become Golkar members?

Oka: They took us: “Come with us!” “Your house was burnt by PNI”, they said. “Come now with us as the Golkar!” Of course, if your father was killed by PNI, now Golkar said: “Come with us. We are picking you now to kill the PNI”. Of course you didn’t think about this political game. That was the moment.

Alit: It didn’t come with the word “party”: Golongan karya (meaning: Functional groups). This “party” (word) was traumatic.

Oka: There was Rohan, from the chief of the family until the governor of Bali, (all) were PNI. What do you want more? They said like that. In that moment, all were from PNI. For us, we were out: “you are PKI, you cannot work for the government. You cannot go to school. You cannot go to university. You are out of this.” That’s why, all until governor were PNI only for one year. And after Golkar appeared, they were all (…) 

Alit: But another thing. They coopted former PKI supporters, but on the other hand, they still kept monitoring us. They invited our family here, taking picture in the banjar (hamlet). All our family members shooting (were taken pictures of). I don’t know, you were at that time already in Switzerland.

Oka: Yes, already in Switzerland. 

Alit: It was in 80’s, but the rest…

Oka: They took our picture as document(ation). 

Alit: Except my uncle, all we should go to banjar to take a picture. And then they kept the pictures in the village office, in kecamatan. They put all our pictures there: men and women. They used that as an evidence that we are involved, that we are a communist family. We knew that because one nephew at that time, he passed the test to study in West Java.  

INTERVIEWER: You told us last time. In Telecommunication. I remember. He went with your uncle who was working in the Law field. You said the he couldn’t get the letter.

Alit: That’s connected with the story.

Oka: That’s the other thing. It was for the media, for journalists. In Berita Yudha, all these (newspapers) were talking about how communism is bad. 

Alit: Berita Yudha belongs to Military.

Oka: Yeah, the Military. They are closed during this. All they said it was propaganda about why the communists…

Alit: All media (was controlled) by Military and the radio, too.  

Oka: Yeah, the radio, media, all that.

INTERVIEWER: After 1st of October.

Oka: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: How about the news of killings that started already in Java. Were they heard here in Bali? Were you aware the killings already started?

Oka: Yeah, yeah. The streets with killings (killings happened on the streets)… We were already afraid. That’s why all the Communist Party members went to (ask for) help, they needed protection from the police. They accepted (trusted) the Police, but when Tameng (militia) came, they just gave us to (them to be) killed, to take us somewhere to (be) killed. That was the system, ya. We couldn’t go nowhere, not even our family…

Alit: How did you know about that news? Like it was Robert’s question. Let’s say in Java already people were killed and then how did you know that?

INTERVIEWER: From word of mouth or from media?

Oka: Yeah, from media, from radio. First, they said the communists must be…

INTERVIEWER: Were they saying on radio?

Oka: Yeah. They told that communists are already bubar (meaning in Indonesian: “disbanded”).

Alit: Tumpas kelor

INTERVIEWER:    Operation Tumpas kelor?

Oka: Oh, ya. He said “Tumpas PKI sampai akar akarnya!”. (meaning “Destroy the PKI down to its roots!”). 

Alit: From the radio?

Oka: Yeah, radio, media. This is what PNI had. Here it is, it’s very happy to support the media of the army for (like) Berita Yudhda: Bali Post, Manado (…)

Alit: What you call the name before Bali Post? Suluh Marhaen?

Oka: No. Yeah, first it’s Suara Indonesia and then Suluh Marhaen and then Bali Post.

Alit: And then the PKI(’s newspaper) is Bali Bipa.

Oka: PKI’s local (newspaper was) Bali Bipa. Otherwise, Suara Rahyat (at national level).

Alit: My father was a redactor of Bali Bipa. (…)

INTERVIEWER: So these newspapers were already writing about the events that already happened in Central Java, about those killings?

Oka: Yeah, that (newspaper) is Bali Post now and Berita Yudha. That were the strong (outlets which) existed at that time.

Alit: Two media (outlets). Kompas (was) not yet.

Oka: Kompas not.  


Oka: Only two journals.

Alit: Kompas started in 1965. (…)

Oka: The famous journal is Berita Yudha and Bali Post now. Before it was Suluh Marhaen.

Alit: Bali Post was very powerful at that time in Bali. (…)

Oka: The most (known) newspaper in Bali, before Suara Indonesia, the first is Suara Indonesia and then Suluh Marhaen and then Bali Post.

Alit: It’s the same person (who owned them).

