Interview With Pak Yatman

Pak Yatman recalls life during the 1965 Massacres in Indonesia, including his own imprisonment; explaining how social, economic, cultural and religious forces intersected to create a dangerous climate for all civilians suspected of being involved in the communist movement.

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Pak Yatman recalls his entry into the Communist-influenced student movements of Indonesia in his teen years, his gradual association with the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and how the trajectory of his life was disrupted by the 1965 Massacre. Evading detection in 1965, he was arrested in 1968. He details his prison experience and his growing understanding of communist ideology. After his release a year later, he joined a traditional theatre group as an actor, and the Village Coop. Pak Yatman worked as a manager overseeing the agricultural laborers in the Coop’s sugarcane fields in Blitar, and later, as a supplier of fertilizer. He then moved away to Kalimantan, to prevent his family from being persecuted. After Suharto’s presidency, he joined a reconciliation organization for former PKI sympathizers. In retrospect, he finds that while the PKI’s motivations were correct, their transplantation of Maoist methods to rural Indonesia was inappropriate. He also disputes the notion that the PKI was anti-Islamic, while acknowledging Marx’s misgivings with religion, providing a nuanced view of the complex social, cultural and political interactions that shaped the Cold War in Indonesia.

The fifth of eight children, Pak Yatman was born in 1947 into a farming family in South Blitar in East Java, where he still lives. He pursued his education until junior high school in South Blitar. He speaks of Indonesian traditional values of gotong royong in the farming community. South Blitar had become a PKI refuge after the elections of 1955. Yet, Pak Yatman cautions that not all PKI voters were staunch ideologues. His family bought a cow to work their lands, but all land and animals were still seen as common property on lease from the PKI’s farmer organization, the BTI.

From 1962, his school came under political influence, and his friends began joining student movements. While he was not strongly ideologically driven, he recalls how the political parties of Indonesia each had their support bases in the four dormitories of the school; and his dormitory was under the influence of the PKI-affiliated Association of Indonesian Students (IPPI). Though he still maintained his Islamic faith, he concedes that his views were shaped by the organization. When chaos broke out in 1965, it became impossible for him to move to North Blitar to pursue higher education, and he abandoned his studies. As his friends continued sharing with him about the PKI’s philosophy, he became drawn to the party and its youth organizations.

Pak Yatman avoided arrest in 1965, but was later caught in the further Operation mounted in 1968 in South Blitar. During the Massacre, he recalls how an accused person might be handcuffed and paraded around the village while being questioned whether he knew every other villager they encountered. As community spirit was strong in the village, the accused often knew everyone, and the authorities rounded up 126 suspects on one occasion. Both the military and the Nahadatul Ulama (NU) -affiliated Ansor youth group burned the houses of the rich and their grain stores to starve any potential opponents of resources. Even children were not spared. As a form of humiliation, suspected PKI members who were killed were then buried in a graveyard for dogs, as the area had experienced endemic rabies. A mosque was also burned; however, Pak Yatman denies the PKI’s involvement, citing that while Communist philosophy does contain tensions with religion, it was not so in practice as the PKI did not oppose the practice of Islam. He suspects foreign intervention in this plot.

Though he was only a sympathizer, he was marked as a party member and arrested. The pro-government village leader wanted Pak Yatman’s teenaged girlfriend, and had him arrested, and her father killed, as alleged PKI members; to isolate and coerce her into marriage. Due to his traditional attire, he was assumed to be part of Ansor.  Not all prisoners were Muslim, but still claimed to be believers of Islam. He recalls that the Indonesian Army lacked morals, and that prisoners were underfed and brutalized in prison; being taken for interrogation sessions that involved no questions, but merely providing soldiers an excuse to beat them. There he met a female inmate who treated him like her son, caring for him until his release a year later. The authorities were careful not to present themselves as anti-Islamic, and handled the corpses in accordance with Islamic traditions.

Upon leaving prison, he returned home and had to report weekly to the police station. He then joined a traditional theatre troupe as an actor, specializing in antagonist roles critical of the leadership. He also joined the PKI-affiliated Village Coop, where he oversaw the agricultural labor in Blitar’s sugarcane fields and collected payments, and later became a fertilizer supplier. While his parents understood that their son was targeted because of his girlfriend, he moved away to Kalimantan to keep his family safe from persecution. There he worked in various mining and forestry jobs, describing himself as an “adventurer.”

During the Reform Era after Suharto, he joined a reconciliation organization for former PKI members and victims of the massacres. While the group is not strongly coordinated, they hope for further investigations into why people were killed, and more importantly, why the perpetrators killed people. His preliminary understanding is that the soldiers and civilian collaborators were merely following orders from above. He still maintains his sympathy for others in the Communist movement, lamenting how the persecuted victims (from the PKI) were forced to build the Trisula monument for the victorious military. He also prompts contemporary society to probe why Gerwani members had to resort to sex work instead of simplistically branding them as “immoral”.

Ultimately, Pak Yatman believes in the merits of Communist ideology if pursued with close adherence to the theory. He feels that the unpopularity and failure of communism stems from an improper implementation of the ideology in practice; finding that Mao’s methods in rural China did not suit Indonesian villages. In his view, this was the result of improper teachings by an earlier Indonesian Communist philosopher, Tan Malaka. He also notes how the later generations’ lack of engagement with the Massacre is due to improper recounts from competing sources such as the state, BTI and even local black magic practitioners. His recollections reveal that Indonesia’s Cold War was shaped by an interplay of multiple social, cultural, economic, and religious forces, destabilizing notions of a binaristic clash between Indonesian democracy and Communism or Islam and atheism.

Tuesday, June 9th 2020.

14.05- 17.00

Pasiraman Village, Bakung- Blitar, East Java, Indonesia

First Recording (1 hour 47 minutes), 

Interviewee: Pak Yatman (PKI sympathizer)

C: Mawan, the leader of The Post Institute Indonesia

INTERVIEWER: Your name is Pak Yatman, right?  Where did you spend your childhood?

PAK YATMAN: Right, right. I was born here.

INTERVIEWER: What is your profession now?

Pak Yatman: I am a farmer or to be exact it is called buruh tani (Farm workers)

PAK YATMAN:Yes, right.

INTERVIEWER: How old were you when ‘65 tragedy happened?

PAK YATMAN: Should I talk in Indonesian language or…?

INTERVIEWER: Yes, you may talk in Indonesian language if you are comfortable.

PAK YATMAN: Or in Javanese. 

C:  it's okay to talk in mixed languages (Javanese and Indonesian)

PAK YATMAN: if we are talking about my age…  sometimes if I am asked about my age, I cannot really say the exact a number. I can say that it happened when I was 19 or 20 years old, but based on what my parents told me, I was born in 1947.  It's written in my ID card that I was born in October 1947, something like that.  If you really need to know about it I will check my ID card. 

INTERVIEWER: So, you were 18 or 19 years old when the tragedy happened. Could you tell me how did you spend your childhood here? What kind of daily activities did you do? As a farmer or what?

PAK YATMAN: Generally, the society here was like that (normal life) since we didn't have the rice field (farm workers didn’t have their own rice field), we… we didn't go to our  rice field,  because we didn't own it… 

INTERVIEWER: How many siblings do you have?

