Coup Victims Seek Compensation For Indonesia's Suharto Era





It has been 40 years since the September 30 1965 coup that led to Suharto's 32-year rule, and Indonesia these days does a commendable job of asserting its place as the world's third largest democracy.

For victims of Indonesia's bloody crackdown on alleged communists and their sympathisers, however, justice has been slow. Historians and leading Indonesians say this is just one of the legacies of history.

Under the Suharto regime, Toga Tambunan spent 13 years detained without trial in an assortment of jails and prison camps. He was beaten for reasons such as planting flowers that unexpectedly bloomed a communist red. When he was finally released in 1978 he was shunned by a father-in-law ashamed of his past as a political prisoner.

So, more than seven years after Suharto's 1998 fall, the former poet and journalist believes he has a right to be compensated for his suffering. Or at least to have it formally recognised in the hope that future generations of Indonesians might avoid the same fate.

"I have already forgiven the people who tortured me and who beat me. Even Suharto I have forgiven," he says. "But I want to make sure the system will be changed so they can't do the same thing again."

It has been 40 years since the September 30 1965 coup that led to Suharto's 32-year rule, and Indonesia these days does a commendable job of asserting its place as the world's third largest democracy.

For victims of Indonesia's bloody crackdown on alleged communists and their sympathisers, however, justice has been slow. Historians and leading Indonesians say this is just one of the legacies of history.

From small villages in Borneo, Java and Sumatra to the holiday island of Bali, between 500,000 and 2m people were killed in the military-led crackdown that followed the coup. Historians estimate 1m more were thrown in jail, many for more than a decade.

But what happened in 1965 is discussed in public only rarely in Indonesia. Left mostly unchallenged is the official version of events, as endorsed by Suharto - that the Indonesian Communist party, or PKI, was behind the attempted coup and the future strongman heroically helped save south-east Asia's largest economy from the ravages of Marxism.

"It is the biggest and saddest tragedy that we have ever had," says Taufik Abdullah, a historian at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. "But in Indonesia many people prefer to forget."



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