Oka: The same person. (…) They made an announcement in the journal (newspaper) that the Communist Party (and its members) already broke themselves, (it’s) finished (being banned, disbanded). There were always many announcements in the newspaper. (…)

But the irony is you know, we have the Balinese (people) who studied in Java for university. They all went back, they couldn’t study in Java. They all went back to Bali. They were mahasiswa (students) from GMNI, but with Ansor and Islam in Java (they were afraid). (…)

INTERVIEWER: Why were they coming back to Bali?

Oka: Because of Ansor which pressed them and they were afraid to stay there. There was a risk. 

Alit: Some of our family (members who were) students in Java asked to go back.

Oka: That’s why we didn’t understand. Why you are GMNI and you are in Java and you are afraid to stay in Java and you go back to Bali? Then after coming back to Bali and (they) become Tameng in Bali. 

Alit: Interesting…

INTERVIEWER: Yeah. It’s not like they are from PKI but from GMNI…

Oka: GMNI is a Sukarno’s idea and we were for Sukarno (supporting him) but they killed us. 

Alit: Our family (students), they were GMNI. (…) They were scared in Java because of Ansor. Here they became Tameng.  (…)

Oka: That’s why because we are an island not a continent. It was difficult. 

INTERVIEWER: That’s why the people also couldn’t, didn’t have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Oka: That’s why the Americans gave the very powerful, very sophisticated (devices) for connecting the radio (communications) for (all) the Army in Indonesia, to follow (connect) all islands. The others didn’t have it. 

INTERVIEWER: Where? They gave it in Bali or…?

Oka: All of them, first for the Army in Jakarta. They showed they can control all the islands in Indonesia (got) in contact with the others, all the Army (commands) in islands. 

INTERVIEWER: How was your reaction the first time you heard about the news, when you read in media that PKI is banned and it’s also dismissed by the government? How was your reaction?

Oka: In 1965?

INTERVIEWER: When you heard what happened in Java, like you first knew that. How was your reaction?

Oka: I didn’t understand. It was confusing: Who exactly killed these generals? It was really the communists who wanted to (do a) coup d’état? Or something else? We didn’t know. We are really… There weren’t many radios. We didn’t know exactly what happened. After I read all the books about G30s. I bought, bough, bought and let’s just read what was (happened) exactly! That’s why the key is M6, British security agents and CIA. These two worked hard to destroy Sukarno’s regime. How many times did they want to kill him? (…) That’s why… they hated Sukarno because Sukarno, they said like you said that the Americans (en)forced rebellions with the generals in Sumatra, Sulawesi, in Java like Permesta, PRRI. All failed. They didn’t succeed. They wanted to change, to kill Sukarno. They were still loyal like (general) Nasution to Sukarno. That’s why the politics was changed. That’s why I was just asking (myself) up to now what is about the document of Gilchrist to move the war (a letter from 1965 used to support arguments for Western involvement in overthrowing Sukarno). They said that our local Army friend will take over the government in Indonesia in 5th October 1965. That’s why the Left-wing in Indonesia (was eliminated) in short time, you could imagine. It’s really confusing. We didn’t know exactly what happened. Who is this Untung, Latief? (…) They came to Suharto in hospital because his son (was there). “Mister Suharto, tonight there is a movement to kidnap the generals.”

INTERVIEWER: Who said that?

Oka: Latief and Untung. And Suharto said: “Ya, look after what will happen!” He knew already that because (he had) already seen him. Sukarno wanted to discard… It’s mysterious up to now why Suharto didn’t do anything when Latief and Untung came and met him. That’s serious, it’s not a joke.

INTERVIEWER: Why Suharto was the only one who survived? He wasn’t a target of this military…

Oka: Because Suharto was a very close friend of Untung. When Untung married, Suharto came at his wedding. According to the book I read, Untung believed that Suharto won’t kill him. (…) And also that one, Kamaruzaman (Sjam) was a double agent (he was a key member of PKI, executed for his role in 1965 coup attempt). They said that maybe he is (part of the Movement) because he is for (supports) communists but he is from Military. It’s interesting to read a book about this. Many writers have different conceptions. But if we think really… (Sukarno wanted Indonesia to be) exploited, developed by our own people.

INTERVIEWER: That’s why he sent abroad so many students.

Oka: So many students. Up to now still many students didn’t come back to Indonesia. (…)

INTERVIEWER: There was even a small community of students in Albania. Albania was also a communist country in 1965.