PAK YATMAN: I have eight siblings. (…) I'm the fifth child.

C:  Wait, wait, what if Pak Yatman told the story from the beginning until the end without getting interrupted?

INTERVIEWER:  Ah, alright.

C: (Talking to Pak Yatman) I think it's better like this, you talk about the past event,  how your position was back then until your situation now.  You can tell all something like that as comfortable, as you feel, as free as you want.

PAK YATMAN: Easily, I will talk about my actions in the past. (laughing)

INTERVIEWER: Yes, please. 

PAK YATMAN: If I say that it's about my biography, it will sound too prideful. Hahaha! (laughing).  I was born in ’47 (1947). Then, as time went by, I reached 7-8 years old, in this neighborhood people were talking about the Pemilihan umum (National Elections).  At that time people didn't address it as “pemilu’ (pemilihan umum). At that time, my house was here close to that area to the North (point out the area)  around 100 meters, but  it's still in the same area I live now. 

C: Is it close to Pak Dwi?

PAK YATMAN: hmm... It’s only (a little) North there. On the left side of Pak Sukiman’s house. Hmm…  I also voted that time.  The young men we're doing oration.  But I didn't understand all that time if it was a campaign or not.  But everyone…  everyone was singing.  One of those (songs) was maybe the Elections March.  After a while everyone said that the winner was “ Palu Arit” (PKI  party’s symbol). 


PAK YATMAN: As long I can remember, the winners were PNI, NU... At that time NU (Nadhlatul Ulama) also had a party, Masumi and PKI. At that time Masumi still existed. 

C: Right. right… It still existed.

PAK YATMAN: It still existed, right. I didn’t know how the (electoral) system resulted with top 4 (parties), but the winners were those four parties. As the time went by, I went to school for developing both my age and my mind in the school here. It was not SD (Elementary school) 

C: SR (sekolah rakyat)

PAK YATMAN: SR. My friends were singing the March.  How was the March? (recalling) “Pemilihan umum…. Kesana kemari. Beramai ramai kesana kemari”. That's what I remember from my elementary school life.  Then I continued to SMP (Junior High School) (...) I just enrolled to SMP in 1962. In the past, kids went to school quite late, hahaha (laughter). I went to SR at 9 years old and in 1962, I enrolled to SMP. My school was in Blitar city there (point out). In 1962, (the situation) in the school had been hingar bingar (frenetic). (The school situation) got into the politic influence. One of my friends who was older than me, he was a Senior high school student and he joined Gerakan mahasiswa (student- movement organization). And that time there was Persatuan Pemuda Pelajar. Oh... Ikatan Pelajar Pemuda Indonesia. IPPI.  At the beginning I didn't understand (about the organization) but my friend explained to me. Then my friends…  in the school...  there were some groups formed, it's connected to the Pemilu (4 parties) including ikatan (IPPI). Then, the students boarding houses were divided into those groups.  Thus, my boarding house was inhabited by the members of IPPI.  For sure, my mindset was either influenced, attracted to it (PKI).  But at that time, I didn’t mean to be unfaithful to my belief. My mind wasn’t like that (being atheist). Even though I followed my friend joining IPPI organization, I still remember, during Ramadan, I still did Tarawih (a special pray during Ramadan night).  My friends also did Tarawih together. (When doing) Tarawih, the mosque was in Wijaya Kusuma street, now is Mastrip street. If (you go) from the East (you see) the junction in the East of the bridge, if you go to the South you will go to Karangtengah, there, in the West of that junction, in the South of…

INTERVIEWER: Is it the mosque that is close to the junction?

B. Yes, yes, in that mosque. In front of it there’s a house with stories. In the past, it was a hotel: Pangestu hotel. So that was the situation during my school time (Junior high school). The next story, if you think it’s not in order, I’m sorry. 

INTERVIEWER: It’s fine. 

PAK YATMAN: When I almost graduated from SMP in ‘65, there was a huru hara (chaos). At that time, regarding to the organization business, somehow it was mixed up. Those who had joined IPPI, they sometimes also joined as members of Pemuda Rakyat (People’s Youth). So, if it was counted, PKI had so many members. 

C: Yes, while PKI was close to these two organizations. 

PAK YATMAN: To be honest, even now, some friends still think that Pemuda Rakyat or PTI, or Gerwani were not PKI (sympathizers), but in fact, whenever PKI held anniversary, they also joined (the celebration). Hehe (laughter).

C: But, structurally, (they) were not structured (as part of PKI) 

PAK YATMAN: Yes, it was under bow (PKI). it’s like it’s Ormas (Mass organization) ... At that time, clearly, regarding to my connection to my friends, I don’t deny that my mindset was to that direction (communism). So, to be honest, I tend to agree to the ideology of IPPI as well as Pemuda Rakyat. Thus, when you were in line to IPPI and Pemuda Rakyat, automatically, you will be addressed as PKI’s youth but not a member. At that time, I was a sympathizer. Even though I was just a sympathizer, unofficially... since my friends and my circle were that (IPPI and Pemuda Rakyat), then I started thinking about ideology. Moreover, after (the chaos) I couldn’t go to school (Junior high school) because the higher authority limited the movement to the city. The people from here (Bakung) felt it wasn't safe if we wanted to go to the North (Blitar city). Since it’s been a long time I couldn’t go to the city (school), then I decided to give up my school. Then from that point, I knew better what and who IPPI, Pemuda Rakyat, BTI and Pemuda Rakyat were. Not only listened to what people (rumours) said, but I also learned it from friends, Bapak-Bapak, Ibu- Ibu who were related to them. And about my understanding of the knowledge (about PKI), I am still limp. Sometimes, even until now, if I should explain about PKI’s ideology, how it is formed, I couldn’t explain it in order also sometimes, it’s jumbled. I, myself, I am sure that what was told by my friends are true. Not only telling me, they were also showing me books about PKI. Starting from that, I got more attracted to this movement. Moreover, my neighbours… I could say that in the national elections of ‘55, Pasiraman (his village) got 75% voted the “palu arit” (PKI). In South of Blitar, South of the Brantas river, there were majority PKI (voters). It was counted from that elections only, but seen from the ideology, the whole belief, I don’t agree with that (South Blitar people were all PKI symphatizers). 

C: the type of the people at that time is grubyuk (just follow the trends). 

PAK YATMAN: But then, as far as I know, even until now, the ideology (PKI) is right. What I meant is…  it is right, if it is practiced accordingly to the theory. Like what I said before, if I could say that it is red (which won) in the national elections, I guess that, ideologically, it even didn’t reach the 50% (the practice of the ideology). That’s what I observed. If the ideology was run based on its doctrine, it wouldn’t have been so chaos. So, if there are friends, sisters, brothers who would like to listen furthermore about it, I am ready to share my thoughts that related to that movements. To be honest, then I joined the movements, even though I had never been officially become a member of PKI, from that time until now, so I am happy. 

C: Prideful. 

