Indonesia – Worldcrunch

In central Java, Indonesia, KBR reporter Muhamad Ridlo spoke to a man who was at the heart of the action that night and who said a false version of events was remembered in Indonesia.

JAVA – The man in front of me is tall and thin. He is 77 years old, with a sharp memory, a clear mind and a strong mind. Sulemi is a former soldier, who served with Cakrabirawa, the security forces of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno.

Sulemi was 25 in 1965, when her life changed transformed from an honorable soldier to a political prisoner.

Sulemi swears he will be honest with me about what happened on the bloody night of September 30, 1965. But what he tells me is very different from the official version of events that most Indonesians have come to know.

Millions of Indonesian schoolchildren were forced to watch the terrifying film, Pengkhianatan G30S / PKI (Betrayal of the Communist Party), which describes the events of that day. In the film, Cakrabirawa’s troops are shown kidnapping and killing six generals. The army accused the Communist Party, or PKI, of organizing the kidnappings. And General Suharto used the events to justify his assumption of the presidency.

Sulemi admits he was involved in the kidnappings and spent the next 15 years in prison for it. “I told the truth,” he says. “But they punished me anyway, that’s the fact.”

Over 50 years later, Sulemi still claims he is innocent. He says he was following the orders of his commanders and was told he was preventing a coup that six generals were planning. “There was an instruction from the battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Untung. He said that the situation was urgent, that there was a coup d’état planned for October 5, ”he told me.

Sulemi thinks General Suharto knew and approved of what they were doing. Three of his commanders met Suharto the night before and left the meeting radiant. “After they got back to our vehicle, they said everything was set, Suharto was okay with it. Crazy, right? These are the facts.”

On the night of September 30, Sulemi and 35 other soldiers from Cakrabirawa went to General Nasution’s home, intending to arrest him. But General Nasution ran and escaped by jumping over the fences. Troops searched the house and in the chaos Nasution’s 5-year-old daughter, Ade Irma, was shot dead. The film portrays the troops as cruel monsters.

Better die telling the truth

“It’s remarkable to say that his daughter, Ade Irma, was deliberately shot. It’s crazy. Why would we do that?” Sulemi continued. “The kid has nothing to do with it. It’s an incredible slander. She was hit by a bullet when we were inside the house, I don’t know whose bullet was.”

Sulemi says he later learned that the bullet was fired by a soldier trying to force a door. The troops were sent to prison. There, Sulemi was tortured and interrogated twice a week, in an attempt to force a confession. “If I was tortured until I died, that was the risk,” he said. “Better to die telling the truth than to live a lie.”

Sulemi has never admitted to being a Communist or to having been part of a plot to overthrow President Sukarno. “It was impossible for me to confess,” he said. “At my age, at that time, why would I want to get involved in party ideology and politics? We were soldiers, we couldn’t be in a party, at least not at the lower levels. I don’t know about officers, majors and above, maybe they were involved in politics. ”

After the events of 1965, the PKI became public enemy number one. In the space of a year, half a million to a million suspected Communists and Communist sympathizers were killed. After two years in prison, those involved in the events of 1965 faced court martial. Sulemi was sentenced to death, which was eventually reduced to life imprisonment, and after 15 years in prison he was pardoned.

Outside, Sulemi lived like an outcast, with neighbors refusing to speak to him and unable to find work. His wife had long since divorced him.

It has now been over 50 years since that night. But it continues to haunt Indonesia. Communism is still feared and hated in the country. For years, those accused of Communist sympathies and their children have been banned from the military and public service. Public discussions on these events are often closed, and in September, a peaceful discussion on the subject sparked a riot in Jakarta.

Sulemi has since remarried. But his wife Sri Murni tells me that he still carries the trauma of torture today. “He’s screaming in his sleep,” she told me. “We sleep separately.”

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