Oka: Very, very progressive. (…)

INTERVIEWER: After Communist Party was banned in Indonesia, they said they are representing Indonesian Communist Party abroad, in Albania. They had their own newspaper. (…) 

I would like to ask you. Before, you were mentioning how you saw Tameng coming. Can you describe the episode how it happened, chronologically?

Oka: I came (home) after meeting Alit’s father in Denpasar because he was already so late and he didn’t come back here again. He felt already afraid.

Alit: My dad wasn’t detained (yet)? (…) He visited my dad in the Police office in Denpasar so he saw my dad sitting, laying down on the floor.

Oka: Already lying down the floor. His mind was already gone. He felt that… he got lost because our party is considered (guilty of) a failed coup d’état. 

Alit: He knew he is going to die, perhaps. So, when he came back he saw many Tameng.

Oka: I didn’t know about the Tameng the first time.

Alit: He didn’t have any knowledge about Tameng at that time. 

Oka: That’s why my assumption was: Where did they get from this uniform? All trousers and shirts were black. After they all spread all over Bali. (They had) the same uniform, maybe the Army gave them. 

INTERVIEWER: When you saw them were they walking or?

Oka: They were just gathering under the roof of Cooperative. I just relaxed with my bike, you know and when I passed in front of them, they started to yell: “lipi!, lipi!, lipi!. Lipi means snake. “Why they said to me snake?!” “Lipi! Lipi! Lipi!” (laughing). There is no, they, these people didn’t know IPPI. Not (calling me) IPPI because I’m from IPPI.

Alit: They were just yelling “snake!”

Oka: Lipi – snake”.

INTERVIEWER: It’s “lipi” a Balinese word?

Oka: Ya. “lipi” in Balinese means “snake”. Ular (in Indonesian).

T: It means a right to kill. It’s an animal. 

Oka: The snakes have the poison. They want to kill them. It’s dangerous. Maybe that’s the association with the word “IPPI”. 

INTERVIEWER: How did you react when you heard this huge crowd calling you names?

Oka: I just felt surprised: “What is this?” It (did) not exist (before). It was the first time I saw the mass that we called after Tameng, you know. I didn’t know what… I knew they are from PNI. But there wasn’t any word Tameng.  

INTERVIEWER: Did you recognize somebody, people like neighbors?

Oka: Yeah, of course: people from Kesiman, my neighbors all (were) here from Kesiman.

T: That’s why they knew you.

INTERVIEWER: That’s why they called you “lipi”.

Oka: I knew them but I don’t remember who were now. Yeah, they were all people from my village, Kesiman. 

INTERVIEWER: What did you do next after?

Oka: Yeah, the next days, (I was) always afraid, afraid, afraid.

Alit: After that they caught you, brought you to jail?

Oka: No, no. Oh, when I… That’s another (story). Because I have…

Alit: Who took you to jail?

Oka: The story is like this. After I felt free, you know, as I told you … I love clarinet. There is a family (member) of mine. Have you met pak Cakro? 

Alit: Aha. (…)

Oka: After, I was a close friend with the son of king Pemecutan. The king was now Cogorda Pemecutan (at that time)… I was a very close friend with him. I slept there in the palace. And the same, his father knew we are from the same clan, Pemecutan. So, I stood there and then in the morning, I woke up, it was after the coffee, I wanted to go home. I went home and in the center of Gaja Mada, as my cousin came from the other direction of the street, we met. (…) I came from the West and him from North.

  Cousin: “Ah, Oka. I’m looking for you.

Oka: What happened? Why?”

Cousin: Yeah, they have already taken two, one from our family and one of pak Brahman’s from Madewi. (They were) taken by the Army and (they were) put in the jail. 

Oka: Ok.”

So, I didn’t go home. I was afraid where I should go. Close to that place there was Sumadir. I knew my friend was a big, high (hierarchy) Tameng (member). So I went there because it was very close. My father was very close to the father of this Tameng. So, I went there. I said: “Sumadir, what should I do?” In my mind I knew it’s already finished. “Please!” “There is no danger”. So I went there and he said: “Ok, you sleep here!” They didn’t let me go home, here in Kesiman. The day after, in the morning, he took me to the chief of PNI, the big boss of PNI. He got a big company of… He was very rich.

Alit: He is the main actor from PNI…

Oka: And then after we met with the other people in the house of this man, he put me in prison. (…) So, it’s this big party PNI, it’s the top of the… very strong in Bali.

Alit: Very important actor. Very well known.

Oka: All the Army went there.

INTERVIEWER: So you slept in his house? 

Oka: No, in the other house of the Tameng

INTERVIEWER: But he turned you in. He gave you to the… So you got betrayed?

