Kemal Taruc Interview Transcript: Part 1


Transcribed by Jamie Parker

BK: Welcome to Breaking History, a production of the Northeastern University History Graduate Student Association. This is an independent, three part episode, featuring a special guest who lived through the massacres, repression, assassinations, and government upheaval in Indonesia during the tumultuous political period following independence from the Dutch, about which many Americans have not heard. It is our intention that this episode can serve as an oral history source to document these events. This recording was made on April 28th 2017 with Kemal Teruc, James Robinson, Bridget Keown, Jamie Parker, Matt Bowser, and Professor Heather Streets-Salter.

Indonesia, like many other places, was a site of anti-colonial struggle. These global anti-colonial struggles often took the form of nascent nationalism, that utilized a variety of different ideologies, including communism, socialism, religious, and military ideology. In Indonesia specifically, these struggles took three unique forms: there was the Communist Party, which was one of the largest in the world; the Islamic movement, Nagara, which was sizeable as Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world; the third was the Indonesia Armed Forces, which played a significant role in the armed struggle against the Dutch and the Japanese. After World War Two, the Dutch tried to reclaim the country, and the various Indonesian factions fought back under a united banner. An intellectual named Sukarno, a long time symbol of anti colonialism, became recognized as a leader of the movement, and gradually rose to power by making promises to each faction. By 1957, he tired of political infighting among the factions, and instituted the idea of ‘guided democracy’, which was in reality a transition to an autocracy that lasted until his overthrow in 1965.  Throughout his rule, he was still playing sides in order to retain power. Eventually however, the military began to grow suspicious of his leftist leanings, and his growing alliance with the Soviets. They instituted a coup, aided by the CIA, that overthrew Sukarno’s government, and instituted a conservative, right wing government that allied with Muslims and immediately began taking action against Communists and suspected Communists. This resulted in the death of an estimated 1 million people, and the torture and displacement of millions more. In the 1970s, the government was still trying to put down perceived dissidence, and this is where our subject’s story really begins. He was one of the leaders of the student movement which pushed back against the dictatorship. Because of the United States covert involvement in Sukarno’s overthrow, especially because of the list they supplied to the military about Communists and suspected Communists, very little personal history of this period has emerged, especially in western schools. We hope that this oral history will help students learn more about what life was like during this period in Indonesia, and about the activism that students engaged in during this time.

This is episode one. In this episode, we trace the history of the Indonesian struggle for independence, and the resulting political upheaval, through the actions of Kemal’s politically active family. He also discusses his experiences during the coup, and how he and his family survived the massacres that followed. (3:09)

JR: Welcome to Breaking History, a World History podcast. A production of the Northeastern University History Graduate Student Association. I’m James Robinson, I study social movements and sports history, and this a special episode with Kemal Teruc. We have a whole crew of us, and we’re going to make this into a multiple part history on Indonesian history. So, who else do we have here?

BK: I’m Bridget Keown, a fourth year PhD candidate, studying gender and the First World War in Britain and Ireland.

MB: I’m Matt Bowser, I’m a second year PhD student studying British Burma and social movements in the 1930s.

JP: I’m Jamie Parker, I study British East Africa, transport and development, and anti-colonial resistance.

JR: So, we’re honored to have Kemal Teruc, who is visiting Northeastern currently. He’s conducting a research seminar on urban resilience here at Northeastern University for the last three months, with the intention to learn from the recent experiences of American cities to understand both natural disasters and societal hazards in which resiliency has become anew turn in urban planning and policy making. He also has done joint research on sustainable cities and urban development with other universities in the US, Canada, and Germany, amongst others. He earned an Urban Planning degree from Bandung Institute of Technology, a Masters’ degree at Rutgers University in Organizational Studies, and a Masters’ in Risk Management from Glasgow Caledonian University. Previously, he was a Hubert Humphrey Fellow and an International Lead Fellow. He is currently a Senior Lecturer and founding faculty member of the Graduate Program in Urban Development at [UNIVERSITY] in Jakarta. He also leads the Policy Research Team for the Presidential Advisory Council of Indonesia. So we’re going to talk about your life today, and give us an insight into the history of Indonesia, especially from your adulthood on, but also your family background. So, thank you so much! Is there anything you’d like to say, just to lead off, before we get into the questions? (5:41)

KT: Okay, just briefly. Thank you everybody for arranging this kind of interview, or conversation. I am delighted to share my first hand experience living through three different regimes, during the Sukarno time, and then the Suharto time and the post-Suharto; the so called ‘Reformation era’ from 1999. So thank you, let’s go with whatever questions you would like to ask me, and then I would love to share it.

