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Sept. 30 affair, 52 years later and ahead of election year

The Jakarta Post
03 October 2017

Sept. 30 affair, 52 years later and ahead of election year

Sept. 30 affair, 52 years later and ahead of election year
The Jakarta Post3 Oct 2017Wimar Witoelar The writer was the spokesman for former president Abdurrahman Wahid (1999-2001). The views expressed are his own.
As we reminisce on experiences of Sept. 30, 1965, my friend of 56 years opened his remarks by an observation that resolved many questions. Who set off the drama? Who was to blame for the rural massacre? Was Gen. Soeharto the solution or the problem? Why are some people raising the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) as a current issue? His perspective cut through the noise that has enveloped social media. Here is what I learned.
In 1965, then-president Sukarno was seriously ill. The news leaked through the severely controlled media. In the present, this could be suspected as fake news.
Anyway, a team of doctors from the People’s Republic of China examined the president and gave a grim prognosis, making a lot of people nervous, because should something happen, nobody knew who would be president of Indonesia.
Sukarno had been made President for Life by the Interim People’s Consultative Assembly (MPRS). There is no mechanism for succession, so anyone with bad and good intentions made every effort to secure the position. There is nothing like a vacuum of power to start a power struggle, in which there is no arbiter to judge the contestants. Whatever the methods used, politics will decide the winner.
Many wanted to be sure their side would win, and some just wanted to be sure the other side would not win. As there were only two forces who could claim a serious chance of winning, the other forces had to take sides. The choice boiled down to the Army and the PKI, who were in a standoff with president Sukarno.
People were unsure on which side the president was, so they kept claiming that they were loyal to Sukarno, calling him the Great Leader of the Revolution even as he lost power.
In the end, the Army won out and the PKI was decimated. We will never know what the PKI would have done if it had emerged as victor of the power struggle. It is obvious what the Army did after it won. What is less clear is whether it was all part of the original plan, and how much is runaway excess. Soeharto skillfully juxtaposed ambition with development management and got away with everything.
There are people like BJ Habibie who say they are not interested in looking at the past; their concern being the present and the future. Although that may sound extreme, it is reflected in the attitudes of the multitude who are preoccupied with present-day concerns.
Sept. 30 occurred and it cannot be undone. That is true, but the Night of the Generals could have a sequel. There are people who try to encourage that thinking by making an issue of the danger of the PKI. Although the PKI is dead and communism is no longer practiced even by the nations that depended on the idea, there are those in Indonesia who are trying to revive the PKI as a common enemy.
We have seen crowds filling the streets without understanding their own cause. Gullible masses are driven by ruthless manipulators of symbols. This formula worked as a political strategy in the Jakarta gubernatorial campaign earlier this year. And now, these people are going for a larger political objective: the Indonesian presidency. They are fantasizing a repeat of Sept. 30, not recognizing the major difference between 1965 and 2017.
Back then, there was no succession plan for the presidency. Now, it is clearly laid out in the laws and the electoral mechanism. We will have the presidential election in 2019.
In 1965, Sukarno was ill and spent all his time in politics. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo today is in good health and is working on development.
The real questions are not the ones stated in the beginning of this article. There is just one big question now. What will we face in the next two years? Why are some people anxious to create chaos and tension when everything is fine?
There are two main groups: provocateurs who exploit ignorance by using emotional symbols, and ambitious politicians who need unrest to build power. Without unrest, they cannot maneuver. Without provocation there is no unrest. The tools of provocation are familiar: fake news, hate mongering and identity politics. Then, there are the corruptors who would pay anything for a diversion to escape from the process of the law.
Anyone is free to run for the president in 2019. The problem is that some cannot wait that long and they would lose even if they did. The longer President Jokowi governs, the more people support him. Opportunists strike while the iron is hot. So, an unholy alliance is built between mass manipulators and the ambitious politicians. Both are losers unless they create disruption.
Fifty-two years later, will there be a sequel to Sept. 30, 1965? Probably not. But to prevent losing our peace, we must fight ignorance and empower positive values. It is necessary to vaccinate the good people of our land against infection by hate campaigns.