Oka: No, no. He (was driven) just by the close feeling because he knew he cannot do maybe nothing for me so it’s better to bring this Oka to this high-level member of the… 

T: Jail maybe, it was safe here.

INTERVIEWER: So, it’s a better option than being killed.

Oka:  (…) Sumadir was the high-level of Tameng (hierarchy) here, its Army (militia). Maybe it was better to keep me in his house so I would be safe and then I (could) come back home. After they sent me to the jail.

Alit: He sent you to jail or?

Oka: Other than (him). (…)

Alit: Ok. Oh my God! (…) Because his father had a close network with the big head of Tameng, a (close) relationship with his father. He tried to negotiate and nothing happened actually. He was picked by Military. (…)

Oka: The killings field (spree) was over in 1966. That’s why all my friends said: “Ah, I thought you already died”. (…)

Alit: So why Kaler (his cousin) came for?

Oka: Because he was looking for me around.

Alit: So, that means he knew before. He knew you are going to be in jail or somebody will catch you.

Oka: Because Alit and (unintelligible name, referring probably to another relative) was already taken to the jail. I was not at home so (he was asking himself): “Where is bli Putu?” I was sleeping in the palace of the sultan. 

Alit: Not because he knew that you, his brother, will go to jail?

Oka: Yeah, Sekaler knew of course because… Only imagine the Military which came here first to take my cousin and other family (members) in the day before I was kept in the jail. That’s why he met me in Denpasar on the way back home. He was searching for me around. (…)

Alit: He was in Denpasar at that time. One of our family (members was) at home, but he knew that one of his brothers was already taken by the Military so he went to Denpasar to find him. He wanted to tell him the news “you better not go home, maybe you better…” because (some of) our family (members) were already taken by the Police. 

INTERVIEWER: So, this happened in 1965 or 1966?

All in one voice: 1966.

Alit: It started in Java in 1965 but in Bali in 1966.

INTERVIEWER: In the middle of December (1965 in Bali).

Oka: His father was killed in December. 

Alit: According to my mom, my father (was killed) in 25th December.

INTERVIEWER: 25th of December?  

Alit: Yeah. (…)

Alit: His (Termana’s) question is: What is the reason why he took him to jail?

Oka: Yeah, because… The reason is… 

Alit: Maybe, (it’s) connected to the “lipi” thing, ya?

Oka: Yeah, because he knew that I’m a sympathizer, I’m a member of the Communist (organization) and then… they maybe they weren’t aware before. They forgot about me and my cousin (being) active in the party. It’s my destiny, I think. I was ready… The only thing I was afraid it’s the way I die. I was ready to die today or tomorrow (in the past), I don’t know. All of my friends were already killed. They were already eliminated. When the sun started to go down, that’s the moment maybe in one hour, two hours, three hours, they will come to catch me and bring me to cemetery. 

Alit: Also, (about) your story when you were in jail, every time you listen the sound of “krincing, krincing” (onomatopoeia), the key, (you were thinking): “Oh, it’s my turn now.”

Oka: When I was already inside the jail, every night, the guardian of the prison (came) with the keys, moving (them in his hands) and took someone from the room, brought out and…

Alit: Died.

Oka: And the last, (I was thinking): That’s my turn.

INTERVIEWER: So they went and didn’t come back?

Oka: They didn’t come back. There is another story. There is one Tameng (member), came to prison and wanted to take one person. His name was Marcel. I knew Marcel, my friend from here, the Tameng was looking for Marcel from here and Marcel from Sangeh (village). He was from there. A big and tall guy. He was in the same room, just close to mine, came out this man and (was) brought near the door to go out of the prison. There (was a) strict control over there and they just tied him. (…) Then, the Tameng said: “No, no, he’s not Marcel. It’s not Marcel”. Marcel was already gone. I don’t know how he did go to Java.

INTERVIEWER: He could escape. (…)

Oka: So, that was Marcel, this big, tall, Marcel(’s story). That was again (he went) back to the (jail) room… (laughing) This was a shock, (they were) afraid. 

INTERVIEWER: It’s shocking.

Oka: Because they saw they were the ones to just put the rope.

INTERVIEWER: So it was only the thumbs (tied).

Oka: Only the thumbs so you cannot move like…

INTERVIEWER: So it was only these two fingers?

