By Beni Bevly
This tragedy is not belonging to Indonesian only but also the world. It’s the same happening in Germany towards Jews, in Cambodia or other part of the world. It is really human tragedy which the point is denying human dignity. The massacre, mass graves and innocent victims are like “spiritual pain” for Indonesia that needs to be healed. Indonesia couldn’t take a step forward freely without healing those pains. It’s not easy I know, but I’m sure that where a will is then there’s a way.
–Albertus Suryo Wicaksono–
When I began coordinating and promoting “1965 Incident Road Show in the United States with A. Suryo Wicaksono”, many people asked me, “Who is A. Suryo Wicaksono? I’ve never heard of him?” Frankly, since I left Indonesia about 10 years ago, I am not so updated with current and young Indonesian activists. I would have never known him if Ester Jusuf did not send me several films that were recorded by her organizations, Salidaritas Nusa Bangsa (SNB) or Homeland Solidarity and Kasut Perdamaian (KP) or Shoe for Peace. One of the films was about 1965 mass grave that really touched me. Then it triggered me to find out further information regarding this film. From there I knew who Albertus Suryo Wicaksono or Suryo.
Of course, conversation with him is not sufficient for me to inform those fellows who Suryo really is. Then I request written information, such as resume from him. Guess what I got? A resume that contends a writing only less than a half of letter size page. That resume tells us the following information.
He was born Jakarta, April 12th 1967. From 1989 to 1995 he went to Ledalero School of Philosophy in East Nusa Tenggara, took Humans Subject, then continued from 1995 to 2001 at Driyarkara School of Philosophy, Jakarta in Social Subject. From 2002 to present, he is the Chairperson of Kasut Perdamaian Foundation and Research Coordinator of Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa and since 1992 up to now he does social work for churches in remote villages in Indonesia.
In 2004, he participated Annual Conference of High Commission on Human Rights, United Nations, Geneva – Switzerland and spoke in serial International discussions in German, Netherlands and Belgium. Prior to that, in 2003 he was one of the Participants of Gwangju Annual International Meeting in South Korea.
I thought that information was not enough. So to collect more information about him, I found some his interviews. Beside from these interviews, I also compiled more information from my conversation with him, with others and from reading his profile. From all the information I have, I could conclude that he is a humble, down to earth (just like one of his email address, “napak tanah”) and low profile. I have to dig, to get the information from him. If I were him, I might have written much longer resume. The last statement is a compliment for him.
Currently, he is a research coordinator, and works in a team under Kasut Perdamaian (KP) Foundation. KP is a partner of SNB. As KP doing research, investigation and any jobs direct to grass roots or victims’ community, SNB then supports it by contributing legal advice and giving considerations as well as doing campaign of whatever KP did. SNB is acting like a lawyer for KP. Both SNB and KP work hand in hand for 65’ cases. However, sometime for special reasons, he does investigation by himself and this is just for strictly confidential matters.
Suryo’s preliminary findings about 1965 incident shows that there is no exact amount of people killed, but according to the testimony of Gen. Sarwo Edhi, the commander of the special force (RPKAD) who organized the killings, he said a moment before he died, “I killed 3 M people”.
Also, Suryo can tell you that, based on his field investigation; people even kill each other for nothing related to September 30 affairs. It’s true that in those periods, “PKI” was the best issue for someone to kill others, even their neighbors. The atmosphere at that time was bad, street justice happens anytime and anywhere. And Indonesian military, as an institutional state, just let it happened. They just let the killing happened without fair trial. Even worst, they also provoked and trained people how to kill each other without mercy.
According to Suryo these numbers are not so important. 500.000, 1 millions, 2 millions or 3 millions, that’s not the point to him. Everyone could say their own number, but later on, he can tell you the truth, based on his field investigation, indeed there was a massacre in Indonesia. He himself already found more than 50 hidden mass graves.
In discovering 1965 mass graves, he meets some objections that come from regional bureaucrats, civilians, radical Muslim groups and the military officers. There are some accusations even threat. If you watched one of the films he recorded, you can see one person took out a blade and threatened to kill one of the activists.
By discovering these mass graves, he believes he can present the truth about the massacre and the truth about Indonesian history that had been covered up for 32 years by Suharto and his regime. He can also utilize his finding to demand justice for the victims and their families, advocate and promote human right in Indonesia.
Until these days, there are a lot of limitations towards people who “indicated” has a connections both directly and indirectly to PKI or Indonesia’s Communist Party. They’re strongly stigmatized by the state through several discriminative regulations. For example – a person who wants to become a public officer must be clean – he or she must have no connection and background to PKI. This regulation is not only valid for the victims but also to their children and grandchildren. So you can imagine the effects.
When Suharto stepped back, it does not mean this discrimination stop. Several regulations still exist. For example, the decree of the minister of home affairs no. 31/1981. A Prohibition of becoming a state employee, a member of military or police, a teacher, minister and other officers was applied to all those directly or indirectly involved in 1965 September movement to all former communist and those with no clean background. And the other is from minister of home affairs decree 24 from 1991. The right of a life long identity card for all Indonesian citizens over 60 years did not apply to them.
Even though some legal regulations were canceled, but in daily life they are still treated differently, meaning in negative way. In several villages, Suryo found that people are accused as so called PKI as “troublemakers”, traitor, no-religion, and sadist and so on. There is traditional belief in some Indonesians that talk about massacre and mass grave are taboo.
Objectively, in 1965 civilians had no capability to kidnapped, tortured and even killed high level army officers. That was military style, not civilians. Suryo thinks the military didn’t want Indonesian people know the fact that the killing of high level officers was also done by the military. There is no proof that the killing was organized by PKI (civilians) and no evidence that civilians kidnapped and kill the seven generals.
So far Suryo’s human right activity has created grassroots reconciliation. This reconciliation initiative comes from family of perpetrators or executioners. It appears to be cultural movement, it’s closed to traditional values, such as visiting each other (silaturahmi). They might come from different starting point, however they go to the same way, which is eliminating horizontal conflict.
My final words. Do not believe what I just wrote. Come and see the 1965 Incident Road Show, then you can decide whether it is true or not. Remember, seeing is believing.
*Beni Bevly holds BA in Political Science, MBA in Marketing, and is a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) candidate. He is the founder of Overseas Think Tank for Indonesia.