Interview With Pak Talam

Pak Talam discusses his early life as a farmer, how he was drawn into the mass arrests of suspected Communists through his workplace despite not being involved with the Communist Party, and his experiences in prison.

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Pak Talam recalls his early life in a farming family in South Blitar, and the difficulties his community faced in ensuring that they were sufficiently nourished. He pursued his education until sixth grade with disruptions, and then qualified for teachers’ training, but did not commence the program due to poverty. Instead, by the 1960s he found  employment as a teacher, and later joined the head of the Forest Management Unit Resort as a supervisor. There he also joined the Indonesian Forestry Workers’ Association (Sarbukji), which was organized by his office. It worked to better the lives of farmers and forestry laborers, which he found was successful. However, it had underground links to the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), which he was unaware of. In 1968, he was detained as a suspected communist and was moved around multiple detention facilities, in which time he converted to Christianity. Later he was sent to the Buru Island prison for 7 years. He performed manual labor for the military on the island, and was given skills training in various disciplines. Eventually, he rose to become a physician assistant for the prison doctor. Throughout his incarceration, he kept up a strategy of being “Brave, Friendly & Polite” towards the authorities, which helped him gain concessions from prison officers and grow to become an informal “leader” amongst the inmates. He was ultimately released in the first cohort, and hopes that his testimony will remain as proof of the wrongful imprisonment of innocent civilians unrelated to the PKI.

Born in South Blitar to a poor farming family in 1938, Pak Sukarji recalls how having enough to eat was a daily struggle. Agricultural output was low because of poor soil quality in the area. His family worked as agricultural laborers for wealthier landowning farmers, and were not paid monetary wages; merely being given a meal. However, that in itself was highly beneficial to the impoverished community, and even in his student days, Pak Talam would assist his parents in their job to earn something to eat. The employers would also give long serving laborers their unwanted animals, such as goats or calves that were ill and weak, after some years of service. Despite their poverty, the community was warm and supportive of their neighbors. He pursued his education until sixth grade with disruptions, as his village school only offered classes up to 4th grade, with no teacher available for the third grade. It was only in 1954 that he was able to access 5th and 6th grade classes in the neighboring village, offered by a youth volunteer camp. After completing sixth grade, he took the entrance exam for Sekolah Guru B (SGB), to become an elementary/middle school teacher. However, despite qualifying, he was not able to pursue teacher training due to financial pressure.

Instead, he found work and was hired at a school as a cleaner, but assigned as a teacher, which he only did for 2 months. He then joined the office of Head of the Forest Management Unit Resort as a supervisor. There he faced the problem of low output, as the poor farmers would pluck the teak seedlings the government planted and sell the leaves to make ends meet. During his time in forest management, he joined the Sarbukji, which worked to better the lives of forestry workers, organized by his office. After the 1965 Massacres, he continued operations as per normal, unaware that Sarbukji was secretly connected to the PKI. As a result, he was arrested in 1968 during Operation Trisula as a suspected communist, though he had no engagement with the PKI. Though he had a wife and 7-month-old son by then, he fled to the forests to evade detection, eventually being caught at Trenggalek. 

He was then moved to the Perintis Boarding House for 4 months, where the lady attendants took pity on the inmates and tried to feed them regularly. He lived day by day  with the risk of being sent to “Sukabumi” - the execution site. It was during this time that he converted from being a non-practicing Muslim to Catholicism, after attending a religious talk by missionaries who also provided donated supplies and toiletries. He also reconnected with a classmate working as a police officer, who arranged two family visits for him. Pak Talam was then relocated to the Buru Island Prison, where he was held for 7 years. Soldiers mistreated and abused prisoners in dehumanizing ways. Yet, while insisting on his innocence, he upheld a strategy of being “Brave, Friendly & Polite” in his dealings with the authorities, which allowed him to gain some concessions such as getting more space. Eventually, he gained the trust of some prison officials and grew to become an unofficial “leader” amongst the prisoners. The soldiers ordered Pak Talam to organize a team of 50 prisoners who were given better nourishment and then deployed as manual labor on the island. However, he does recall one occasion in which some inmates plotted and killed a particularly cruel officer, leading them all to be detained in their cells with no access to food for a week. 

During his time in incarceration, inmates were also given access to skills training classes and religious lectures, as the state believed that the inmates should become productive citizens after their release. Pak Talam signed up for all classes in a variety of disciplines, except English and music. He grew close to the prison doctor who performed his cataract surgery, and eventually rose to become a physician assistant, cleaning the clinic and performing basic procedures such as administering injections. The doctor later helped him get an earlier release from prison on medical grounds, and he left with the first cohort of released detainees. On the journey home, he again assumed the role of a leader amongst the prisoners on the ship, and he alone enjoyed freedom of movement and the ability to mingle with the soldiers on the return trip. 

Decades after his release, Pak Talam notes how the younger generation still misunderstands former detainees as villainous PKI members, ignorant of the complexities his recollections highlight. He hopes for his testimony to remain as proof that many non-PKI members were falsely incarcerated, and encourages the youth of today to critically reassess the history they have been taught.

Saturday, June 20th 2020.

10.45- 13.00

Ngrejo Village, Bakung- Blitar, East Java, Indonesia

1 hour 58 minutes, 

Interviewee: Pak Markus Talam (ex-Buru Island Prisoner)

C: Mawan, the leader of The Post Institute Indonesia

(Started at 0.36)

Pak Talam : First, I’d like to ask you, what’s the purpose of this interview? Is it just for knowledge? Or…?

Interviewer : Yes, it’s for a study (case) from people who experienced it (the ‘65 tragedy).

Pak talam : Oh, ya yaya… I hope I could (tell you about it well) because I’m 82 years old now. I’ll tell you what I remember just the way it was, but for events that I forget, I’m sorry I cannot tell you (about it), because… ya, I don’t remember… hahaha (laugh).

Interviewer : Haha yes, sure. (…)

Pak Talam : (Continue the story) yes, Dik... I was born here and originally from here. So, my ancestors were from here too. Years before the tragedy, Ngrejo village was not like this... (I mean) the situation. The houses were rarely found. People built the houses on their farming field. There’s no...  (public) road, no... just footpaths to certain place (only the footpaths connect houses and farming fields). It could be hundreds of... kilo... eh, meters. Hundreds of meters, around 300 to 500 meters (the foothpaths). So, if I wanted to undang- undang  (Javanese culture- coming to houses personally to invite) neighbors to have Genduren (Javanese occasionally feast) in my house, it would take long time. (Because) my neighbors lived far away one to another. People at that time were truly berdikari (relied to no one, especially government). Why? Because people were poor and that triggered them to work harder, even sometimes over to their limits. (That was what they can do) to fulfil their daily needs. What you would eat, what you would wear came out from your own sweat. Moreover, people mostly were farmers here, poor farmers to be exact. What it means by poor farmers... they had farming field but just a little. 