BK: Sure. So, we’d like to start with your early life, and what it was like growing up in Indonesia. So if you could start maybe telling us a bit about your parents, and their early involvement in society and politics?

KT: So, my Dad is very political, from the beginning, and my Grandfather (my Father’s father) and Uncle were kind of one of the founding political parties at that time, the Socialist or Communist Party, (6:55) before the break up of the Socialist and Communist International the Third. So, they were among the first Indonesian Nationalists, but they took the Socialist and Communist ideas for the Indonesian independence movement. So, my father then, under his uncle’s influence because he was among the founders of the Communist Party of Indonesia. Remember, that’s the Communist or Socialist Party before the breakup, so don’t really take into (note: i.e. don’t consider them to be the same as) the new Communist regime as today we understand. Then he was pretty much with these kind of ideas, and then when he went to the College of Engineering, the ITB that I also graduated from that school, he was still with those kind of ideas. But then during his studentships, I learned that there is already the break up of this Communist International and the Social Democrats, SPD Germany/Willy Brandt and the Soviet Union pact (?). So he chose to take the Social Democrat route. He joined the Socialist Party group under Sjahrir, when he was at the ITB after the Independence Proclamation in 1945, but the international (community) did not yet acknowledge Indonesian independence. The students organized themselves to fight against the Dutch that were coming back with the Allies’ army, and he was at the college at the time, a student, then he decided to have a meeting and decided to have two groups: the one with the bright minds who stayed in school to be a professional, because we need these kinds of person when we become an independent nation; and the (other) half should be mobilized and try to create a student army to fight against the Dutch and the Allies that were coming. But at the time, there was no official Indonesian Army, so it was kind of a student volunteer, student corps; and then I remember he told me he then called the high school students, the non college students, army. So he trained the youngsters as a student army, with military training. So, this is an important element because those people trained under the student army then became the official army, the professional army, (or) held some position in the government after independence, and then it linked back to the whole series of Indonesian politics, because all the players started during those years.

For background, there are other groups of the army, trained by the Japanese, the Dutch and the Japanese; so the former Indonesian recruited by the Dutch become the Dutch Army, KNIL (this is the Dutch word). So, the Dutch army, the Indonesians as part of the Dutch army. Then some were trained by the Japanese, and become like the local Japanese army. They were all professionally trained, compared to my Father’s college students who trained themselves, and they became very important players of the, even now, the current military regime. Because they are trained professionally by the Japanese. We can see, as I mentioned in West Java, they are mostly the army trained by the Dutch; this is more easy, open, democratic type army Generals. Compared to their peers, this is trained by the Japanese, they are very, very cruel, very mean, and did whatever necessary to win any mission they had. Then Suharto, that I mentioned, is one of the former Japanese Army. So the fight between the generals of the army in Indonesian politics should be traced back from who are this group being trained (by) before. But nowadays because of the official military academy, then they are trained under the military academy. But this depends on who the mentors are, so then they have a difference. So we cannot just easily say ‘Indonesian military regime’, which part? Because they are fighting amongst themselves. ‘You cannot do it this way, because it is too cruel, too mean, we have to have more open kind of, nice, benign approach to society’. ‘Oh no, we have to control it’. So among the activities that students, amongst others myself, were involved in directly is because f the conflict of this army. Now, to just make a fast forward, even the most recent Jakarta governorial elections, is still just the same person that the army is behind, all those civilians, whether for democratic rallies, protests, and everything. (??)