PAK YATMAN: Yes, prideful. I will tell you later, other people may feel the pride, too. Nah, then it occurred the tragedy... that tragedy of ’65. Then during ‘65 to ‘66, the organization that became my pride was announced as an illegal organization. Even till now, I won’t blame those who made my organization illegal. I won’t blame those who made my organization to be banned because that was politics. Here, we thought what nation/country is, why there should be a revolution etc. Politics means if you are not ruling, you are ruled. In my mind, even, the belief made me think that in this world there is only right and wrong. Why it is right and wrong because in the politics too there is the right and wrong movements. But, right and wrong is so relative (subjective), depends on who (sees it). But if we want to think objectively, I am sure that between those, there is one that is right. But to me, what is right is what I believe (PKI). Nah, when the G30S/PKI occurred, the situation of political movements were opposed (to democratic) because we were declared as illegal, (because) seen from the organization form, the blame was not on those parts who blamed us, but the blame was on us (PKI sympathizers).  PKI, the whole organization, didn’t blame the general Soeharto or the enemies, because maybe it’s our fault. Because it’s like what I said, right and wrong is relative depends on who (sees it). Naturally, the political enemy (PKI) is on the blame just to give it to the citizen as a consumption, then it became political consumption. “Oh, PKI is wrong, don’t support nor join them”. PKI’s people who were faithful to this belief, (for) the group of general (Soeharto) of course, they would say we were wrong. Then what? Then we (PKI) did critique to critique. It means we question ourselves: “what was wrong that we became like this?”, then “what should we do (to fix this)? Maybe, if you want to know more, in the bookshops through your phones you will also know, but the source from phone (internet) is various too. 

Then, from critique to critique, it was concluded that there’s no revolution that changed the state administration by ‘coup d’état’. So, if during ‘65 tragedy there might have been programs (from) revolution council or general council, ideally, PKI didn’t take side on (those programs of ) revolution council nor general councils because in the ideology (PKI), there’s no coup d’état, but revolution. The revolution itself has many requirements. Revolution means creating something that hasn't existed (membangun). It means, according to Soekarno, that was Menjebol (and membangun).

Nah, maybe in the future, you want to talk more about this, you may come here or maybe if you cannot come here, I will come to your house in Kedung Bunder. If I have the time, energy and other requests to meet, I will (fulfill them) Then talking about the revolution, the requirements to create the condition (revolution) wasn’t simple. Here, I didn’t mean to give you a doctrine to believe in like what I believe. For, PKI’s people, it is taboo to be hypocrite. I am not hypocrite; I mean what I said. According to PKI, those (hypocrite) people will be sent to hell. Then, PKI decided that we must do revolution. The people will be acknowledged by what it means by revolution. We didn’t lie to the people. It (revolution) is not for PKI, it is for everyone. If people didn’t want to have revolution but then PKI declared that it is needed, it means that we dragged people to chaos. If people weren’t ready or didn’t need revolution... What PKI fought for was the need of all people in this case what I meant is nyandang, mangan, mapan (having clothes, foods, and house) only that. Like what i said, let’s say everyone needs revolution, but it doesn’t mean that all people agree how we do it. When the PKI’s leader was executed (in Jakarta) and only left the leavings. Then they looked upon history (the National elections). “Which area was it red (PKI voters)? Oh, South of Blitar. We will be safe if we go there”. All the (PKI) figures in Indonesia, from Aceh to Papua came here. 

INTERVIEWER: So, was it based on the result of the national elections of ‘55 that they chose to come to South of Blitar?

PAK YATMAN: Yes, right. 

PAK YATMAN: Even till ‘65, before the tragedy, PKI itself even felt that perhaps 1/3 of Indonesia was red (pro to PKI). It was seen from the anniversary (PKI) celebrated, from the support of Soekarno as president (too). From that, PKI thought that they were the winners. There were parts who wanted to destroy PKI, in this case not only the Army, if it was only Army, they (PKI’s enemy) wouldn’t have won. There were other groups that even had better strategy and tactic than the Army itself. 

The leader of PKI joined the Revolution council. This man (the leader) got provoked to join (Revolution council and General council). They were allies, they wanted to destroy the institution that was followed the most by people, PKI. Nah, ideologically, it should be balanced between quantity and quality. At that time, it was only the quantity that was outplayed (PKI’ side). The quality wasn’t so good. If the quality was good, we wouldn’t have lost. Then, when the tragedy happened, we had been provoked, and when we were attacked, we blamed others then we did critique to critique like I told you as well about the process of revolution previously. In fact, groups of people who shouted to have revolution, it wasn’t a proper act because if we did revolution at that time, the organization (PKI) chose to do the revolution based on the idea of Macetung (Mao Zedong, the leader of Chinese Communist Party). Have you ever heard of him? He was the highest leader of Chinese people at that time. According to Mao Zedong, the revolution in Indonesia should (mean) movements both in villages and cities. Why? We used Chinese calculation, so that (people in) Indonesia, majority were farmers and farmers live in villages. So, they used the villages as the base. But villages here and villages that Mao Zedong claimed were different. But we just generalized it, and that’s our mistake. China, it was like our country now, their system was feudal-capitalist. Mao Zedong built the base 10.000 km from the central government. You will understand what it means by long march. There, they had two strong parties before Mao Zedong took the lead, Nationalist and Communist. The ruling was Nationalist Party that in the Chinese it’s called Kumintang (Kuomintang) that was led by Chiang Kai-Shek. If it (Kuomintang party) was attacked directly, for sure, it (Communist party) couldn’t (win). So, they managed to move out the people from the city and did the long march for 10.000 km in China. Before that, they organized the farmers thus their movement won. It is hoped that after G30S/ PKI, we followed that pattern, and it (the base) chosen was South of Blitar. That kind of point of view was subjective. The gap was, Mao Zedong chose (the march) for 10.000 km while we here even did not reach 10 km. While here, (if) they threw the bomb from Blitar (city), it would destroy it (Bakung area). 

Or at that time (we) didn’t really understand about Military strategy so our movement was easily read by enemy. Then, the movement was started from here. Of course, (one of) the requirements of revolution was the war. Then we formed our own army. Tentara Rakyat (People’s Army) we called it. Then, what should Tentara Rakyat do? Tentara Rakyat was shortened to be TPR: Tentara Pembebasan Rakyat. Morally, (they) should have been better than the others. We should be democratic, both in family and society. We, the one who had (political) interests was Society not PKI. If we want to redeem the society then we should be loved by society. And what we did was for society needs. At least, we should be ready economically, because revolution was… because if people don’t eat, they would (die)... then how did they do?      They created Farming Oganization and all the movements must be democratic… at that time people here had the rice field collectively. Even before the tragedy, those movements had already existed. We felt it to the should of gotong royong (togetherness, helping each other). In Pasiraman (his village), the group of youth organization made a program of cassava cultivating. We were left behind technologically at that time, just the collectivism spirit that kept them going. We saved the money, when it was enough, we bought a land (rice field) that was owned by the organization (BTI, Pemuda Rakyat). We worked again then we bought cow. We even had cow (emphasizing) and farm land, but it was owned collectively. Then the tragedy ‘65 and even the tragedy of South of Blitar (‘65-‘68) happened. All of them were robbed by the government. When we talked about the war, there must be traitors: “it is owned by PKI, let’s just take it”. This kind of people had insecure position in the government, at least he experienced the feeling of ruling (by commanding to rob PKI’s goods). 

Interviewer: So, was gotong royong (togetherness and helping each other) from the point of view of PKI itself or from your organization? (Pemuda Rakyat, BTI)? 