The Jakarta Post 3 Oct 2017 Wimar Witoelar The writer was the spokesman for former president Abdurrahman Wahid (1999-2001). The views expressed are his own.

As we reminisce on experiences of Sept. 30, 1965, my friend of 56 years opened his remarks by an observation that resolved many questions. Who set off the drama? Who was to blame for the rural massacre? Was Gen. Soeharto the solution or the problem? Why are some people raising the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) as a current issue? His perspective cut through the noise that has enveloped social media. Here is what I learned.

In 1965, then-president Sukarno was seriously ill. The news leaked through the severely controlled media. In the present, this could be suspected as fake news.

Anyway, a team of doctors from the People’s Republic of China examined the president and gave a grim prognosis, making a lot of people nervous, because should something happen, nobody knew who would be president of Indonesia.

Sukarno had been made President for Life by the Interim People’s Consultative Assembly (MPRS). There is no mechanism for succession, so anyone with bad and good intentions made every effort to secure the position. There is nothing like a vacuum of power to start a power struggle, in which there is no arbiter to judge the contestants. Whatever the methods used, politics will decide the winner.

Many wanted to be sure their side would win, and some just wanted to be sure the other side would not win. As there were only two forces who could claim a serious chance of winning, the other forces had to take sides. The choice boiled down to the Army and the PKI, who were in a standoff with president Sukarno.

People were unsure on which side the president was, so they kept claiming that they were loyal to Sukarno, calling him the Great Leader of the Revolution even as he lost power.

In the end, the Army won out and the PKI was decimated. We will never know what the PKI would have done if it had emerged as victor of the power struggle. It is obvious what the Army did after it won. What is less clear is whether it was all part of the original plan, and how much is runaway excess. Soeharto skillfully juxtaposed ambition with development management and got away with everything.

There are people like BJ Habibie who say they are not interested in looking at the past; their concern being the present and the future. Although that may sound extreme, it is reflected in the attitudes of the multitude who are preoccupied with present-day concerns.

Sept. 30 occurred and it cannot be undone. That is true, but the Night of the Generals could have a sequel. There are people who try to encourage that thinking by making an issue of the danger of the PKI. Although the PKI is dead and communism is no longer practiced even by the nations that depended on the idea, there are those in Indonesia who are trying to revive the PKI as a common enemy.

We have seen crowds filling the streets without understanding their own cause. Gullible masses are driven by ruthless manipulators of symbols. This formula worked as a political strategy in the Jakarta gubernatorial campaign earlier this year. And now, these people are going for a larger political objective: the Indonesian presidency. They are fantasizing a repeat of Sept. 30, not recognizing the major difference between 1965 and 2017.

Back then, there was no succession plan for the presidency. Now, it is clearly laid out in the laws and the electoral mechanism. We will have the presidential election in 2019.

In 1965, Sukarno was ill and spent all his time in politics. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo today is in good health and is working on development.

The real questions are not the ones stated in the beginning of this article. There is just one big question now. What will we face in the next two years? Why are some people anxious to create chaos and tension when everything is fine?

There are two main groups: provocateurs who exploit ignorance by using emotional symbols, and ambitious politicians who need unrest to build power. Without unrest, they cannot maneuver. Without provocation there is no unrest. The tools of provocation are familiar: fake news, hate mongering and identity politics. Then, there are the corruptors who would pay anything for a diversion to escape from the process of the law.

Anyone is free to run for the president in 2019. The problem is that some cannot wait that long and they would lose even if they did. The longer President Jokowi governs, the more people support him. Opportunists strike while the iron is hot. So, an unholy alliance is built between mass manipulators and the ambitious politicians. Both are losers unless they create disruption.

Fifty-two years later, will there be a sequel to Sept. 30, 1965? Probably not. But to prevent losing our peace, we must fight ignorance and empower positive values. It is necessary to vaccinate the good people of our land against infection by hate campaigns.

 

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