Oka: Yeah, those two fingers. He explained what happened (breathing heavy): “Oh!” All were already gone. They didn’t come back. That’s the story. For me, then the last (thing I remember), before he was singing with all students in the same room, maybe singing in group at 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock. Near mid-night we were afraid to sleep and then my neighbor in the other room, they listened the sound of the key: “krincing, krincing, krincing”. (Then) silence. (laughing) This happened. “Who starts now (to sing)?” (laughing). Then he came to my cell: “Oka, terserah” (meaning “up to you / it depends on you”). I was near half sleep, you know. I just got up, took my trousers, I dressed myself, put my shoe sockets, all that. It was like I was going to school. I went out. After they put me in a special room at the Central Committee of the Communist Party. They were all from Police, all were there. So, they (said): “Sit down, Oka!” … A police woman (was meant) to interrogate me. She was cantik (beautiful) from Java. At the beginning, it was very kasar (rude), you know, the way they talked. I was just sitting calm, yeah. (They) took many papers. (…) That’s my indication. (There were) many questions. I don’t know how many.


Oka: Yeah, all were questions about what happened. 

INTERVIEWER: Obligatory, ya? 

Oka: Ya, my documents, that’s why they said this, (why) you are here. I never said no: “Yes, right?” I just… how, what to say to make her satisfied with my answers otherwise you know, the men come to kill or “char” (sounds from hitting) with the shoes, torture, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Were you also tortured?

Oka: No, no. I just, how to say, put myself (to be) very polite, you know. Very polite. I talked slowly with her, yeah: 

Woman interrogator: “Did you really had a meeting with this person? 

Oka: Yeah. 

Woman interrogator: Did this person make (organize) a meeting?

Oka: I don’t know. Who are they?” I told them. 

Woman interrogator: “Who is that person (involved/invited) for the meeting?” 

I thought (about their) names. All the people were there. I was afraid if they take (would do) a confrontation.

INTERVIEWER: So you were just honest like telling her everything?

Oka: Yeah, that’s right. “He came. This one came. This one came”. All of them were already dead. I knew that he was killed. I said these people so I was afraid if they make a confrontation after, you know. (That’s) the long story after (when you asked me) what you were doing.

Alit: It’s a good story.


Oka: I told them: “Yeah, I don’t know.” I was only answering politely. She made (a sign) she understood what I explained and then… that’s it. I don’t know what happened next… “I was still studying, wanted to continue my studies because (I couldn’t imagine) for my future life to be without any study. (It’s) really a value for my life”, I explained. (…) I dressed myself really well in the prison with my shoes shinning. Like when I went to school, I was always like that. Just came to buy the new trousers, new shirt and then I don’t know what she felt this police woman so (she said): “Yeah. I’m bringing you to the cell”.

Alit: So, they didn’t bring you to the cemetery?

Oka: They didn’t touch (me) and then his hand struck me because I said I really want to study. I explained: “I have my brother chosen in ITB (…) This teacher took (care) of me and led me to the school. He was a teacher in my school, so that’s why he was a communist. That’s why I followed him. This idea I said because he already died, you know. They killed the father of Alit. That’s why I said him (his name). (They said): “That’s right. So, ok. It’s alright. There is no…” So they brought me to my cell.

Alit: God blessed you.

Oka: God blessed me really.

INTERVIEWER: This is interesting. It was a women who was interrogating you. Was there somebody else in the cell, in the room when they interrogate you like somebody from Police or Army?

Oka: (From the) Army, yeah. Army, yeah. I stayed with them and when he came back, here was red (pointing where he was hit), maybe… They put…

Alit: Wait a minute. Now we stop because you have a family reunion waiting for you. To be continued next week.


Interviewer: Robert Moisa

Interviewee: Oka

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Transcript Notes

  1. Though the primary interviewee for this transcript was Oka, his nephew Alit (interview also available), and Alit’s nephew Termana were also present. The interviews with Alit and Oka jointly reveal the Cold War memories of three generations of the same Balinese family.

  2. Gotong Royong is a term that broadly connotes community spirit, cooperation and sharing of resources in a system of mutual support with a close community (such as a village)

  1. How do Oka’s recollections nuance traditional understandings of the Cold War?

  2. Consider what Communism meant or represented for PKI sympathizers like Oka and his peers.

  3. 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?

  4. Reflect on the implications of the fact that Oka had friends and family on both sides of the massacres.

  5. What was the role of traditional Balinese values in shaping the region’s Cold War?

  6. Discuss how the control of media and information 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?

  7. Assess, through the lenses of education and student movements, to what extent Indonesia’s Cold War was domestically constructed, or was an extension of the Cold War in the West.

  8. Discuss the issue of psychological trauma and its use by the actors in Indonesia’s Cold War conflict.