C : And the soil was not good (for farming).

Pak Talam : Yes, because the soil contains calcium... it’s limestone mountains (in this area). There were rich people here, but they were grouped as rich people not because having cars or big houses. They were considered rich if they could eat daily, it doesn’t matter if it’s only corns or tiwul (dried cassava, rice was considered as luxurious main course), as long as they could eat enough from planting season to harvest season, yeah... they were rich enough. And at least, they had 1 or 2 cows. But there was also farmers who were richer, like, they had large farming fields, they hired poor farmers, their house were built from woods with genting (roof tyle), had wooden wall, had furniture (wooden tables and chairs) like this (pointing out the chairs next to him). They had cows at least 5. (But) there were also farmers who owned 200 and 150 cows. They were called Tuan Sapi (a man who owned many cows). Therefore, the poor farmers needed the rich farmer, because if the poor farmers didn’t have anything more to eat, they would work for the rich farmers. Even though the salary was only a mere meal. Tuan sapi could manage their 200 cows well, because they asked the poor farmers to take care and feed the cows. But we didn’t get anything from them. 

C : Oh really?

Pak Talam : We used the cows to plough the soil, and their fesses were used as fertilizers. That’s it. Hahaha (laughing)

Interviewer : Well, so for that, you were paid only merely with meals?

Pak Talam : Yes... if I could, (at that time) I had a son. My son was able to take care of a cow. So (he would) work there (to the rich farmer), after 3 years they would give one calf, the ugliest one…. (the calves were) so skinny and had health problem. If we worked there only a year, they would give one goat to take care of. If (we were working) 3 years, they would give a small calf to take care of. So, after “Tragedy of Madiun” in…

Interviewer : ’48?

Pak Talam : Yes, ’48. After the event of Pemuda Sosialis (Socialist Youth). 

C : Aidit? 

Pak Talam : No, not Aidit... Muso! Yes…

C : Ah Yes, Muso!

Pak Talam : (That was) the first rebellion after PKI was born. It was because of the internal political contradiction in our country after Independence Day. The government was Cons (to PKI), so that event happened. 

Interviewer : So, your parents were also farmers at that time and you experienced working for rich farmers, right?

Pak Talam : Oh...  Yes! With my Mother, (we did) matun (removing grass between the farming plants) on the rich farmer’s farming field. When we finished, they would give us karak tiwul (leftover of cassava flour which was sun dried) to eat home. That’s my daily activity, even though I was a student of elementary school, I did that daily. Why? Because we didn’t have food at home, so it’s better to go there (rich farmer’s farming field) because, even though a little, they would give me something to eat. Hahaha. kids will be kids. 

Interviewer : Did you go to SR (Sekolah Rakyat- Elementary School)?

Pak Talam : Yes.

Interviewer : What about your siblings? Did they also do what you did?

Pak Talam : Yes, of course. Then, I finished the 6th grade of SR. But, here, (at that time) there wasn’t any teacher who could teach the 3rd grade... the students were a lot but no teacher teaching us. Thus, I stopped there, not continuing to the 4th grade, what could I do when it’s the only school around here? But then, there’s a volunteer youth to teach… for 4 months. Then, there was the 5th grade class opened in Lorejo village (neighboring village), there were 4 teachers and there were many students too. So, I continued my 5th and 6th grade there. That was in 1954… After that, because my parents were poor, I took a test at SGB (Sekolah Guru B- School for teaching profession). I passed the test, even though the mark was only 21. 

Interviewer : Is it here (at Ngrejo village)?

Pak Talam : No, it’s still there in Lorejo village. 

C : The SGB school, is it in Lorejo? 

Pak Talam : No, the test was in Lorejo. If I passed the test and was able (to pay the tuition), I’d go there… to the city (Blitar city). But because my parents were poor, my mother had sold eight goats for the preparation including the test, but it wasn’t enough. I got some help from my teacher, Pak Suradi, he was the committee for the student recruitment. We have sold 8 (goats), my cage was empty, all my goats were gone… but what I got just the SGB uniform, a pair of shoes. Yet, let’s say, had I pursued my dream to go to SGB, I would have been stressed because we didn’t have anything (to pay for the tuition), so... I gave up. Then I kept my uniforms. I still had a brother so maybe he got better situation and would continue his study unlike me. I didn’t wear it at all. Then, what I did was helping my mother. My farming field was almost two hectares. Now, it includes this house (pointing out the next house, this school (the elementary school in the main road- his house is in the small road). My brother and I worked together to ranch the farming fields. Using bajak (rice plow), that’s when I was still small, I couldn’t lift up that on my back,,, my mother helped lifting it up. 

Interviewer : Which were the farming plants here at that time?

Pak Talam : Rice, corn, cassava. Only that. So, in one swath, there were 3 plants, first 3 meters (row) was rice, then corns and between the corns, we planted cassava. So, in three months, we harvested the corn... after a while then (we harvested) the rice, then the last was cassava. Only that. Unlike now, it is so modern that we can plant anything. In the past we just planted plants to survive. Then in 1960… when I have grown up. 

C : How old were you then approximately?

Pak Talam : At that time, I was around 24-25 years old. I remember, at that time I was asked to write a letter to apply for a job. First, Pak Suradi, my teacher, he told me to visit him in the afternoon. He asked me to teach students. In the letter, he asked me to apply for cleaning service position, but in reality, I was told to teach. That lasted for 2 months because I wasn’t patient enough to teach. Then, I applied a job in Forestry Department. I applied there and I got accepted immediately. They asked me if I truly wanted to work and I answered yes. Since I finished my SR, my handwriting was considered good. They didn’t assign me to work in the forest but in the office (of Forestry department)… at the office KRPH (Kepala Resort Pemangku Hutan / head of Forest management Unit Resort)... (I’ve been there) for almost 2 years. However, I was young and I wanted to improve myself, I got bored there and I got an offer to change the job place… with different task, of course. (Then I) moved. There (my new working place was) in Sumberingin, Sanan Kulon (Blitar city)... I took the position. 

C : At the same institution (KRPH)?