So my father went into that kind of stream. He dropped out, because he couldn’t finish his studies. At that time then he got the title as a Captain of the Army. But then, because he was  not willing to be in the Army professionally, in 1951, he retired. We are no longer in war, so ‘why should I stay in the Army? So I have to do my career in the political (world)’. Then, he was active in the Socialist Party, when they were competing with the Communist Party. Then the Communists became a stronger group, and the Indonesian nationalists and the Muslim Islamic groups; these are actually the three main camps. The traditional Islamics, nationalists, Communists, and a fraction of these Communists is the Socialists. So that’s when my parents, and I was born in 52, so then in 55 they hold these new elections of political parties, and it becomes a mess of political chaos! Sukarno, the President, made a decree: he dismantled the Parliament, because there are too many political parties, and ‘I’m the one in charge to run the country’. So he made a decree, dismantle the Parliament, as under the Presidential decree now he becomes the only person in charge, and to the title as… it’s a very long title! He leaned to the Russians, the Communist type of.. he believed in the Soviet type of central planning. He was very dictatorial. So he put this opponents, including my friend Silgar, I called him Uncle because he is my friends father, this uncle was put by Sukarno in the prison, as a political prisoner. So, until then in 76 (ed. Note: this refers to the coup of 1965) the other part of the military took over (from) Sukarno, toppled him down, this was actually the role of the American politics; behind all the movement to topple down Sukarno.

JR: So was this in ’65?

KT: Yes, ’65. This is when the so called ‘Failed Communist Coup’, then being taken over by the military, and then the whole story of the massacre of the so called communists. We never really had the real numbers. Never been opened in any case, in the world, this is strange. Because even where you have Pinochet protesting, and the Chilean General arrested for these killings… actually, Chile took Operation Jakarta as their name, Chile is modelled after Jakarta, of the successful coup. Jakarta in ’65. I met my Chilean student during my study abroad year in Upstate New York, and I said ‘is this really the name, that you called Operation Jakarta during Pinochet-Allende?’ He said, why do you ask that question, everybody knows that Kemal! I had to confirm, is this true, or just a gossip! Suharto is never, no one really talks about this massacre; even Cambodia, they open the story. Jakarta, Indonesia, they can’t expose. For me, what’s wrong with the way we picture the history of the global, why this part of the world has never been exposed up to now. Up to now, you just didn’t know about that.

So then my family, we live in East Java, where all the massacres happened because East Java is the base of the so called Communists. We don’t know who the real Communists are, I don’t believe it because they don’t read the Manifesto of Communism, it’s too hard a document to read, it’s just like a bunch of people being mobilized by the politics of the so called Communist leaders. And then they were all massacred; it’s just part of the thing.

But then the part of the whole New Order under Suharto, because we are anti Communist, we have been jailed by Sukahrno and his Communist allies, so we just be part of the beginning of the New Order era, we are part of the death regime. But after years, we can see that one by one those civilians had been pushed aside, and all the military cliques run the whole country, took over the main political party, the party of the government, and including my Uncle, the people get recalled so no longer become the parliament members, and one by one they are all gone. They have all been put aside. They murdered people, they take people out, people disappear, and intimidation including on my campus. Actually we make a joke protest , and stage a play, and take the poetry reading, and criticize the government, but they took it seriously. And then finally they sent troops to campus in 78. And my Mother, I don’t know how my father and my mother met, they never told me and I never asked, but it looks like my mother was a very active (member) of her family. But one time in ’65, we had some guests, important guests. ‘Oh, he’s a long time friend of my Grandpa, from my mother. He’s a Communist boss, so be prepared, don’t treat him like other Javanese guests’, where the main guests be in the inside, and the rest have to wait outside because of the stratified culture. This is the Communists, so they are all equal. So when they come in, just stay put, everybody’s in the house. OK, we understand the culture, they come in, they hug, and said ‘oh it’s so many years that we haven’t met’. And I asked, who is thus guy? He’s one of the central committee of the Communist Party. This is, I think, in the early months, like in May of ’65. In this respect, he’s travelled around to check the network (of the Communist Party), to prepare this rebellion in September! So, everyone stopped for a couple of hours, just had me (inaudible), and then say goodbye, because I have to travel to (inaudible), they came in three Jeeps, to spots in the whole Communist and activist (network. And they went off, ‘so he’s a long time friend of mine’. so my Grandpas from my Mum… he didn’t really go into that politics. He worked in a forest plantation, the teak wood plantation. But then I thought, ‘oh, he must belong to that group’.

