Jakarta. A group of people imprisoned in the aftermath of the 1965 coup attempt that swept strongman Suharto into power have demanded the government apologize and clear their names.
The failed coup, which was blamed on the communists, began with the kidnapping and assassination of six military generals in Lubang Buaya, East Jakarta, by soldiers calling themselves the September 30 Movement.
An estimated 500,000 people were killed in the nationwide anticommunist pogrom that followed, while thousands more were forced into exile or, like Mudjaydin, now 80, given long prison sentences.
For Mudjaydin, the events of this time were distorted by Suharto, who pinned the blame on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and its sympathizers.
“I was a journalist with Minggoean Sport [a sports weekly] and I never supported any communist movement,” he said.
“I didn’t even know about the coup attempt at the time.”
He said that did not stop the military from forcing him to admit to being involved in the deaths of the generals in a bid to overthrow President Sukarno.
“I was interrogated by the military, prosecuted by the military and convicted by the military,” Mudjaydin said.
“I never received a fair trial but was jailed for 12 years, all because I was a supporter of Sukarno.”
The family of the late Setiadi Reksoprodjo says the communist purge was simply an excuse by Suharto to crack down on Sukarno’s supporters.
Setiadi, who died in July at the age of 88, served in Sukarno’s cabinet as minister of information and later minister of mines and electricity.
He and 20 other ministers were arrested in 1966 and imprisoned without trial. They were only released in 1977.
Both Mudjaydin and Setiadi were labeled “ex-tapol,” or former political prisoners — a tag that carries with it a world of discrimination.
At least 36 regulations are still in place forbidding ex-tapol from a host of civic duties, including voting.
“We can’t even gather in groups of more than 30 ex-tapol,” Mudjaydin said.
“We had an ‘ET’ stamped on our ID card to mark us out as ex-tapol. It made it difficult to get a job, even in the private sector.”
For Muji, 61, her lifelong ordeal began simply because she joined the wrong club. A singer and dancer at the time, she could never have imagined that her involvement in the youth wing of the PKI would land her in prison for 14 years.
“I was only 16 and didn’t know anything. How could they say I was involved in killing the generals?” she said.
Haris Azhar, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said the government must acknowledge there were massacres and vindicate those wrongfully prosecuted.
“The government must also investigate the military’s involvement in the violence,” he said.