PAK YATMAN: Of course, for sure it’s (inherited) from the main party (PKI). 

Interview: Then, was it applied to the society (in Bakung)?

Pak Yatman: Ya, ya... Then, in the society here, (I was enrolled to) Junior High school at that time and I was considered high level. But we thought that everything (as long as they did gotong royong) was good. But in fact, what we didn’t really know what we should do. As I told you, after digebuk (PKI in Jakarta was dismissed) then they escaped to South of Blitar hoping for revolution. Here it was formed the Army (PKI army), gathered from every race and ethnicity from Indonesia. I knew (men) from Batak, Kalimantan Chinese, Maluku people and Manado people that you would find them here… Even Papuan too. But all of them were leavings (PKI party) from their own region, In Sumatra, they couldn’t (survive), so they came here, moreover in Jakarta they couldn’t (survive) and they came here. But because of it, it was a new thing (revolution), the way they practiced, it wasn’t right. Economically, including the collective work, (to support revolution), even robbery was legalized (by PKI organization). But they (the organization) created the list… hmm (for example) the landlords, even landlords were divided (into categories): the good landlord or evil landlord. The evil Landlord exploited Petani Buruh (Farm workers) to enrich themselves. It was illegal ownership, according to PKI. So, my friend in PKI (organization) said, “oh, it is right thing to do, because they robbed the people (poor people-Farm workers) then they (evil landlords) deserved it (to be robbed)”. But on the other hand, the member of TPR (Tentara Pembebasan Rakyat) held the believe that it’s taboo to take even a needle and a thread from people. The custom of guest here was if the house owner didn’t offer you, you won’t take things lavishly. According to the tradition here, everything around the house belongs to the house owner, so if you want to take something, you should ask for permission. Morevoer, under the name of democracy. The poor people from village and the general from Jakarta, they are all equal. (talking about his daughter who has delivered a baby).

Since what was left it was just the leavings (PKI’s member and sympathizers from other cities), the Army (PKI) recruitments were also loosen up. Ideally, first, they would consider their intelligence, second, they would consider their own body’s health. It’s Army (they supposed to be fit). Since we all thought that people of South of Blitar were allies, so anyone who wanted to join (PKI’s army) were recruited (without considering their intelligence and body’s health). It was wrong, because some of them were ex-convicts. The ex-convicts were usually brave, if they were asked to fight against the (governmental) Military, they were ok (doing it). They did the operation when it wasn’t ordered (by the leader). Even the robbing list (they ignored the category), which supposed to be (targeting) the evil landlords, as long as they had money, the new Army (ex-convicts recruits) would rob them. So, the movements became anarchist. Then the movement of South Blitar blew up. It’s only here to there (city). It was less than an hour to reach here from the city (Blitar). Of course, to see what happened, the Military sent their intelligent agent to observe the situation here. Then it was revealed. They (Military) caught people, including me. I looked younger than my age at that time. My environment (community) here was conservative, not so bright and because of it I even went to Junior High School in the city. I was not caught during the tragedy but after the operation (‘68). 

At that time, I was around 21 years old and I had a girlfriend. Her father was PKI (sympathizer) but indicated as PKI (member), so he was caught and killed. He was thrown to the hole alive in Tikus cave. At that time, my girlfriend was 17 years old, even though she was not pretty, but a girl her age was tempting (to men). And Military men, generally but not all, I considered they had bad morals. She was wanted by the leader of village at that time (pro government), so my girlfriend had lost her father and I should be sent to prison, so the leader of village used her condition to push her to get married with him. I was caught with Pak Sukiman and Pak Ponirin. Because we were the figures here. We were beaten in the prison, first, we were brought to Trisula Post Surowadang then we were sent to the prison in the city. I was locked in the place close to mosque that I told you earlier, there was a coup (d’état’). At that time, PKI had already a coup, they named it Trisula coup. 

I was so small, but there I met women and army people (PKI). I met a woman, her name was Futmoinah. She had passed away. She had many children and she was missing them always. Since I looked small and younger than my age, she took care of me as her son: “It’s okay, son, you can sleep here with me”. The prison there was like a house, there are no cells. Among three of us (Ponirin, Sukiman and him), I was the oldest, yet I looked the youngest. When they moved us from Surowadang, Pak Sukiman and Pak Ponirin were handcuffed while I wasn’t. I usually wore sarong, kopiah (head cover), when I was interrogated in the city. They didn’t give me questions related to politic. They just wanted to beat me. When I was sent to the prison in the city, I was still wearing sarung and kopiah, right, while Pak Sukiman and Ponirin didn’t. Our friends (PKI sympathizers) there welcomed Pak Ponirin and Pak Sukiman, while they ignored me just because I wore sarong and kopiah. It was the bias there that I dressed like Ansor. That’s how they thought at that time. They inserted this way of thinking that men who wore kopiah must be Ansor. 

We were proceeded there in the prison. They gave us less food. Our health was not good there. One factor that influence our health was the food consumption. When I arrived there, the food they gave me was just corn grontol. The corn was boiled. In the morning they gave us in an aluminum mug around this much (showing only 1/3 of the mug). My friends counted that they gave us only 120 corn seeds in a day, divided by two servings in a day. So, 120 seeds were divided into two and they gave us water this much (showing around 1/3 of the mug) and they gave us cassava leaves, Chinese spinach that was planted by the thieves. They took the cassava plant and they just cut the stem, and chopped the leaves and they boiled it with salt. Because of that, my friends’ health got worse until they died one by one. When we reached the lowest time, in a night there were 10 deaths. 

Interviewer: Was this happening (10 deaths in a night) in the city prison only?

Pak Yatman: Yes, there were 10 deaths in a night. It was like that till several more months. There must have been deaths every night, at least one. So there, there (in prison) they formed corpse care taker. The government didn’t want to be accused that they didn’t take Islam side. PKI there (the prisoners) were Muslims. So, the corpses were taken care in Islam way. 

C: But originally, were they all really Muslims? Or were they mixed up (the religion)?

Pak Yatman: It was the same, they were mixed up. (they generalized them as Muslims)

C: But it means that originally not all were Muslims, right?

Pak Yatman: No.

C: So, it was the government who made it easier to generalize them as Muslims. 

Pak Yatman: Ho, oh (agree). But seeing the fact, majority (of the prisoners) admitted they were Muslims. 

C: Even here, in this area?

Pak Yatman: Hooh (agree). People here in South of Blitar...

C: Even before ’65? Did they admit that they were Muslims?

Pak Yatman: Yes. (They admitted as serving) Islam. No one here got married, unless it’s in Islam way. They always went to… people here called it Nyaipang (special place to do the marriage in the past).  People here, when they got married, walked down to Surowadang (around 10 km) accompanied by friends there. We wore kopiah, clean clothes. At that time, they did it (marriage) in Islam way. 

Interviewer: But, in that time, did people practice the prayer, the religion comfortably without being scared or banned? 

Pak Yatman: No (not banned for doing that). We also had Moden (a person who was in charge to marry, to get people married) at that time here. 

Interviewer: So, is there’s any contradiction with PKI ideology at that time (dealing with religion practice)?

Pak Yatman. No. The contradiction with the religion was in the philosophy. PKI just talked about philosophy (of religion) but not banning people practice Salat. (Islam prayers). 