Luckily, we moved from that small town to Surahbaya in July. The coup happened in September, the same year. And we learned, because we were visited by this Communist the army took a notice, so we are somehow connected to those Communist groups. So, had they (not) moved to Surahbaya we might have just got (killed), because we are on top list. Just because my Father’s a good man, he spent a long time in the early 90s doing that. But then I heard someone in my family, my Uncle or some blood (relative), that’s why she got married to my Father perhaps, and she is very active and became one of the first members of parliament, and she finished her degree and became the Vice Dean of the Law School. The school had to basically reorganize from the former Sukarno team, this was a state university, they had the New Order come in, they should be replaced, and the new fresh friends of the anti-Sukarno group. And we are, as a family, part of that. So my mum was put in as a Vice Dean, and because there were not many women at that time, so that in ’71 she was assigned, not really elected as these were directives from the top, sent to represent East Java as a woman parliament member in Jakarta. So she sat at the Parliament building in ’71, the same year when I enrolled to IT as a student. So she was in Jakarta as a parliament member, I was in Bandung, it’s only a two hour drive. This is a funny kind of relationship, because when I took my students to do a protest to the Parliament, actually she was the one that accepted us! Because she was a parliament member in charge for the Commission of Education, so she deals with education and university, all those things, as those are her interests. So then when we come, my Mum is coming out of there. I sit like here, and I read all of my statement (saying) ‘we are protesting the Government blah blah blah blah’, and I still have that, one of the pictures. My mum stayed at the parliament until her early death in ’81, I think she passed away. I think she was burnt out, because everybody took her to do everything, she was a workhorse, because she was so dedicated, loved to do things. She drafted the Indonesian marriage law, that did not allow the male to take the second wife without any permission because it was kind of a common practice in Indonesia, and at least you had to get the consent in writing from your wife, otherwise it’s illegal, straight away you’d go to the jail! Three years in jail, in prison! So they put that in the law, so that’s her signature, her legacy, the reason I want to join this. Because this is something important, I always say women never get protected in this country. She was then elected as the chairperson of the Indonesian Women’s Republic. They used the word ‘Republic’ because they associated it with the women. This is part of the still early independence of Indonesia, trying to support the independent republic. Kind of (like) the League of Women Voters here. Then at that time she was the chairperson, and supported by the Dutch NGO’s (novi?), and they gave some donations, endowment by building headquarters, this is a four story building that they can rent out the spaces, so they can have an income independently. The government didn’t like it, because they wanted to control all the Indonesian societal organizations. This Independent Women’s (Movement) is not… you could not be independent during that regime, you should belong to the regime. Somehow, you have to be connected. So, it didn’t really fly up, but at that time we’d get the no (inaudible) support from the (inaudible). We get from the women’s democrat here, from Boston I believe, but the name is such a common name, Miss Karen Smith,  I just remember vividly her look is very tall, always visited my mum, and the discussed something.  Did not really follow.

JR: Is this the 50s, or 60s?

KT: 70s. I was already in the College. So my mum was already a member of the parliament, and also the chairperson of the Indonesian Women’s Independent Association. She then introduced me to John D. Rockerfeller the third! Because at the time, John Rockerfeller was here, so he had to talk with students to know what’s really going on in Indonesian politics. (So I said) can you send me to meet him? ‘Just come over and meet him at the hotel’. He was a very tall guy, and he gave me a pocket book. ‘The Second American Revolution’, it was a very small, tiny book and it had his signature. The book was not really interesting, I didn’t really read it! Anyway, I took it, and then he asked what’s going on in the New Order, with the military. It was important, what he wanted to talk about. President of campus, we cannot talk about politics on the campus, they (inaudible) every day, just reworded whatever, I don’t know what they are going to do with my report. They still policed students. This happened at least (in) my third grade, undergrad I met John D. Rockerfeller! In Jakarta! See, we were so well connected since the early years, through that kind of person to person contact. On the other hand, there were some exchange, training, of the so called technocrats, and the Ford Foundation; Minister for Foundation and Prof.  (inaudible). The father of Prabowo, the General that in 1998 got his blood slashed (?) during the transition after Suharto and the New Reformation , and he’s running as President – last term. He failed, now he supported the new governor of Jakarta.