Pak Talam : Yes. In the KRPH (but different place). Since I was young, I had become a commander (leader) in the boy scout. There (in the new working place), I was chosen to become the training leader for baris-berbaris (marching) hahaha... slowly but surely, I gained the trust (of his leader) there. So, I had worked there until ’65. Here, (in Bakung) I was considered one of the pity poor farmers, in fact, not only me (and my family) who were poor. I found many poor farmers there, in Sumberingin, too. Their condition was even worse there than here. They didn’t have even their own house; they shared the house with other families. They were daily farm workers like I was. Ah… (they were struggling) For the meals too. They should find the food today to eat the following day. Then, I was working in the Forestry department... a governmental institution. There were many empty land / soil / kavling that was under Forestry department supervision. The soil was good but there were no plants. Why? In that environment lived those poor people. When forestry department staff planted the teak woods there, it couldn’t grow because people came to take the leaves when the teak woods were still so young. They sold the leaves to the city. When the teak woods got bigger and had the branches, they cut the wood and sold them. They couldn’t help that because of their bad situation. It’s to fulfil their main need; food. They were not embarrassed for doing that. I faced that as Forestry staff. 

     Coincidentally, at that time I hadn’t become KRPH (staff). My position at that time was… mandor (supervisor). However, I got the staff monthly salary. The central of Sumberingin Forestry department was under the management of (KRPH in) Rejotangan, Tulungagung. In Rejotangan, in August ’64, in Rejotangan there was Sarbukji (Sarekat Buruh Perhutanan Seluruh Indonesia / Indonesia Forestry Workers Association) organization. Not PKI (under bow). The members were the head of KRPH, yes wakil sinder (vice ranger), as well as all forestry senior staff. I didn’t understand… (But according to its name) Syarekat Buruh (Workers’ association), I was a worker too and it was organized by the office. The leader was the head of my office too. I didn’t understand that, they told me after tragedy ’65, it was connected to PKI party. But I swear to God, I didn’t know about the connection. Here, in this South of Blitar area, the religious group addressed this place as PKI basecamp. (They said that) people here were communists. In fact, it’s not. Here is the base for poor farmers. There was no (PKI), at least, I didn’t find any (movement in my neighborhood). Well, I saw a banner with symbol of Palu-arit (hammer and sickle- PKI party symbol) close to the traditional market in Surowadang, yes I saw it. But in this area (Ngrejo village), I didn’t find any (PKI symbols). Maybe it’s merely me who didn’t understand and notice because since I was so young, I just helped my parents farming. The political issue at that time wasn’t a hot topic to talk like nowadays. My focus was just ‘how to eat regularly’…

   In fact, the vision and mission of Sarbukji was very good for the social life of poor farmers at that time. In fact, Sarbukji had the right to manage the lands (in that area). (We managed) the empty land, which one to develop, which one to plant on. After we finished the observations and got the concrete result, then, we made a proposal to KDH (Komunitas Desa Hutan/Forrest-Village Community) to Blitar Regent. At that time, I was the leader of Sumberingin office. Then, again, they chose me as the group leader of Rejotangan Sarbukji. I was so happy that our proposal was agreed (to be allowed to plant on those lands). I was happy not just for myself but also for the poor farmers there. I felt like we shared the same faith (as poor farmer). I got good response (from poor farmers). In one week, we opened 15 hectares. Totally opened (for poor farmers). Then, Sinder/ Mantri (orderlies) came there to have a control but they said or did nothing. The Mantri was from Lodoyo. They said everything’s good, then they signed the papers, I was the practical person in charge. What Mantri did was just signing the papers. I did enjoy my activities in Sarbukji, in three months we harvested the corns. I was greeted greatly (because of opening the land). There were hundreds of people greeted me. Then, those 15 hectares of land, all were planted. At that time, the vice regent was Ir. Rahadi. He was a Sarbukji member. Because of that, I didn’t expect that I would be dragged to this. It was the government’s Forestry institution. After the tragedy of G30s (PKI), I ran the days as usual, like nothing happened because yes… I had no clue (that Sarbukji was connected to PKI). There was a headmaster murdered, there (pointing out). The killer was Ansor... Banser (Barisan Ansor Serba Guna/ Nahdlatul Ulama’s Multipurpose Ansor Front). But they got some help from Kesanget Brendo.

C : What form of support did they get?

Pak Talam : Extra people as ‘army’ to kill people.

C : are they ordinary people or…?

Pak Talam : Yes! Ordinary people who were ordered to kill a headmaster. There were 3 people who were killed in the house. His mother, his nephew and him… what is the area of that... village?

C : Bendo Village?

Pak Talam : Ah! Yes Bendo! There, I knew the people (the killer). I saw the group of people came to the house. My parent-in-law’s house was close to the Ansor’s office. I myself knew the people there (in Ansor’s office). When I bought a bicycle, I had a small talk with him there. Then, out of the blue, I was fired disrespectfully. At that time my son was just 7 months old. It’s time to Mitoni (Javanese party for 7 months old baby).

Interviewer : What year was that?

Pak Talam : ’65. 

C : It’s before the tragedy in South of Blitar. Because the tragedy here happened in ‘66-‘67. In ’65 was still the Jakarta (central PKI friction in Jakarta).

Pak Talam : But it started to happen here too. It had already happened here, Dik… How do you call it… hmm... comotan (out of sudden)... they ‘bombed’ here (sudden killing act)… (so it spread rumor, for example )  people here… was killed by people from there…

Interviewer : Was it true? Or just rumors?

Pak Talam : True! The killing truly happened. Knowing being fired, I came back here to Ngrejo Village, along with my wife and my only 7-months-old son. Here, I got nothing… (no job). When we arrived, I was thinking how to feed my family. So, I came to my friends one by one begging for food to survive. But lucky me, I was surrounded by good relatives and friends. There were some of them giving me chicken (alive), giving me one baby duck to take care. My relatives were good. The togetherness here was still strong. So, I survived till ’68… 3 years. I was farming again to fulfil my family needs. It was before Trisula operation. At that time the operation was Tumpas kelor… 

C : Tumpas kelor was an operation to kill the whole family of certain people. For example, the parents, the children... if they had grandchildren, so they would be killed, too. Operasi Tumpas Kelor was the name here at that time.

Pak Talam : (talking about the meaning) Kelor (Moringa) plant is a wet plant (had watery stem). So, when you clean them from the ground, you won’t need big tools/ vehicles (higher authority) to remove them. You just need a big knife (lower authority/ brutal act)… jleng...jleng... to remove them clearly from the soil. Who weren’s scared being threatened like that? Moreover, at that time I was still young and strong. I ran away because of that operation. There was a moment when a mere farmer uhm... he was innocent but he was killed. I was so frightened because of that… I kept running and hiding whenever I heard they started the operation... when it’s done I went back home to eat and to see if my wife and son were okay... and when I heard again that operation started again... spontaneously I ran away again…

Interviewer : Where were you running to?