Interviewer: Ah, I see. 

Pak Yatman: So, in Blitar city, they buried them in Karanglo. It was also the place to bury the dogs.

C: Why was there a dogs’ cemetery (because dogs weren’t so commonly found in Blitar from religious reasons, being considered impure)? 

Pak Yatman: There was an endemic rabies at that time. So, in the city, all dogs (found) were massacred and the bodies were buried there (in Karanglo). Then, after it was used to bury dogs, it was used to bury PKI who died in the prison. It’s like a humiliation act (for the PKI). Hahaha (he giggles). If I am not mistaken, I was imprisoned for 1 year. If, our parents (of Pak Sukiman, Pak Ponirin and his) didn’t have cows, we would have ended up in Buru island. So, we got (into the prison) together, and we went back home together, too. 

C: Yes, Puput, Pak Talam did (was sent to Buru island).

Pak Yatman: Yes, Pak Yatman, in Ngrejo, was sent to Buru island. But Puput was in Plantungan, in a prison for women. Plantungan was in Central of Java. What is the regency?

C: Boyo-.., Eh... I forgot the name. 

Pak Yatman: It’s close to Ambarawa, the West part of Semarang… Is it Pemalang?

C: Tegal?

Pak Yatman: It’s in the North beach area. She was with her sister there, Bu Pat, being in prison for 13 years. After 1 year, I was released. Before going to the prison, what I brought should be kept in the prison office. I had money and some... I had ID card and those were kept up there, then when I was released, they gave it back to me. (Fortunately) I brought money, at that time was Rp. 750 and in the end, it was just 68. So, among three of us, it was only me who had money. We used it to take Dokar (horsecart) from Blitar (city) to Kademangan. So, from Kademangan to the South (to Bakung), I was adviced by the police station, to hitchhike a truck. At that time, there’s a truck for natural disaster that carried the materials for the infrastructure to South of Blitar. They stopped the truck for us, from Kademangan to Kebonsari. I was afraid to go home directly. From Kebonsari, we walked around 10 km to the village office in Bakung. What was left of us (their condition), it was just just skin and bones. Along the way, we attracted the attention. But since the people there considered PKI as a friend, they didn’t do nothing. Maybe in their mind, let’s say we were the escapees from the prison, they would just let us go. When we arrived in Bakung (in the village office), finishing the administration there, I went home walking pass through the forest, I felt that my body looked like Ciduk banyu (a tool to take a shower in Indonesia, shaped like a big mug with handle). My head looked big with skinny body. My parents, neighbours and people in my neighborhood welcomed me sobbing…  like in a funeral. Then, I should report weekly to police station. But, during interrogation, they didn’t ask if I was PKI or whatever, no. In fact, not only me who needed to do weekly report, (but) hundreds (of people). 

Interviewer: Along with Pak Sukiman and Pak Ponirin?

Pak Yatman: Yes. (People who needed to report) originally from Pasiraman village, there were only three people. But if it’s also counted from Wonotirto village, there were 9 people. (those were people who) announced as PKI. 

C: Including Dwi’s Father? 

Pak Yatman: No, her father was caught and didn’t come back. I heard he was in prison, but when I arrived in prison, he wasn’t there. 

C: Dismissed?

Pak Yatman: Probably, he was in Kembangan forest… where was it? Was it Bethet Mountain?

C: Yes... was he killed there?

Pak yatman: Yes, in the Bethet mountain area, it was the mass funeral (PKI).

Interviewer: Yes, close to the football field. 

Pak Yatman: Ah, it’s close to your home, right?

Interviewer: yes, it is. 

Pak Yatman: they already prepared the hole there for that. 

C: So, it’s probably there, right?

Pak Yatman: Nggih (right). After they buried the bodies there, the place would be passed through by truck so it could be flat. Because at that time, bulldozers weren’t so common. Then, they plant teak woods there. So, if it was searched, maybe it could (be found), then afterwards, I needed to go once a month (for regular report). They watched over us tightly. But then, the rebellious side of me was on fire to the unjust leader and so on. So, afterwards I joined an organization of Ludruk (traditional theater). Pak Sukiman and Pak Ponirin were actors like me. Pak Sukiman and I were the main actors. I was the antagonist actor who loved to criticize the leader. In fact, Ludruk, once, almost got dismissed too. 

Interviewer: Was it Lekra?

Pak Yatman: No, Lekra was an Art organization made by PKI. So, PKI had mass organizations. The organization for women was Gerwani, then the youth organization was Pemuda Rakyat, then the organization of Students was IPI, the organization of college students was CGMI, then the (organization of ) arts was Lekra.

C: For the farmer (organization) was BTI.

Pak Yatman: But the most (active) were BTI, Gerwani, Pemuda Rakyat, Lekra, CGMI. Then, the organization of workers. It was also various, there were (organizations for) Farm Workers, Train workers, 75% of train workers were PKI. Then Gerwani... Have you ever met a Gerwani member?

Interviewer:  No, not yet. You were the first and a man from Bali.

C: She focuses on cases in Bali and Blitar. And she just went to see people in Bali not through NGOs. 

Interviewer: I hope that we will meet again not only this time. 

Pak Yatman: Then… I joined the arts organization, I joined the Coop, KUD (Village Coop). In KUD, I was the supplier of fertilizers in Bakung county. Before that, I also organized the farmers in the villages (in Bakung county). But because of that people thought I was the traitor (because he got better life after being released from prison). Hahaha. I held an important role. Then, in the beginning of the time in South of Blitar there was a sugarcane planting in huge amount. There was a decision made by KUD and was supported by the (local) ruler that for every sugarcane which went out from South of Blitar (from Bakung area), they needed to pay to KUD. I was the person in charge to take the payment, I hired people too for that. Then, the KUD leader (in Bakung) was the PKI leader in Sutojayan (the county in North of Bakung). Pasiraman area was included to Sutojayan area in the past. Then, Pasiraman joined Bakung county and the ex-leader became the KUD leader in Bakung. As time went by and seen from my activities in the past, I was considered as too outspoken to criticize the leader. In the past, the New Order (Orde Baru) leader had idu geni (irrefutable order), but I, myself, never said about “Orde Baru” . I felt not safe, I didn’t want my family to be dragged into this again, I decided to move to Kalimantan. In Kalimantan, I can say that I became an adventurer. I (worked in) gold mining, sandalwood cutter, bird nests collector, the rough job, everything. I met friends there too in Kalimantan. From West Kalimantan to East Kalimantan. The area that was in border with Malaysia, I found many transmigrant villages. Transmigrating 1962, it was volunteer transmigration when Indonesia was confronting Malaysia. 

Interviewer: Yes, the program supported by Soekarno, Ganyang Malaysia 1962. 

Pak Yatman: So, the transmigrant there majority were BTI people. So, I felt connected when I met them there, talking a lot (about PKI). I was (there) until Reformation era. At that time, I felt that my friends were having great antipathy towards Orde Baru. But because they didn’t have something called “ideology weapon”, so they could only hate (Orde Baru). When Soeharto was stepped down, the gold mining workers gathered the money and bought a goat for syukuran (a feast for thanksgiving). Then I went back to Blitar, I was just staying at home with Pak Sukiman. Then all my friends who lived close to the city knew about the new Reformation. Then people who were victims from tragedy ‘65 were organized by my friends. The organizations were various like YPKP, LPKP, Pakorba. YPKP itself was the special organization (which the members were) PKI. Pakorba, Paguyuban Korban Orde Baru (Orde Baru Victims’ Association) and there (managed) other Human rights abuses afterwards (after ‘65) like…

C: 72? Petrus?