JR: This is recently?

KT: Just recently. The father of Prabowo is one of the main players who tried to modernize the Indonesian technocrats. He’s actually an economist trained in Rotterdam, so he’s not a US trained economist. He belonged to the Socialist Party, so my father (knew) him, and I know him as well, and he became an economist. But according to the other group of the Socialist Party, his economic theory is not a successful economy at all! Then there (were) some debates with the Professor of Economics, Sumitros came, I forget what university from the US he was trained at, but a debate on the kind of corporative type of economy compared to the market driven, this is the whole economics ongoing debate. But then we joined the Ford Foundation, sent all the students to America, to Berkeley, I think some at Cornell, Harvard, and then back as a new technocrat. The professionals that they put in to run the new Indonesian economic development under the military regime. So this is the military, and these are the technocrats who are under their control at the time. Now I learn they were using the Rostow, Rowstonian stages of economic growth, which is a very old model that never worked. But at the time, people believed this is the way we should develop from the agrarian economy into the industrial economy. This is this kind of restoring the whole Indonesian economy based on this concept. So then this is Sumitro and these technocrats, and then it met my minister of public works.

MB: I thought it was really interesting how you mentioned the Allende/Pinochet coup in Chile as well, and so that was going to be my transition to the Suharto coup, which in a way may have served as a template for the CIA getting involved. It’s always the danger of the left wing movements becoming mainstream that leads to the right wing coup.

KT: I’m going to say what I know, the best information is from my distant uncle, that part of the Gilchrist fake document production. This is something that I got directly.

HS: And what you said, Matt, is so true. I mean you see this over and over and over again during the Cold War. The CIA getting involved, trying to bring about regime change, because of the threat of communism.

KT: Yes, the international communists, the Soviet Union, the Chinese. At that time, Sukarno made a statement about the ‘axis’: Pyeongyang, Peking, Hanoi, Jakarta.

HS: I think that the PKI was the biggest Communist Party outside of China and the Soviet Union. It was a very large party.

KT: They claimed they had three million members, but I didn’t really believe the quality of the, ideological quality. They didn’t have the Mao kind of training, where they did intensive marches and… there’s nothing. People don’t read (the Communist Manifesto).

HS: But unfortunately it attracted the attention of the wrong people. This is the problem.

MB: So, did you want to talk about your personal experience during the coup, and also how your family was involved, and also the transition from Sukarno to Suharto?