Pak Talam : To the forest… to the bush... anywhere as long as they couldn’t catch me… yeah to the edge of the river… to forest… There was one time I spent the night at the graveyard’s hole. So, the body was decomposed and the soil collapsed… I hid there among the skeleton... hahaha... I experienced that in Bakung area. With that kind of situation… well, why did they say it’s the PKI base? Because, in fact, we admitted that since the central government was far away... it’s not sure if you asked 10 people if they knew who the Pak Camat (district leader) was. Even if you asked 30 people at that time, I doubted you’d find the answer from one of them. They wouldn’t know. Geographically, this area was perfect to hide (for those) people from Jakarta or from anywhere, I didn’t know. In fact, here were found those people who were chased down by government. They found them here. Like, the leader of PKI… emmh… PNI... who was that? Surahman… Ir. Surahman… then there was also a leader of Pandeglang KODIM (Komando Distrik Militer/ District Military Command)…  after they caught them, they announced out those people. We didn’t know who they were, we knew about them after they caught them. I am sure those people who ran away to south of Blitar were guided by someone to come here. It’s impossible they knew this place out of nobody. I believe the guide wasn’t a local person here, even though he/she was, maybe, he or she had moved to there (big city) and knew about the geographical situation here. 

   So, the victims here were... TRULY WRONGLY EXECUTED. It’s not right if people got shot randomly like that. Our country is law-based. If they were guilty, just took them (to the court)… (to see) which one was wrong... if it’s a big crime for killing people, they should go to the court first… not like that. The one who took the control were those having guns. I previously mentioned about BANSER and ANSOR, in fact, they were also victims…that Banser and NU… they were victims too, because behind them it was ABRI (Indonesian Military Army). In fact, the killers in Sumberingin, obviously, (wore) Army suits… slashing brutally and both police and Army saw that but did nothing. Hahaha... well, they thought they helped the government, but not like that, there should be the law process interfered. Not acting like vigilante… killing people like that. 

    Until now, I can say that I have been being blessed by God that I can still be alive till now. I worked not for betraying (my) country or so whatever, in fact, I just wanted to work for (my) country. After Mawan’s group (The Post Institute- reconciliation group) tried to approach me, then, I started to open my mind... So before they came, I was trapped in the dark then they brought the light to me. They knew who was the wrong and right. They approached us, the victims… we (the victims) truly were victimized till now. Hahaha. The land I owned, I told you, for 2 hectares… it was gone... then there were built houses... those people didn’t buy the land... for school too, for the mosque… In fact, I wasn’t PKI, if I were PKI, I would have accepted if they took it away from me. It’s owned by my parents in fact, but, well, it’s ok, if we would complain, we didn’t know to whom we complained it to. So, since I was caught in ’68, expelled to Buru island and  till now… there’s no statement that the government was mistaken for arresting me. No, nothing... the group (the Post Institute) have been fighting to shout for us, for voiceless people like us… 

C : In fact, nationally, the tragedy ’65 situation was understood, but the social culture cannot accept it easily. For example, the image of uhm... “PKI children are the worst”... that label has possessed the mass culture here and to recover it, it’s very challenging. Again, for BPJS (governmental health facilities), in the past many people deserved these facilities, but they weren’t listed for this access. Then I came to their houses (to clarify). Actually, the government don’t treat them different (by not giving the access) but, in practice, the people in charge to give this access, in their mind they try to avoid (giving access to) them (PKI members and sympathizers). Yes... like that. The culture is still like that. 

Pak Talam : So, in fact, you are the one who helps, you are not related to PKI.

C : I can say that I’m the part of Vigilante side (Nadhlatul Ulama side). 

Pak Talam : Yes, right... we got affected till now. There was also a guy, mas Deni, risked his job because of that. In fact, he took part for revealing the truth. 

C : In fact, it was affecting the earlier generation. However, my generation (third generation) to the recent generation has already opened their mind about it. But the generation before me, it’s so hard to convince. Maybe, the central government has affirmed that, but in the regional level it was twisted. 

Interviewer : Then, how about the story you were caught in? 

Pak Talam : It was in ‘68. I was caught in Trenggalek. They were doing Trisula operation here led by Lieutenant Colonel Witarmin from Pangdam of East Java. They implemented Pagar Betis Operation (rigorous screening). People were… how do you say it... this area was locked down! Yes… even the crazy man, he didn’t know nothing and he was killed by the army in that operation. I was pushed to the South of Bakung because of this operation, until I arrived on the beach. We were shot at by the riffle gun from the airplane. Then, after an hour... the airplane was gone... then they attacked from the land... they shot at us again from the forest. Thank God, I could manage myself hiding... rolling my body like a snake... camouflaging among the rocks. Then at night, I continued walking at night... To be short, I walked down to the West through the forest close to the coast line, from Tulungagung to Popoh until I arrived in Watu Limo area in Trenggalek. There was no more forest there, from the beach to village, we can find people crossing by easily. Since I was starving and I had money, I went to the edge of village and buy coconut sugar. Then I was caught there. I was ambushed by around 150 people, they caught me and my friend, Pairin. He had died couple years ago. 

Interviewer : So, you left your wife and son here? 

Pak Talam : Yes, I left them here, I had no idea if they were alive or killed. I was arrested for one year. They moved me to one place to another. Maybe they wondered how come I ended up in Trenggalek while the rebellion happened there (in Bakung). But that was the real situation, I couldn’t admit things more or less than that because it’s the fact and I was being honest. Even if they tortured me till I’d die, I still couldn’t answer their questions. I didn’t know nothing. 

Interviewer : But in fact, were you asked things related to PKI? 

Pak talam : Yes! They asked about my activity in Bakung,.. I didn’t know anything, then they tortured me so bad… from 10 AM to 2.00 PM. 

Interviewer : How did they torture you?

Pak Talam : They hit me, they kicked me, they electrocuted me to admit that I did (PKI) activities since I came from Bakung. But what could I say as I knew nothing? Yes, I knew what happened in Bakung, but it’s from what I heard from people. I knew there were some figures caught during Trisula operation, like Ir. Surahman, Capt. Cipto Adi, only those names I remembered… I heard they were caught in Bakung, but I knew nothing about their bodies. I told them to bring me there if they didn’t believe me. I asked them to bring me to my house, I even asked them to kill me there if I was proven guilty. Hahaha

Interviewer : Where were you when you got interrogated?

