Lubang Buaya is a historical site in Jakarta created to commemorate the murders of six Indonesian generals and lieutenant whose bodies were dumped in a well by the Partai Kommunis Indonesia also known as the PKI.
According the Lubang Buaya historical site, the guide, dioramas, displays and info boards, the generals were kidnapped from their homes and taken to Lubang Buaya on the night of September 30th 1965. Some were shot dead while others were tortured by the Gerwani, a women’s movement, supposedly affiliated with the PKI. News reports (which was were heavily controlled by the military) claimed that their genitals were sliced off with razors and their eyes gouged out. The generals were supposedly tortured in one of the huts which is named the “Torturing Verandah.” We were also shown a propaganda movie, Pengkhianatan G 30 S PKI, created by Suharto at the time which depicted the PKI’s cruelty and the Gerwani women dancing around while the generals were being killed. Throughout Suharto’s regime, this very movie was shown every year to the public.
However, there are many evidence which makes us doubt these events. In 1987, Benedict Anderson, a respected scholar of Indonesian affairs, published an article in the Cornell University Journal. Indonesia, revealing a report by a team of doctors, led by Brigadier-General Dr. Roebiono Kertapati, who performed a medical examination on the corpses. In their reports, there was no mention of sexual mutilation. Other scholars and humans rights workers who have researched the incident—such as Soelami, 74-year-old former member of Gerwani and now the director of the Foundation for the Examination of the Victims of 1965/1966 Killings—denounce these rumors as vicious political slander (Sopian). He is not the only doctor to confirm this. Dr. Arif Budianto claims that he found no mutilations whatsoever on the bodies. Political prisoner, Carmel Budiardjo, who was in a cell with a Gerwani member says, “These women were tortured to confess that they had perpetrated sexual crimes against the bodies of generals. And of course we know that was not true. Their confession was published in newspaper, this was perhaps the most important propaganda weapon to send people out to kill communist suspects.” (Shadow Play) All of these evidence contradict what Suharto says happened.
The fact that the site was established under Suharto regime should also be kept in mind because it was under his presidency that the communist purge took place. It is a possibility that Lubang Buaya was created to justify the mass killings that happened in Indonesia. It throws the blame on communism, leaves Suharto unscathed and the pancasila (Indonesian’s national pledge) is upheld with pride and dignity.
One of my sources is a published paper on the events of September 30th 1965. It is written by Hilmar Farid, a writer-activist who currently lives in Jakarta. He is a founding member of Jaringan Kerja Budaya, a collective of artists, researchers and cultural workers, and a researcher at the Indonesian Institute for Social History in Jakarta. In his paper, Farid explains Suharto’s rise to power and how he used the media to promote a negative image of the PKI.
“The media circulated stories about sadistic violence committed on the generals in Lubang Buaya – eye gouging, genital mutilation, orgiastic pleasure in inflicting pain. Suharto’s terror campaign was designed not just to make the public hate the PKI but also to feel directly threatened by it.”
A paragraph from Hilmar Farid’s Indonesia’s Original Sin: Mass Killings and Capitalist Expansion
I would consider this source to be quite reliable considering it is a published piece written by someone with credibility. It was also published by the Taylor & Francis Group which is a renowned for its educational publications and journals. Mr Farid’s work also was published for a Routledge Inter-Asian Cultural Studies academic resource. His references are also credible as some are from universities such as Harvard, Cambridge, Yale and Cornell. There are also reliable sources from other qualified Indonesian researchers.
Napoleon once said that “history is the version of past events that we choose to remember.” This is certainly true in the case of these events. Indonesia has chosen to shield what happened on the night September 30th 1965. Our nation has a genocide that has been kept under the radar of not only other countries, but our own! Our own government has erected a national historical monument glorifying a bloody war between the capitalists and communists (Djakababa). This is the same monument in which thousands of school children visit each year and leave believing that Lubang Buaya’s version of the true is the right one. This is the version of past events that Indonesia has chosen to remember. It is also the version that it has chosen to retell the generations to come.
The fact is, the events of September 30th 1965 is full uncertainty, controversy, and even mystery. There is no evidence that the generals were mutilated and no evidence that the Gerwani or PKI committed any act of crime and it is unlikely that we will ever find out the truth. The sad thing is, more than one million people were imprisoned and killed for crimes they did not and could not possibly commit. Around 700,000 did not even receive a trial (Poulgrain).
Personally I feel that the people and communities affected by the communist purge has suffered more than enough. They have been imprisoned, tortured, killed without rationale. It would be cruel and unfair if we recognized them as society’s bad guys. If anything, they should be commemorated just like the generals for their sacrifice. It’s time for history to seek justice by exposing the truth. Lubang Buaya is not necessarily a bad or wrong piece of evidence, but its bias only tells us one side of the story. If we are ever to come to terms with our nation’s past, it is imperative that the other be revealed.
Djakababa, Yosef M. The Construction of History under Indonesia’s New Order: The Making of the Lubang Buaya. Diss. University of Wisconsin, 2009. Web.
Hilton, Chris. “Shadow Play.” YouTube. YouTube, 2001. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1zm4XzXzAo>.
Farid, Hilmar. “Indonesia’s Original Sin.” Scribd. 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/28704618/Hilmar-Farid-Indonesia-s-Original-Sin>.
Poulgrain, Greg. “Inside Indonesia.” Who Plotted the 1965 Coup? 1999. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <http://www.insideindonesia.org/edition-57-jan-mar-1999/who-plotted-the-1965-coup-2209716>.
Sopian, Agus. “Lubang Buaya: Political Black Hole.” Agus Sopian. Sept. 2003. Web. 10 Apr. 2012. <http://asopian.blogspot.com/2003/09/lubang-buaya-political-black-hole.html>.