Pak Yatman: Ho oh, Petrus. Petrus was Pembunuhan Misterius (Mysterious killing act). I still remembered that Petrus. Including Pak Ponirin (‘s case). He got caught again. It’s (maybe because) his way of thinking was different from mine and Pak Sukiman’s. However, we should be close as political people. But (in that case) because he was starving (and) had to feed his children, he robbed Village Coop in Sinai, Tulungagung. 

Interviewer: ah, Sinai Beach.

C: Yes, there was a village called Sinai close by. 

Pak Yatman: The village was Kalibatur, then Pak Ponirin was imprisoned. He was released, but (people in) his 2 houses were about to be killed. 

Interviewer: Who were about to be killed? His family?

Pak Yatman: Pak Ponirin himself, he had been already released then the police were looking after him. But since Pak Ponirin was a member of Tentara Pembebasan Rakyat. He got the good instinct. When the police came, he ran away from the backdoor. He ran away to Sumatra. He had passed away three years ago. 

Interviewer: When you were in prison, you told me that it was safe here. How was your family? How were your siblings doing? 

Pak Yatman: My parents weren’t involved or got affected from what I did. But my parents were more careful knowing that their son got… ( in prison), but my father and mother understood that in fact, I was in prison not because political reason, but because they wanted my girlfriend. Then, in Reformation era, I joined the PKI reconciliation. At that time, the leader of Lakpesdam was…

C: Pak Munip, the pioneer was Pak Munip.

Pak Yatman, Bapak Munip.

C: Kaji Upik, Lutfi, srengat wonodadi

Pak Yatman: Lutfi then I forget, who became the teacher?

C: Rukin

Pak Yatman: Before Rukin??

C: Oh... Arif Faizin…

Pak Yatman: No

C: Pak Zaenal. He was in the same batch as me.

Pak Yatman: La dalah. (Yes, right). He was in the same batch as you. This (reconciliation) doesn’t mean that we wanted to make a movement, but we wanted to make this country better so the people do understand what real happened (in that tragedy). I am connected to these groups (Lakpesdam, The Post Institute) don’t mean that I make a change of political movement. Of course, we need change,  what I mean is (the change) that is more democratic and etc. Even the effort of my own group (victims of tragedy ‘65) only prosecuted (their justice) to DPR (People’s Representative Council) but his group (pointing to Mawan) went to International Human Rights... if I’m not mistaken, you went to France or...?

C:  Me? To Netherlands…

Pak Yatman: Indeed, before tragedy ‘65, Soekarno had a program for those who were brilliant and the smartest in this country so they would get abroad scholarship that aimed to manage the natural sources of their country (Indonesia). If I’m not mistaken, it was around 2000 students. For the health (field), majority (went) to China. For military, (they went) to Russia… and some to America, UK. Then the group of oil Industry, mostly (went to) Algeria, that’s around 2000. But, the highest number of students (went to) Europe. Talking about China, the leader was Mao Zedong. When Mao Zedong wasn’t ruling anymore, Deng Xiaoping took the role. He was Mao Zedong’s vice leader. So, they had different point of view about a country (system). The people who were still pro to Mao Zedong moved to Europe when he was not stepped down: in Germany, France, Netherlands. In France, (who went there) was one of Indonesian Communist Party leader’s son, Aidit.

Interviewer: Yeah, I see. That Aidit. R.N Aidit.

Pak Yatman: D.N (Aidit)

Interviewer: Yeah, right, D.N Aidit.

Pak Yatman: D.N stands for Dipa Nusantara. The name ‘Dipa’ maybe was given by Bung Karno. Hehehe... he got the title (from Soekarno). In fact, his family name was not Dipa Nusantara. Aidit had Arabic blood and he had a brother named Aidit. And the son is Ilham Aidit. Then, (who went to) France was a woman, she gave her condolences to Pak Sukiman (‘s death, in May). She gave a call to Pak Sukiman’s family. Then… in Reformation era, I, myself, once I was a leader of institution of victims in tragedy ‘65 Blitar. Since I was so busy back then, I was replaced by other people. YPKP, however was not in line to people’s advocacy principle because the one who was advocated were not only ex PKI, there were many other people that should get back their rights. Yes, we became so many organizations, but we didn’t want to be such a big organization that we didn’t want to attract suspicion. Even the movement of NU youth was different from each Regency to another. In Blitar is YPKP, Kediri-Tulungagung was… what’s the name?

C: Which one? NU?

Pak Yatman: Yes.

C: Ah, Lepim. 

Pak Yatman: Then… hmm… Jember (was) SD Impress. In every county there was (a reconciliation organization that) mostly have the contact with the victims (tragedy ‘65). They aim to get information about what really happened (through the witnesses and victims). Because we know, the truth was told but it’s subjective to judge it whether it’s right or wrong. 

Interview: So, the peak of the tragedy ‘65 here was...

Pak Yatman: ‘67-‘68.

Interviewer: So, you witnessed it yourself. How chaotic was it here? 

Pak Yatman: Yes! In the beginning, the people were so frightened… there was an issue that all men would be caught by Military (Army). The huge operation was triggered by the killing of the enemy figures, like for example, perpetrators, the evil worker managers. It wasn’t supposed to be like that.  For example, the perpetrators killed people, (there should be an investigation) why he killed people, who ordered him? I understood there was situation if they didn’t kill (people) they would be killed. Then all men whenever they heard there’s Army (coming to the village), they hid in the forest. Finally, when the operation happened, they caught the real member of PKI or even merely frightened village men. However, the Army (soldiers) itself, practically, the army caught old men, youths, girls, kids. It also happened in Tambakrejo (for example), there were elderly and kids around 12 years old. It’s (luck) if they were just caught and got into prison, but no. They weren’t asked nothing (investigated), they were executed. 

Interviewer: Executed directly (shot in place).

C: No, they were asked to walk a couple of kilometers. Here in the village border of Pasiraman and Sumberboto there was a land used to be a graveyard, it was used to kill two elderly and two young kids. They were young kids (emphasizing), 12 years old, (for sure) they didn’t know anything (about politics). Indeed, in the organization (PKI) there was a group of shepherds to support this movement (revolution). So, whenever there were young shepherds, they were caught and killed. 

Interviewer: According to you, why the army beat and killed them without any investigation? 

Pak Yatman: It might be the order from the higher authority. This was aimed to traumatized people. So, (people) couldn’t think clearly... just being frightened... If they did something, they were afraid to be caught like that man (for example). It was cruel... so cruel. In ‘65, I was a young man. It’s like mass power, people here were organized to attack Dawuhan’s people. The Leader was Arjo Setu, he was a thug. While people there (in Dawuhan village) got supported by Military and police, they used guns: dor... dor (bang! bang!) People from here ran away because of that. Not admitting they got defeated, people here went to Gunung Gede. (But there somehow) the Mosque was burned… People acknowledged that the perpetrators were in that group, they (enemy) took advantage of it. In fact, the mosque burning had nothing to do with PKI, either PKI won or lost, PKI didn’t touch that mosque. The mosque remained stand tall. The mosque in Surowadang, since I was born it had already been there. It was also used for Akad (Islamic wedding vow). But when the tragedy ‘65 until, tragedy of South of Blitar, it was conditioned to appear that frictions (PKI vs. Islam). It’s not only the will of Indonesian but also, maybe, there was a huge power (influence) from outside. The purpose was… if Indonesia was directly colonized like in the past, no European country would succeed in Asia. So, they provoked (us, Indonesians). 