KT: So during ’65, I mentioned earlier that I moved from a small town to the big city. So I was in the middle school at that time. So I remember vividly what was really going on. I heard from my dad that our family, that belonged to the Communist group, they all disappeared. They don’t know where they (were), they are dead or whatever. So, we understand that, that’s something. And secondly, my other uncle lived in another mid sized city, small town, two hundred or two hundred and fifty thousand people, which was part of the places where the army, the Red Beret, the Father of the former president, the Father in Law of the former president SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono). (32:10) (He) had been in charge as a commander to wipe out the whole Communists (party). So then this army came in to this particularly small city of Madiun, this is where the first Communist rebellion, the Soviet type of Communist rebellion, in ’48, failed; because the Army crushed them. And then still call a (inaudible) for Communists, so my Uncle lived there, and he’s a mechanic, the only mechanic. Not that many people know how to handle big trucks and everything. So he was called by the Army, to manage the trucks of the Army, and sometimes he had to drive it because no drivers could use the big trucks, the Army trucks, so he had to drive. He said that the trucks were used to take all these Communists people, in the trucks. He drove to the teak wood forests, and nearby is the village called Saradan. You can still pass the place and see the holding place, in the middle of the teak wood forest they were already digging holes, graves; and got all the so called Communists to kneel down, and there are some civilian, anti Communists, Communist hater groups, ready with their swords. SO they kneel down, and then I don’t know, (inaudible) and they know this is going to happen. So then he carried back and followed this group, and then he told me the story. ‘I just came back from this horrible thing, but I had to do it, because otherwise I’d be accused as part of this group’. So this is my first hand witness story of one part of the massacre. You can get any other sources as well, but for myself, this is the story I got from my Uncle. It was horrifying that this kind of stuff, and after that he told me that those people with the swords sometimes they got disturbed, their mind, so this really happened. So this one thing from my Uncle. The second is when we moved to Surabaya we heard this story from our friend who still lives in this small city that we left. There’s a big river, one of the big rivers, the Brantas River in East Java, like the main river. And people in this small band, the river passed the city, in this city because they told me the story, we still have connections with our former friends. ‘We had to put the bamboo sticks to get their corpse flowing down the stream’; because they’re stuck in the bridge. A pole, to push. And their bodies, with their hands tied and with no head. It’s so smelly, and the sticks were there for this, on the bridge. They’re saying ‘you are lucky, you are no longer in our city, because now we have to go out and get these bodies out from the stream’. The whole river down, another 60 or 50 miles down, and stuck with a dam. Ok, so the dam built by the Dutch. So the whole bodies stop right there. So I heard the story, the people there voluntarily took those bodies, and buried all those corpses in this area. So I don’t if you want to do some forensic/archaeological survey in that area like in Bosnia, you might find all those bones, but nobody really cares anymore or remembers. So that’s what I heard about this story. So we just felt blessed and lucky that we left that city, and we live in the bigger city of Surabaya. We heard about these horror stories about these people, and people fleeing from…

And one of my family, I think my father’s cousin, a son of, this is Ango (?) the former Communist leader. He joined the Communist youth wing and somehow he escaped, he didn’t get caught by the army. We took him several nights at our house. But you cannot keep him forever. So we keep him, and then ask him to find some safe place to run away or to hide. I remember he stayed with us; ‘oh, ok, this is home’… we have to save him otherwise he will be killed by the army. So, where will he go? I don’t know. Then after several days he just moved out, and I heard he was safe somewhere. So this really happened. As I told you, Heather, there’s a good piece of writing by Umar Kayam, who is a Cornell PhD in history I think, or sociology, about a very sad story. He’s a writer, he’s a good writer, I can give it to you. Sri Sumarah dan Bawuk, these are the names of two girls in a Javanese family. One belonged to this group, one belonged to the other group, and how the family split. The whole story like I did, has happened to most Javanese educated families at that time, because…

JR: One was Communist and one was anti-Communist?

KT: Communist and nationalist, socialist, those kinds of things. Educated people, leaders of the society in Java; either you belonged to this one or you belonged to the other. Because at school you read that book, there’s no other books that you can read. Or you can be like the traditional Muslim groups, and you’re against the Communists. So either one you’re split on this issue. That’s a story on the human features, perspectives of families that split because of this kind of… And Omar Kayam, by the way, belonged to my father’s socialist group. So it’s the kind of socialist type of thinkers that still really want to open and share this kind of story to the public. The rest either don’t want to remember it, because they’re so traumatized, or they want to deny this is something that really happened; that it was the Communists that betrayed our country, but actually it was designed. I told you, my other relative, distant relative, used to work with intelligence units, so when he was young he was part of this intelligence unit. I met him in the 70s, so he would sometimes just tell a story, but he knows in the family that I’m the one that knows the direction of the story. So he would ask me ‘so, did you get into this one?’. I got the leak from him, that they got the famous Gilchrist document. This is Gilchrist from the British Embassy, that shows that there is a group of generals, the General Consul, who would like to make a coup against Sukarno. This document claimed that Communist supporters would respond to the next coup from the General Consul, by taking a coup earlier. They leaked the document, and (my relative) said ‘I made that document, I even burned the end of the paper document to show that it was ill received, that the document has been burned, and that we had a very important document’, that the General Consul would like to have a coup, and we leaked it. So, fake news! This is now the news that’s through the social media, easy to get and deliver the fake stories, and responded; this is actually what the communist provoked.

