Wed, 15 Mar 2000

President approves reopening of old communist files

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid gave the official green light on Tuesday for the public to reopen the case of the 1965 abortive coup that led to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of communists and their sympathizers.

"If the G30S case is reopened, that will be for the good of the country," the President said, referring to the Indonesian acronym for the September 30 Movement, the name for the attempted coup launched against then president Sukarno.

The military blamed the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) for the coup attempt.

In an interview with state-run TVRI, Gus Dur, as the President is popularly known, welcomed the reopening of the case as part of national reconciliation.

"Many people believe PKI was guilty, while many also regard them as innocent. So let's determine the truth through the court system," he said.

He added, however, that any move to reopen the case must come from the public, not the government.

The government of president Soeharto, who succeeded Sukarno in 1966, admitted to the killing of communists but never provided an estimate of the number of deaths. Foreign observers said at least half a million people were killed in the carnage, which was supported by the military.

Abdurrahman expressed his personal belief that many of the victims were innocent, saying they were executed without a trial.

He said that in his previous role as chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Islamic organization, he had repeatedly apologized for the role of NU members in the bloodshed.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, however, dismissed suggestions the G30S case be reopened, saying this was unnecessary because the events had occurred a long time ago.

"We should look to the future. There are many human rights violations, such as in Aceh and East Timor, that need addressing," Akbar, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, said.

If the 1965 case is reopened, there will be demands for investigations into other incidents that occurred in the past, he said. "If we keep reopening old cases, we will never see the end of it." (jun/prb)