Interviewer: So, they created the conflict between PKI and religion, through burning the mosque.

Pak Yatman: Ho oh (agree). That’s what happened. So, people thought that it’s right that PKI ideology was anti-religion. 

Interviewer: So, the doctrine spread among society was like that. 

Pak Yatman: Indeed, in PKI ideology, it’s said that religion is opium for the society. Now I ask you, what does it mean according to you?

Interviewer: Hmm... I’m not sure. Maybe, religion takes control of the society?

Pak Yatman: What it meant by the ideology philosophy creator, Karl-Marx, opium is used to relieve the pain but cannot heal the pain. In the society, religion can be used to “calm down” the miserable feelings for example, a farmer who was suppressed by the landlord and they remained poor. Then, for some people who want to calm down the society, they use this religion as a tool by saying that it is the faith designed by God that they remain poor. Since every day, that’s what they heard, this poor farmer then believed it’s his destiny to live in poverty to make him feel calm and to accept his poor condition. But in fact, he is still poor. This is what opium means in Karl-Marx’s philosophy. But I, myself said that it was wrong because I didn’t understand. When I was a young (PKI) sympathizer, I had less understanding of this philosophy, and after Reformation era, I learned more about this by discussing with friends and reading books. 

Interview: Then, how do you see communism nowadays?

Pak Yatman: To me, Communist ideology is correct, I believe that. But (the Communist ideology) should be practiced well based on its origin. 

C: To be concluded, Communist ideology is good. But in practice, how do you say... hmm... according to regional autonomy… it’s practiced based on their region autonomy. So, it cannot be inherited to be the authentic ideology, it’s still needed to adapt to the region and culture in its region. 

Pak Yatman: Communism itself is not the ideology that is “madilog” do you know it? Materialism, dialectic and logic. It’s based on Tan Malaka. In fact, Tan Malaka is PKI enemy. Because the ideology (PKI) was not Materialism, dialectic and logic. What plunged PKI to be like this today was Tan Malaka. 

C: Yes, Soviet Union Communists thought that Tan Malaka was the one to blame for framing Indonesian Communists to be like this. I just knew this, it’s related to his speech in Berlin that he promoted Islamism into international Communism (conference). It’s him.

Pak Yatman: Yes. He was blamed to spread wrong ideology. 

C: What do you think it was a mistake (from what Tan Malaka said)?

Interviewer: It began in 1926, there was a national uprising against colony. That was led by Communists (PKI). Tan Malaka was sent by PKI to Soviet Union to observe that Indonesia now (at that time) was ready to get international support against colony. Tan Malaka didn’t return back to Indonesia, but he gave ‘signal’ that uprising could begin anytime. Because of this, people from Aceh to Papua were triggered to fight against colony. 

C: So, at that time, he was accused to be PKI traitor?

Pak Yatman:  It wasn’t concluded like that. When Japan came, Tan Malaka decided to come back to Indonesia. He formed a new party. It was PARI. Partai Rakyat Indonesia. He was accused to be guilty because of it. He wasn’t consistent because he supposed to stay with PKI not initiating a new party. 

C: So, Tan Malaka thought that Marxism should go in line with religion. Here’s the contradiction.  (…)

Pak Yatman: If you wanted to be the real communist, (you should learn the theory) from thousand years before century until now, we should (be able to make) right analysis (from those studies)

Interviewer: According to you, why are people nowadays still afraid of this Communism issue?

Pak Yatman: It’s because of people who has experienced that era. But, for people who live after that era, barely they know about it. Like for example, people your age and people older than you, but has no connection (to the tragedy). Sometimes, they look for the information about it: what PKI is. Yet, sometimes it (the information) could be wrong.

C: Yes, because the source of information is only one (from government).

Pak Yatman: At that time, South of Blitar was red (pro PKI). So, elderly must have known about it, moreover a figure in that area must know about PKI. Then, they (young people) asked about PKI. So, at that time, it (the source of information) was mixed up: Mbah dukun (black magic practitioners), BTI members. The way they explained (about the tragedy) to the young people was mixed up. It happened at that time. 

Interviewer: When the peak of tragedy ‘65 happened here in South of Blitar, was it only Army who was operating? Or were there other parties involved?

Pak Yatman: Yes, in the beginning of the operation, it was Military, security too. But when the ‘sweeping’ occurred they involved people from here, Ansor youths. 

C: In fact, Ansor was involved at the end, then? I see…

Interviewer: So, the beginning of operation was truly initiated by Army?

Pak Yatman: But before, ’65. It was Ansor… to be honest, but, they were assisted by Military.

C: So they didn’t observe the situation by themselves, did they?

Pak Yatman: No, they didn’t. Including houses burning… its military program, because it’s written in a war strategy: a war is related to the logistic supply. Of course, the (strong in) finance who has more clothes and food are the rich people. The rich people have big houses to save the food supply. Those (the houses) were burned down to the ground. Kempul (the place to keep the harvest), one, two, three... every (rich) family at least has two to three (kempul). There was one rich family who had the rice harvest that was burned down for one week and it was still flaming. 

C: The house must be huge. 

Pak Yatman: Haha... Yes.

Interviewer: who had burned these houses? Ansor or Army?

Pak Yatman: Both Ansor and Military (Army). What people knew it was Ansor (who did it). After a while, they could recognize which one was Ansor’s act and which one was Military’s act. Then they started to create the term rumput beracun (poisonous grass) that they believed that (if they let them grow) it will hurt their children. Subjectively, this “rumput beracun” group was referring to those parties who opposed to PKI. After reformation era, I met again to my friends not only from Indonesia but from all over the world. There were people from Netherland, Germany, Australia, France, and many more… ah, Korea too. Recently I got a contact from Pak Rudy, Ponorogo, saying that after this pandemic is over, Korean Human Rights organization would come to Indonesia.

Interviewer: So, the fear that still exists today comes from elder people who connected or experienced it themselves. But there are some religious groups in Indonesia that still use this as a ‘weapon’. They, without any clear proof, accusing someone as communist. Why do you think this happened?

Pak Yatman: That whatever organization, they want to give wrong information to people who don’t know anything about Communism. Or maybe, their spiritual level is not so righteous. 

C: Like for example, FPI (Front Pembela Islam). 

Pak Yatman: I can say that it’s (FPI) capitalist tool. According to Karl-Marx, a certain philosophy will support the certain groups too. 

Interviewer: Do you know some anniversary for G30S/ PKI here?

C: Who holds the event?

Interviewer: From the PKI symphatizers, maybe?

Pak Yatman: No, we don’t have. Maybe we just give a call in that day (PKI anniversary day). Hahaha.

