Luhut Questions Number of Casualties in 1965 Events

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  • Youth training program to fight PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) in Bali, 1965. Image: Perpusnas RI (National Library of Indonesia)

    Youth training program to fight PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) in Bali, 1965. Image: Perpusnas RI (National Library of Indonesia)

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta-The National Symposium titled “Membedah Tragedi 1965, Pendekatan Kesejarahan” (Dissecting 1965 Tragedy, Historical Approach) in Aryaduta Hotel, Jakarta, yesterday, were held smoothly despite a rally staged against it by a group of people. Two notable issues in the symposium are the death toll in 1965 events and life stories of victims and families.

    Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has questioned the claim of death toll during military operations in Central Java after the incident on September 30, 1965. The claim was stated by the Foundation for Research of Killing Victims (YPKP). “I’m intrigued with the high number [of death toll], it even reached more than 500,000 people,” Luhut said.

    Luhut’s statement has been corroborated by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Sintong Pandjaitan. “If someone said the death toll reached hundred of thousands, it’s a lie. It has defaced the dignity of the RPKAD [the Army’s Special Force Regiment],” said the former chief of the RPKAD in the symposium which was attended by rougly 200 people which consists of academicians, victims of human rights violation, representatives of political parties, mass organizations and non-governmental organizations.

    Families of victims have also been given the chance to share their experience. One of them was Catherine Pandjaitan, the oldest child of Major General (Posthumous) Donald Issac (DI) Pandjaitan. His father was shot dead by Col. Untung’s force from Cakrabirawa Regiment. The military accused Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) as the mastermind of the Coup d’etat, which lead to the hunting down of the party’s leaders and members.

    After the events, Catherine was depressed and frequently moved houses. Decades after, she was invited to came to a show of a private television channel. She met with 1965 victims from the PKI family. She then realized that there were people who lived more agonizing life. “At least, I didn’t have to hide like them,” he said. Now, she has made peace with his father’s killer.

    Svetlana Dayani, the daughter of PKI’s Central Committee Deputy, Njoto, also speaks her mind. She was 9 when her father and mother were imprisoned. She had to live with another family who were willing to take her and her younger sisters by hiding her identity for decades. “My name is very Russian. My mother told me to scrap the name as she was afraid something bad would have happened to me. It’s very difficult for me,” Svetlana said.

    National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) Governor Agus Widjojo, the chief executive officer of the symposium, said a research team will analyze the findings and confessions during both yesterday and today’s symposium. “In the mean time, it will be gathered until the end of the symposium, then it will be analyzed,” he said. Agus is the son of Major General (Posthumous) Sutoyo Siswomiharjo, who were killed during 1965 tragedy.