Pak talam : I was still in Trenggalek, in the police station. In the past, the law process was following the group of Mustika: Ketua Camat (district chief), TEPRA (Tim Evaluasi dan Pengawasan Penyerapan Anggaran/ Team of Evaluation and supervision of Regional Budget), Kopolsek (chief of police sector). It’s Tri Tunggal (Trinity) ruling system. 

   I ‘died’ twice a day. I saw a clock. They started interrogating me at 10 am.  I sat down on the bench, then I was kicked at 10 AM, then what I could remember is that I saw the clock and it showed it’s 1 PM. I came back to life. Hahaha. Then I was splashed by water, so I gained my consciousness. They didn’t give me water to drink, I was so thirsty after they beat me like that. Then I saw there’s a crack on the floor, and that crack was filled by water they splashed on me then became a small puddle. The dust was on the surface of the water, I tried to reach the water with my hand, but my hand was so weak. Then, I was just rolling my body slowly to that dusty water and drank it as much as I could. Hahaha… it was terrifying. 

     I hope your generation and the next generation will never experience that terrible thing ever. The situation at that time was terrible, I saw small kids were taken to the farming field by the army, then they sang “yo ayo ganyang PKI sing ndelik nang ndeso” (let’s go catching PKI who hides in the village). And I heard that when I was hiding. Hahaha. So, the believe stating that PKI was evil was indoctrinated since they were so young. So, it’s understandable if young generation nowadays still think that PKI is evil. I understand that. When I was in Buru island, I met many people like, the real PKI member, higher position in PKI, from Jakarta, Lampung, Surabaya, all of them were gathered there. Just then, while working I had talked with them so I knew what and how a PKI was. Haha. They (other prisoners) also accused me as “South Blitar PKI”, I denied it by saying “who said that?” Of course, I said that since never in my life I joined PKI organization even for one day. Since I was a kid, I just helped my parents in the farming field and went to school. I had no time to do other activities unlike kids nowadays. Gruduk-gruduk PDI (joining the PDI crowds), gruduk-gruduk PPP. It wasn’t like that. The Principe was togetherness- helping each other. The poor famers here help each other in the bad situations. They would help even though just by cheering them up. And also, when I was about to hold a slametan for my son, since they knew I had nothing to cook so If they have something to give, undoubtedly they would share what they had, like one chicken, half a kilo of rice, coconuts, two eggs, so I could do Mitoni for my son. 

Interviewer : After they arrested you in Trenggalek, where did they move you next?

Pak Talam : They moved me to Polsek (Police station Sector), then Polres ({Police Station Resort), then to Komden, Karisidenan (United area) Kediri, since there’s no prisoner in Komden, then they put me in Asrama Perintis (Perintis Boarding house) in Koak... For 4 months… then I got a chance, I met a school colleague, a son of Lorejo village head, Sumadi. He became a police officer there (in Perintis). He passed the test of SGB with me, then after graduate, He became a police officer. I was surprised when I met him, so was he. He asked what happened to me then I told him that I was caught during Trisula operation in Trenggalek. Coincidentally, my friend who ran away with me, Pairin, was Sumadi’s uncle. Then I told Sumadi, if he had a chance to go to Bakung, I asked him to stop by at my house, telling my father and my wife that I was arrested in Perintis – Kediri, and to visit me while I was there. I didn’t ask him to free me, no. I begged him to help me because I wanted to see my son and so that my parents knew that I was there. He agreed. So, he arranged the meeting. When it was his shift, at 1 AM, he took my family to my prison. For your information, Asrama Perintis was a specified prison. So, for 4 months there…  I got twice visits from my family. Even we were only two people, they didn’t put us in the same cells. I was in Kowak, my friend in Gampengrejo. Oh... before that, I was in Gringging (Prison). (I was moved) because they didn’t treat me like a human. The place I was arrested was used to be a Lumbung (rice barn). Maybe, since this Trisula operation was so sudden, they didn’t prepare any police station well. There, oh my God, there were a lot of bedbugs, I couldn’t sleep at all. They gave me so little food, I had lack of sleep and for taking shower, they just splashed me with water… they asked me to stand up and they splashed me… they didn’t take me to the bathroom… no. Hahaha… 

Interviewer : During your move from one place to another, did you experience some other violence, like being beaten or kicked? 

Pak Talam :  No, they didn’t beat me, but yeah… they treated me like I was an animal. If they treated a human, they supposed to provide food, drinks, sleeping time, sanitation too. They didn’t care at all about it… I remember a police officer from Komden, named Suparwanto. I still remember him. I called him by clapping my hand, “ Pak Suparwanto come here!” I complained about the situation I had and begged him to move me. “You can see my condition, even before opening my door, you’ve already covered your nose. Imagine you were me who had been locked here. I am human, too. Treat me like a human being. If you find out later what I did was wrong, I will be responsible. But until then, treat me like human. Please tell this to Pak Ama Ursea (the head of Komden). Then I was called to come to the Komden office, but I didn’t find Pak Ama Ursea anywhere there. I could only meet Pak Suparwanto. Then he called Pak Ama Ursea for me, but I needed to talk to him myself because he was afraid of Pak Ama. So, I told everything to Pak Ama Ursea. He was a Katolik (Christian Catholic). Then Pak Ama Ursea was pissed off: “dapurmu (cursing), you are just a prisoner, how dare you to ask a better place!” Then I replied “well, you can arrest me, but please put me in any place but Gringging prison. Do you do it in purpose? So I will die slowly there?” He was furious, then he talked to Suparwanto. He was scolded so bad by Pak Ama Ursea. Hahaha. Well, that’s how I could move to Asrama Perintis. Before leaving, Pak Suparwanto said, “well, I will put you here for a while, along with the youth. But do remember, don’t act out, or I will shoot your head!”… There I met my friends, the place was also cleaned, even though the food was still little but it was guaranteed… I mean there Ibu-Ibu Asrama helped us a lot, even though it’s just a mere boiled cassava. 

Interviewer : What did they give you in that Asrama Perintis? 

Pak Talam : Rice. But so small quantity. It’s even not enough to feed a rooster. So in Kediri, the well-known menu was Pecel Tumpang; the rice is this less than this (point a half of a mug), 1 cassava leaf, 1 chili, and 3 pieces of salt... hmm it’s like three corn seeds of salt... Then whenever I bumped to any police officer, I always greeted them, no matter they cared or not, I still greeted them anyway. That’s my strategy to make them proceed me soon. Until, one day, I was taken to the office and was told that I should stay there for 1 month more. He told me, “if I have sent you yesterday or today (…), not even spending a night there, you would be sent to Sukabumi.” What he meant by Sukabumi is being killed (suka: like, Bumi: Earth. There was also a name of area in West Java called Sukabumi). Be patient, and just follow my order.

