Fri, 17 Mar 2000

Plan to reopen 1965 coup case draws controversy

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid's approval of attempts to reopen the case of the 1965 abortive coup and its bloody aftermath has caused some controversy.

The Air Force, whose role in the events of 1965 have often been questioned due to its close ties with then president Sukarno, welcomed on Wednesday the President's statement, calling on all those with information about the attempted coup to come forward.

But noted military observer Lt. Gen. (ret) Hasnan Habib opposed on Thursday any plans to reopen the country's old wounds, which he said would benefit no one. He suggested the public accept the bloody event as part of history.

Commodore Bachrum Rasir, the spokesman for the Air Force, said those witnesses who remained alive bore a moral responsibility to testify, in order to clarify the event for the younger generation and to make any necessary corrections to the country's historical record.

He listed Col. (ret) Latief and Air Rear Marshal (ret) Sri Herlambang as two such witnesses.

"Besides these figures, many other witnesses who are still alive could reveal the truth about this historical event without having to fear any pressure," he said.

The Air Force released last year its own version of the aborted coup, denying any involvement in the coup attempt blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

In the coup's aftermath, Sukarno stepped down and thousands of people are believed to have been killed for their alleged links to PKI. Then Army chief Lt. Gen. Soeharto succeeded Sukarno as president.

Reliable sources in the military told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday the present government, in cooperation with certain interested groups, would press Soeharto to tell the true story surrounding the 1965 upheaval.

"Besides the living witnesses, Soeharto, who is known as the key figure behind the event, should be asked to speak out, not for investigative purposes, but for historical ones," one source said.


Hasnan said reopening the case was unnecessary for the nation because of the darkness and mystery blanketing the event.

"What will we get if we dig into something that happened 35 years ago, which is dark and full of mystery. I don't know what we will profit by it," Hasnan, a former ambassador to the U.S., said.

"I know the families and relatives of those who were suspected to be members of PKI still hold grudges about it, but there are too many versions and too much controversy surrounding the coup. It will be very difficult to determine the most correct version."

Hasnan, who was a colonel when the coup attempt took place, added that many people who were directly involved or witnessed the events had passed away, so it would be unlikely that new evidence could be collected.

"Who will conduct the investigation if the case is reopened. Some witnesses may still be alive, but prominent figures have long since passed away. So it is impossible to discover the grand design behind the coup attempt," he said.

He said that despite his criticism of the TNI, he supported any measures to contain communism.

"I think all Army officers are of the same opinion of rejecting communism," he said. (rms/emf)