Friday, January 20, 2012

1965: Year of living dangerously in Indonesia

Almost 50 years ago, a group calling itself the September 30 [1965] movement, with strong man Suharto, initiated a coup against the Communist Party of Indonesia, which, they claimed had orchestrated a putsch against Bung Sukarno, then president.
A bloodbath ensued: more than a quarter million and perhaps more Indonesians, especially those of Chinese ancestry, fell under the fire of G30S, who had already killed six top generals and seized control of the army. As such, Suharto & co. rounded up and mostly did away with anyone suspected of being Communist or at least sympathetic to the PKI.
Chinese indonianised their names, to avoid suspicions of ties to Mao's China. Sukarno, the father of Indonesian independence, and host of the 1956 Bandung Conference of non aligned nations who chose neither Washington nor Moscow, fell since he had long fallen out of favour with the American government and its falling dominos policy in southeast Asia.
Should GuamDiary readers forget, in the background was the falling US undeclared war in Vietnam. Sukarno was lucky he escaped the assassin's bullet which fell South Vietnam's Diem, the US handpicked president.
The CIA was particularly active in Indonesia at that time, and of course, the Americans courted Suharto who replaced Sukarno. American influence increased in that island republic and with US corporate and military aid, Suharto remained in power for 30 years or more until he was turned out of office for corruption.
As the G30S 'putsch' of 1965 a veil of enforced silence reigned until now when publicly some discussion is being heard. Will the true story ever be told? That remains to be seen. Not many are the studies of what happened in the 'year of living dangerously'. The more critical appraisals got ignored, for they indicted the military and the US government.
Hollywood, under the skillful hand of Peter Weir, made a film of Christopher Koch's 'Year of living dangerous', which catapulted a young actor Mel Gibson to stardom and won Linda Hunt an Oscar for best supporting actress in 1982. The book and film are worth reading and seeing, for Koch got the story right until he fudged the end.
Enough time has passed for the Indonesians to come clean about the G30S coup, the massacre of 250.000 or more Indonesians, and for the US to open its archives so that the light of day can expose its encouragement and hand behind the G30S.

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