The coup started on the 30th September, and the Army are waiting for them; ‘hey, you do the coup’, so we (the army) are the savior of this country, from the Communist coup. This is the story. My relative told me, I’m one of them, I’m meeting in the Akar building I can show you the building that’s the center of this intelligence, not really seen like a normal office building… ‘are you serious, are you part of the whole thing?’ “we are only like 20 core team under the…” very tough intelligence general, trained here at West Point. A class mate of Park Chung-Hee and Fidel Ramos, the same years. So they have a reunion, I remember Fidel Ramos, Park Chung-Hee and (inaudible) have a reunion… They get together, they’re connected for a long time.

So then, this 120 persons in the unit, and these only the remaining and the 70 survived. He showed me his uniform, this comes from the 30th September, the so called communist rebellion. And somehow the general didn’t know who would be killed. Were they the real communists, or somebody… some document said the Indonesian army were already inside this communist group, so they also helped to provoke this communist group to start this coup, that they could crush.

JR: Right, and the communist coup, quote/unquote, was the excuse used for Suharto to come to power?

KT: Yes. ‘Because Sukarno, you’re a fan of the communists, and now we say that you relinquish your power and give it to me peacefully’. They said this, a document of transfer of power, but they never really got the document, the real paper. But Suharto claimed there was a document signed that Sukarno gave to him. ‘So I didn’t really take his power by force. This is the President, after he knew that the Communists failed and I saved the country, he gave a mandate to me to continue to lead the country’, with the special mandate that Sukarno signed. But, people ask, where’s the document? ‘I don’t know, but there are some witnesses. You can ask those people that were there’. So this big question is, is there a real document or did Suharto make up this story, and there is no document? But he claimed that he didn’t really take over the power from the President, but he was just given the mandate. So it’s all for show, this is done in a peaceful way from the President to the new one. ‘The communists are the culprit, is the criminal. We are transferring the power from President Sukarno to Suharto’. This is the way the story is released, they created a movie that every children, elementary school children, have to go to watch that movie every year, to commemorate the failed coup of the communists, and shows how the communists are so cruel, so mean. They slice all the generals, and put down in their body in this hole. So there’s this kind of story now, all these publications on how the communists are real bad, mean guys, and this army is the real savior from this mean, these Communists. People believed that. People still believe that story, because we belong to anti-communist (world) anyway. I was in middle school, so for me it was some kind of horror story. You read this story about the Nazi camp with the Jews, is this really happening? I kept these things in my mind, but we believed it. We are safe now, so we are now part of the new regime, and try to look up.

And back to the story. This army’s slowly taking control even on our campuses. ‘Oh, let’s say something about this situation, and let’s organize some kind of protest’. And then we started with this play, this play that was banned by the military. The military have the whole apparatus from the top down to the cities. So every civilian visits municipal government would have to get some approval from military command office, and apply for it. So then if the campus wants to have a show, they have to have a permit, and the permit should come via the military command of their territory. It’s not by the city office or the municipal office, it’s the army that makes the decision. So this was banned, and you heard about that, and the professor didn’t dare to take his own graduates to the play on the campus. I held my hand up, I said I’d come to Jubya, I’d get him to come down to Bandung and we staged the protest show.

BK: This is the end of episode one. Thank you for listening. In episode two, Kemal talks about being a young man, growing up during Sukarno’s overthrow, and the resultant military dictatorship. He traces his years as a student, his involvement in the resistance movement, and his memories of his comrades. You’ve been listening to the Breaking History podcast, a production of the Northeastern University History Graduate Student Association. Our producers and sound editors are Matt Bowser and Dan Squizzero, our theme music was composed by Kieron Legg, and your hosts today have been Bridget Keown, James Robinson, Matt Bowser, James Parker, Heather Streets-Salter. Thanks for listening!