Thu, 02 Oct 2003

Govt team to rewrite history, seek truth behind 1965 coup

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

To set history straight, the government has formed a team to clarify the facts behind the shadowy 1965 "aborted coup" blamed on the now outlawed communist party, which preceded the regime change from founding president Sukarno to Soeharto.

As the nation observed the military clamp-down on the coup attempt on Wednesday, Minister of National Education Abdul Malik Fadjar said the team consisted of noted historians who would seek the truth behind the tragedy.

"They are independent historians led by Taufik Abdullah and are expected to finish their works within one year. We expect to have a clear story of the tragedy on Oct. 1 next year," he said.

Taufik is a respected historian who once led the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

"We really hope by next year, we will have the real story of the event, not just for school students but for the general public to know," Malik said.

During 32 years of Soeharto's reign, which ended in disgrace in 1998, the country commemorated the Pancasila Sanctity Day on Oct. 1 every year and remembered Soeharto as the national hero who saved the country from the communists' attempted coup. Soeharto was then the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) chief who led the counter-attack on the coup perpetrators.

Six Army generals, including then the Army chief Lt. Gen. Achmad Yani, were killed during the uprising and were later named Revolution Heroes. Their monument is now standing near Lubang Buaya (Crocodile Hole) in East Jakarta, where their bodies were found 38 years ago.

The tragedy paved the way for the ouster of founding president Sukarno, the father of President Megawati Soekarnoputri, as he failed to blame the communists.

However, following the downfall of Soeharto in 1998, the country began to question the truth of the event, with some accusing Soeharto of masterminding the bloodshed to seize power.

Megawati, for the first time since she assumed the presidency in 2001, led the ceremony of the Pancasila Sanctity Day at the Lubang Buaya Monument on Wednesday.

However, the President did not speak during the 20-minute ceremony, which was also attended by Vice President Hamzah Haz, House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and Cabinet ministers.

Megawati did not even take the time to look around the diorama of the tragedy at the monument compound.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono welcomed the public's attempt to seek the truth, but warned against pursuing political benefits from it.

"I urge people not to review the history based on facts and data, the validity of which is questionable, as it will only create confusion among the younger generation," Susilo told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar held by the Indonesia Muslim Workers Association (PPMI).

Susilo urged the public to promote objectivity and professionalism and put political interests behind them regarding the tragedy.

Asked whether the government would promote reconciliation with surviving victims of the bloodshed that followed the coup attempt, Susilo nodded.

"Reconciliation involving the country's three regimes, namely the Old Order, New Order, and Reform Order, is very much possible. But we should not cast away facts belonging to the past for the sake of the reconciliation," he said.