C: If there’s a meeting on PKI anniversary day, it would spread a rumor. We (The Post Institute), sometimes, when we took advantage of that moment (to create an event), it was already... (led to misunderstanding). Just observe, on the date when PKI was born, there would be a national issue and even in Blitar, itself, there would be an issue saying that PKI (is awakened). 

Pak Yatman: I read news, saying that a certain University would be investigated for having the PKI’s flag. For us, The PKI (members and sympathizers) think that it’s not necessary (to do). In fact, it will make people get more afraid of PKI. 

C: It’s Intelligent (agents) job to investigated it, but for PKI themselves, they won’t attract attention like that. It’s not the right moment. 

Pak Yatman: But yes, I grew up with that (Communist ideology). Sometimes, when I go the rice filed, while sowing the ground I sing the songs (Communist songs). One of those, is PKI march. Here is the sentence… hmm what’s that... kau… (hmm)… kau... the point is kau beri she=gala padaku, kasih dan cinta bintang dan surya, partaiku.. partaiku… kuwarisi api juangmu… PKI...PKI... kuteruskan jejak juangmu. But I forget what’s the first sentence. Hmm... kau kikis segala dariku, less and more like that... gelap gulita cemar dan noda... ah that’s (the first sentence). It’s in (you can find it) in the phone (through internet), even the international march song, too. Oh... in the past, Lekra, if they sang something that’s related to… (porn), they would be thrown rocks at by the audiences. Porno! (miming shouting), oh no at that time it was called cabul (pervert). (They) would be chickened out (to continue). 

Moreover, ah… one more. After G30S/ PKI, if we talked about Gerwani, people would say that Gerwani (members) were whores. In fact, after Gerwani was dismissed, I noticed in all Indonesia, I have travelled around at that time, in Kalimantan I knew it exactly, from Balikpapan, to Banjarmasin, Sampit, Pontianak until Tarakan, it’s not only tens of thousands but can reach hundreds of thousands (Gerwani members) were addressed as PSK (sex workers). But, we cannot merely addressed them as immoral.  We should ask “why?” They did it because they had reasons. But, one thing to be clear, it was economic reason. (…)

C: The operation in South of Blitar was quite long, not only one or two days. Around July...

Pak Yatman: To August maybe, that’s (when the killings happened) the most… (frequently happened). But along the year of ‘67-‘68, two years (were the peak). That’s maybe… the Higher authority (government) didn’t want (to take the risk), as long as PKI were dismissed (they would do anything).  

Interviewer: Do you remember the most brutal killing acts that you have witnessed during that tragedy?

Pak Yatman: Ok… it’s like this, when the operation occurred... they caught people, then they accumulated the people who had been caught in the military bases, people at that time were struggling for looking for food and their safety (they felt threatened) too. Almost all people who were captured, were killed without being investigated. 

C: Yeah, it was their friend (who killed). If you couldn’t catch this (people), I would kill you. Something like that.

Interviewer: ho oh.

C: This is the key, the South of Blitar operation was… the victims of the tragedy, the group who had lost (PKI side) built up the winning monument for the winning group (Army). 

Interviewer: That Trisula (monument)?

C: Yeah, The Trisula monument was built up by the victims. 

Interviewer: That’s ironic.

C: So, how do you say it... The monument was for their winning (Army), but it was built up by the victims not them (Army).

Pak Yatman: The people (victims) were like Romusha (Indonesian slaves in Japanese colonial era)

C: Trisula itself was the symbol of Malang Kostrad (Army Strategic Command).

Pak Yatman: Trisula (trident) itself is a weapon that has three (knives).

C: That’s Kostrad symbol.

Pak Yatman: The massacre took places (here) like in Tikus cave, the people of Lorjo village, they witnessed it themselves from the capturing till the killings, because the execution was done and witnessed by people (in public) because like what I told you before, if you didn’t want to kill, you’d be killed. In Tikus cave, there were 42 people (killed there). But according to the information I got, it’s not only from Lorjo village (the people who were killed), but also from Bakung, Bululawang, Tumpak Kepuh too maybe hundreds that were executed in Tikus cave. And there’s more (cases) in Ngrejo, Pak Talam’s village, there were two holes for burying 48 people. They were the prisoners from some regions, they were killed without…

Interviewer: Being investigated?

Pak Yatman: … knowing what was their mistake. They (were killed) just because they lived in South of Blitar. 

C: Then in Tambakrejo village, in Grojokan graveyard. Grojokan… hmm... Grodokan or Grojokan?  

Pak Yatman: Grodokan. Nah, that! Grodokan is the sound of drrrrr… (the sounds of rifle guns). It started when the Military caught a man, (then) he handcuffed him and he asked him to walk around with him. Whenever they bumped to other man, the Military would ask the man in handcuffs: ”do you know him?” Since it’s his neighborhood, of course the man knew him (they were from the same village), So, anyone who was known by the first man (handcuffed man) would be caught, until it added up to, based on the story of the survivor from this event, around 126 people. They were caught and tied on the long log (they were lining up).

C: Who is that guy, the one who still has the gun (bullet) in his body (recalling)?

Pak Yatman: Pak Katyo. But he cannot be interviewed.

C: Yes, it’s a complicated bureaucracy that we needed to go to Kediri and it’s so complicated.

Pak Yatman: So, these people (126 people), were shot from (one) side of the body. 69 died instantly. There’s one who acted dead so he could run away. (It’s) Pak Katyo. There’s also, Pak Waras. Then he ran away into the forest for 2 years. When he came back, he got the bruises all over his body. Fortunately, when he came home, here (in Bakung) was safe (the situation). Then, the bodies (69 dead people) were mass buried in Tambakrejo village, Sidorejo area. 

C: I heard that some of them were also buried in that Grodokan cemetery, right? That’s why that cemetery was called Grodokan.

Pak Yatman: Ho oh. (agree). Before it (the massacre), there wasn’t a graveyard to bury people (victims).

C: Now it became a public cemetery. 

Interviewer: So, what happened to the rest of 60 people (57 to be exact)?

C: They survived and told the stories to the next generation.

Interviewer: Weren’t they caught (sent to prison)?

C: No. It’s over. They survived.

Interviewer: Oh, I see.

Pak Yatman: There’s a story between a father and his little child. He (the father) died, and the child was hurt.  The child didn’t want to go home, he/she jumped into the hole and asked people to ground the soil over them. But those names, were in the organization. 


Interviewer: Robert Moisa

Interviewee: Pak Yatman

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Transcript Notes

  1. 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)

  2. In Islam, dogs are considered najis or “ritually unclean/polluting”, and are not kept as pets. To bury humans in a dog graveyard for rabid animals is extremely humiliating in a Muslim community.

  3. Tan Malaka was a teacher and philosopher with Communist leanings, who affiliated himself with the PKI. However, he taught the philosophy of Madilog (Materialism, Dialectics, & Logic), which Pak Yatman says was not the ideology of the PKI in this interview.

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

  2. To what extent did ideology drive Pak Yatman’s actions, and those of his peers during the Cold War in Indonesia?

  3. What was the role/function of traditional values and culture in Indonesia’s Cold War conflict?

  4. 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.

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

  6. Did Indonesia truly experience a Cold War, given Pak Yatman’s testimony? Would it be more accurate to characterize it as a local conflict? Why or why not?