C : At that time, you’ve already converted to Christianity. 

Pak Talam : Yes, I had converted to Christianity at that time. Before I was moved to it (Asrama Perintis)… well, why I chose to be a Christian? 

C : Woo… so there was the transition place.

Pak Talam : Yes. 

Interviewer : Then before that, what was your…

Pak Talam : Islam KTP. (officially Muslim, but don’t practice the religion). I never did solat (Islamic prayers). But we did Genduren too (Islamic party feast in a special occasion). So here is the story how I ended up to be a Christian until now. So, there was one day, I was arrested in Gringging. It was the time of Maulid Nabi (Muhammad’s birthday). People usually held a selametan. There was an event in the prison called Santapan Rohani (a religious talk) joined by all prisoners. I couldn’t recall which Muslim Lieutenant would lead that talk, but I remembered a day before that there was an announcement that we should wear our best clothes in the morning, we had to clean our eating tools well, we had to comb our hair then at 9 or 10 AM because there would be a prodigious amount of Berkat (feast food placed in a bowl). “The dog even didn’t want to eat it (because it’s too much), so we would send it here”, that’s what the police officer said. 

C : So, it’s the dog’s leftovers?

Pak Talam : … it was so cruel. In the morning we had got ready, we were starving and we were promised to have food, we were so excited. But there’s nothing coming, we waited till afternoon but none. Then, after 3 or 4 days, there was also another Santapan Rohani for Chatolics and I was enrolled for that too. There’s no announcement or what, then they (The Catholic-talk staff) came into the meeting hall brought us each 1 tooth brush, toothpaste, small towel and corn porridge mixed with milk. They gave those to us. So, for those who didn’t bring any eating tools, the police officers managed to provide plastic bags to eat from in that room. Moreover, they also allowed us to bring some to our room, to share to our sick friends. It was a donation from Lugano, a Catholic Priest from Netherlands. 

C : Yeah, I knew him. He lived in Tulungagung. 

Pak Talam : Then, I was listed as Christian Protestant. Actually, I chose to be Catholic. That’s the story how I became a Christian until now. I don’t hate Islam. People here are mostly Muslims, my ancestors were also Muslim here. So, before you, there were many people who had come here. From UI Jakarta, from Semarang... many more… they told us it’s for their Skripsi (Undergraduate Thesis). There was also a girl named from UB Malang, she wanted to make a book and put my story inside the book. She asked if I wanted to expose my name or not. I said of course I would expose my name! I am a responsible man. Hahaha... I told the story just the way it was. My advice to young generation is that “ojo gebyah uyah” (don’t generalize) because nowadays generation have so many information so you can be wise interpreting an issue. 

C : To put the humanity in the first row than the political point of view. Even though it was PKI, it was truly a political issue not a humanity issue. But it was such a misconception. 

Pak Talam : When I was sent to Buru Island and met many people from many regions, just then I understood a little about the situation. 

Interviewer : So, after a month you waited in Kediri, were you moved directly to Buru island?

Pak Talam : No, they sent me to prison in Blitar. Then when I arrived there, in Blitar. My cell-mate told me that I was lucky that I just came that day because the men who arrived before me, they were killed, sent to Sukabumi. Hahaha. So, in the afternoon, the police officers asked us, the prisoners to shave bald each other. They provide a bar of soap and a bucket of water... and also razor… Then the prisoners were handcuffed by shoe laces, and their mouth was covered. When they opened the door, a truck had been waiting.  40 people for one time going. They were brought to “Sukabumi” but the execution place was a secret. No one knew. But, when I arrived there, there was still one more time of “picking up to Sukabumi”. But, Alhamdulillah, I was safe. They picked up the prisoners who stayed there for long. Their bodies were so skinny. I felt pity on those... well, at that time there was an organization called IPPI. Ikatan Pelajar Pemuda Indonesia… they (the skinny prisoners) were calling out their mothers... I felt so sorry for them. They were just like junior High school students... what did they know? They just joining the crowds not knowing what they were doing. Unlike me, I couldn’t help it but joining Sarbukji because everyone in my office, even my office leaders joined it, besides the purpose of Sarbukji was magnificent. They truly helped poor farmer to get better life. Everyone was happy.

C :  Our consideration must be like that (the purpose of Sarbukji). 

Pak Talam : Yes... Suka. So, I hope that young generations now can understand the history… about what happened in the past. This country… well, the history had developed so, after I was released from Buru island and went back to the society, I felt a little bit awkward... but since, I was originally from here and I previously had a clear record. I had never flirted with someone’s wife. I had never robbed anyone. So, I was considered a good guy. Moreover, I followed the governments movements here. I was obedient to orders and regulations. That’s after I signed off the contract of release. … So, the people response was getting better (not getting afraid as time went by). But the response of the stigma attached to me… was still there. 

C : Yeah, the list at Koramil.

Pak Talam : In fact, after I came back from Buru Island, I found so many organizations made by the victims... claiming for the truth reveal. It suited to what I wanted and needed. The last (movement), I got a report from national even international Human Right Justice Commission... that they have already proceed the reports regarding tragedy ‘65 victims’ issue. There was a book too for this. (showing the book about the conference in Den Hag regarding Human rights crimes international). It was around 2015. 

Interviewer : Then, how was the transition when you were moved from Blitar to Buru Island? 

Pak Talam : Oh... it’s like this...  initially, I didn’t know if I’d like to be moved to Buru Island. They didn’t give us any information, but they asked whether or not we were sick, I was sick at that time… but if I told the officer I was sick, I would be separated from my friends. So, I didn’t say if I was sick. I couldn’t eat for almost a week, but after knowing about this information that the prisoners would be moved... I got recovered. Hahaha… then, we were sent to Madiun... not in Koramil nor Prison, but it’s like a house... Forestry Department house... TPK (Tempat Penimbunan Kayu/ Wood Piling Section). All prisoners from East Java were gathered there, just then they sent us to Surabaya. 

          I was there for 1 week, waiting for other prisoners from other different regencies in East Java. Then we were all sent to Buru Island from Surabaya by Tobelo Ship. A huge public ship. We were sent to Nusa Kambangan… eh, my mistake, we were sent first to Nusa Kambangan by train. We were there for 1 month. After that, all prisoners from Java island were gathered there in Nusa Kambangan, then together, we were sent to Buru Island with Tobelo ship. The trip was 9 days 10 nights… we crossed Banda Sea. But we had no idea where we were heading to. There were so many speculations at that time, there was some rumor saying that we would be killed on the ship and our bodies would be thrown to the sea… and many more… Because of that rumors, many got stressed and refused to eat. But I didn’t care, there was food, so I ate the food. I just lived the present, ‘what happened tomorrow would happen tomorrow’, that’s what I thought. I was the bravest one in my group. I was the one who took the food and water from kitchen, it was me. My friends were frightened. Then we arrived there.

Interviewer : Hearing about that rumor, did you see any prisoners who tried maybe to escape? 

Pak Talam : None. No one could (escape)… it’s on the ship, on 1 deck. But I could move easily, I could visit kitchen, I could be friend with the army from Tuban… we were Javanese (so we got along well). When I arrived there, we got Kostem ( Kaos Tim- Group-T-Shirt).. (mine was written) 091- Blitar- Jatim. There was also from Tulungagung. All the T-shirt was the same, yellow. Then we arrived there around 10 AM, in Namlea Harbor. There was a Commander, named Mario Ruksu, was calling out, “JATIM! JATIM!”. No one dare to turn around. Jatim prisoners acted they didn’t hear that. But I turned my head to him. He could see the number on my back and he shouted, “JATIM-091”. I came to him and sat down looking at the ground. 

He asked: ”what’s your name?”. 

I replied,” Markus Talam, Sir”.  

He asked again, “But why It’s M.? M. Talam? M is Muhammad, YES? 

I answered: “NO, Sir. M stands for Markus not Muhammad. I used to write my name like this, M. Talam.”

He asked,” What’s your religion?”

“I’m a Christian, sir”, I replied. 

       Coincidentally, he was too. Then he asked for my help to find physically 50 strong men to do Korve (slavery terms in Indonesia Military Army; doing hard job with minimum or even no salary). He said that these 50 men would stay in the harbor, slept in military tents for a month. There were so many food stocks there; milk, ikan asin (salt-dried fish), rice, sugar, many more. We regained our energy, we even got a little better body shape.  I was pointed as the team leader and every afternoon I should go to his office to report. That’s what I did every day. Every day, each of us got 1 sack of rice. It’s a lot, that we even couldn’t eat 1 kilo of rice every day. So, it was piling up, we even used that rice as our pillow, Hahaha. However, we thought that we couldn’t bring all that rice to the camp base. Thus, I suggested to report about this to the commander. Then, they took back the rice. Though, how could we bring all that rice? The best shot was one person brought 1 sack, 40 kilos, excluding our personal belongings. We couldn’t. 

       I was registered into unit 11, Wana Asri, in the area of Waiyapu river. Then, my Unit Commander was Pak Besar, Lieutenant Besar, from Solo. The unit (area) was good when I arrived there, because it was cleaned by other unit members for a month while I was working at the harbor. A year prior, that residential area had been built. So, they opened the land, built the woods, became barracks then after a year (when we arrived there) it had already become forest again, we found many snakes. Their rooftop was broken because it was made from sago leaves. Since we got many people, for 1 barrack there were 50 people, and in a Unit, there were 10 to 20 barracks. 1000 people. There was no road from harbor to my unit camp. I walked for the whole one day to get there. For unit 11, at that time, there was no farming field, unlike unit 1, 2, 3. Our area was on higher land. We created our water flow from the mountain, directed to our field. There was one time of planting, it covered 25 hectares. So, our production was better than the early units’ one (1, 2, 3… so on). Hahaha... 1000 people did the job for 25 hectares of farming field. There were no cows to help us. We ploughed the field by our hands. After a year, we got cows from Timor-Timor,.. Ahh horses too. But the horses not for working at the farming field like cows, they were used as Andong (horse-cart). For the first year, we were struggling for food. We only ate corn and cassava, since there was no farming field moreover, they corrupted our food supply from the central government. I knew an officer, Ujek Suryana, a Sundanese. I was a friendly person. My Principle was “Kendel, Supel, Sopan” (Brave, Friendly, Polite). Kendel, (Brave) to face anyone no matter high their level is as long as I was Sopan (polite), I would be safe. So, Pak Ujek told me that actually our food supplies could cover our meals for the whole year, but it was taken by the commanders. Hahaha… He leaked his friend’s secret to us. But we told him, that we still could manage it because back then, in the village, we also ate less like that. I told him too that I was happy because I could eat what I planted. He told us to take care of our health. That’s a good timing to say this, ”well, we could take care of our health well, but that would be hard because, look, our jackets are just fertilizer’ sack like this”. Hahaha... I sewed my own jacket from that fertilizer’s sack. I could do anything back then to survive. Then they gave us jacket, but he told us to restyle the jacket to not make it similar to the officers. They asked me to change the jacket colours. “easy, Sir” that’s what I told him. So, I looked for babakan, (a certain plant) and looked for mud. Then we covered the jackets in that and sank it in a swamp. The following days, it turned to be brown and the colors stayed, not faded away. 

       Then after I stayed there for 7 years. Like I told you, I was so friendly, I made friends a lot. I made friend also with this doctor. He was a prisoner too, named doctor Merapi. He finished his study in Unair (Universitas Airlangga Surabaya). He once worked in Jakarta for a year. Then, he was sent to Russia or Germany (not sure) for another year. Then he went back to Jakarta for a year and he was sent to Tiongkok. And when he finished his study, he went back to Indonesia, out of the blue, he was arrested in Surabaya. He was a senior doctor. He had big posture… but he was old and not married. He became the official central doctor in that Buru Island working for government. I was assigned to be the assistant for dr. Wahyudi in Unit 11. Since I was kendel, supel, sopan to everyone, he noticed me. Whenever I visited him, I brought him Sogol (snakehead fish). The huge one, as big as my calf. I seasoned it and cooked in a bamboo. One day, I was called to meet him, officially, along with a letter. I was asked by him if I had been sick while I was there. Yes, I did. I had malaria and got surgery for cataract. Then he asked me if I still kept the hospital statement proving I was sick. Then I searched that statement in dr. Wahyudi’s office and I found it. Then I reported it back to Dr. Merapi. He told me a secret, a good news, that I couldn’t tell to anybody even my inmates. He asked me if my wife and son were still alive. I told him about them and showed him their pictures. At that time, he didn’t mention what the good news was. A year passed by, then I was called. Since I got the hospital statements, I showed them to dr. Merapi, then I was labelled as unhealthy prisoner so I got home earlier. Everyone was jealous. I got home at the first batch. That batch was including the elderly, the unhealthy and weak prisoners. In that batch I became the prisoner leader, again. Hahaha. I was responsible for those prisoners. I told all prisoners to stay on their place, if they needed something, I would find it for them. So, I walked around the ship at that time. I could watch TV for the first time in my life, there, watching TV with the military army in their room. On the way back home, we were freer… not treated as prisoners. 

Interviewer :   Did you stop first in Jakarta?

Pak Talam : No... No… directly to Surabaya, East Java. On the way to Buru Island, it was so strict, we were locked in a room in the ship, the windows were sealed and there was only one exit there, the door, guarded by Military. But now, on the way back home to Surabaya, it’s free. They didn’t guard us. Even in Tanjung Perak harbor, we were greeted greatly by people there. They gave us gifts like soda, candies, flowers. They treated us like heroes just came back from the war. We arrived in Surabaya in RTM (Rumah Tahanan Militer-Army prisoned house). I took a shower there. Soeharto arrested the military that pros to Soekarno. I saw many of them without military ranks on their suit. Every morning and afternoon I saw them still did the ceremony but they were army prisoners, fired from the army. We were greeted by those military army, as we were prisoners too. They prepared us a warm heater, they asked us any meals we wanted to eat, then they would ask the army canteen to prepare that for us. It was so awesome. 

Interviewer : So, you’ve never experienced any random violence while you’re working in Buru Islands? I mean if you got beaten without any clear reason or what so ever? 

Pak Talam : No... No… we just did Korve and that’s it. It was just pure business there, I made crafting and it would be sent to Ambon, Jakarta and another city. But there happened an extraordinary thing, not in my unit. It was in Unit 6. The people mostly were people from Central Java, only few were from East Java. So, there was a prisoner who killed an Army. Why? Because he couldn’t help it and didn’t care about what happened next. The commanders there were so cruel, they asked the prisoners to do extreme jobs like climbing the huge Durian tree that was so high. They tortured people too. So, the story started when there was a respected sergeant from Sumatra, Panita Uman, who walked by around the unit farming field. Whenever he was around, everyone, especially prisoners should leave their work to greet him respectfully: “Siap Gerak… kepada Sesan Panita Uman, Hormaaat Grak”. Something like that. 

      There was a prisoner who didn’t realize him coming, so he continued his job like nothing happened. Just because of this, every prisoner there got beaten up badly. There, Army beat 20 prisoners. Then, there was a prisoner who reported this to the higher authority that they couldn’t work because they were beaten up so bad. Then, it was passed by. Couple months later, still with Unit 6, they were doing Korve and guarded by that Sergeant Panita Uman. Panita Uman was the cockiest and hated Army in that Unit since he was so cruel and disrespected the prisoners. He was killed in one afternoon.

Interviewer : How was he killed?

Pak Talam : He wasn’t shot or anything, I believe this murdering was planned. All prisoners got affected because of this. We were locked down in barrack for one week. The doors and windows were closed. We couldn’t go to the food storage to take our food. We weren’t allowed. They didn’t give us food for a week. However, I used my kendel, supel (being brave and friendly) strategy to get the food. Hahaha. I raised some chickens at that time, so I exchanged them to some supplies. So, my friends and I in my barrack could survive that week. I killed some chickens, too. We got a party and shared the food to the Army guarded us. My barrack was fine, I didn’t know about the other barracks. 

Interviewer : How many people in a Unit?

Pak Talam : One Unit had 1000 people, one barrack had 100 people. There was one public kitchen. Our Unit tents were like letter U... I think the most important was how you managed yourself in a society and your own personality. If you do good things, good things will happen to you, too. 

Interviewer : Then, from Surabaya, did you go directly to Blitar? 

Pak Talam : No… (I stopped) at Kodim first. I was chosen as a leader again for Blitar prisoners’ group. When I arrived back here, (Ngrejo village) I could adapt again here well, since I was originally from here. Nothing changed, but yeah, there were some people who were afraid of me, but I’m sure it was just acting out. I wasn’t a bad guy. Knowing I came back to the village, the head of the village gave announcement to the people here to not visit me in big groups. But yeah, this is a small village, I couldn’t sleep well for couple of days before people kept coming visiting me. But I was guarded by an army here. I gave him cigarettes and meals while he was here. Time went by, then I got more freedom, then for some years, in August, it was held a carnival here, but never succeeded. Then I was assigned to direct the carnival here, choosing the theme and also executed it. I was the team leader. It succeeded! I held a performance of Karawitan (Javanese set of music instrument) along with PNI sympathizers. Hahaha.

C : Then what about the story you became a medical staff here? 

Pak Talam : Again, it’s because of Kendel, Supel, Sopan. When I was hospitalized for three days in Unit Hospital (in Buru Island), for having cataract removal with Dr. Merapi. There were courses held there: English course, Music course, other art performance course. I joined them all but English and music. I also joined Theater course. Hahaha. I joined also an acupuncture course. Besides, I was also working as assistant, hmm… a cleaning assistance in the clinic there. I joined that course for 3 years. We were trained. The government thought that we should master certain skills while we were in Buru Island, so when we were released to the society, we wouldn’t be awkward and could mingle in the society. So, here, when I should give a shot (injection) to people, I could do it. I was complimented too by the doctor here for that. He just suggested me that I should use one-time- injection-tool, because I used the metal… a glass one that I needed to boil to sterilize it. Hahaha. I learned many things from the experts while I was there. There were many intellectuals who ended up there with me. There were many engineers, doctors... so my advice for young generations… please judge things wisely and closely… This history is a fact that should be remembered, understood and retold to the next generations. So please be careful about what you retell. So, this is my story, I hope that it is beneficial to you. 

Interviewer: Robert Moisa

Interviewee: Pak Talam

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Transcript Notes


  1. How does Pak Talam’s recollections destabilize notions of a binary clash between Communism and anti-Communist governments in Cold War Indonesia?

  2. Consider the various forces (social, economic, cultural, religious etc) that shaped the conflict and the lived experience of the Cold War in Indonesia. In particular, consider how these different dimensions intersected to create unique and often dangerous outcomes for the civilian public.

  3. Consider the role of social relations and networks in Pak Talam’s navigation of the Cold War Era in Indonesia. What does this reveal about the nature of Indonesian society and the conflicts it was facing?

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

  5. To what extent can we consider the events of 1965, 1968, and their aftermath in Indonesia as part of the Cold War, and why? How should they be best understood?