Kamis, 25 Juli 2013

Survivors have little hope for recognition

Survivors have little hope 
for recognition
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Tue, July 23 2013, 10:35 AM

Survivors of the 1965 slaughter of alleged members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in Medan, North Sumatra, do not expect the international media spotlight currently on the documentary film “The Act of Killing” to help serve up justice for them.

A survivor of the tragedy living in Medan, Astaman Hasibuan, said Thursday that international media spotlight on “The Act of Killing” would make no difference if the government refused to acknowledge the events as gross human rights violations. “The film clearly shows us how proud the perpetrators are in violating the rights of people like me, but I do not think the case will be followed up if there is no willingness from the government,” he said.

In July last year, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) filed a 850-page report on the tragedy with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).

The report says personnel of the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (Kopkamtib), which was led by former president Soeharto from 1965 to 1967 and between 1977 and 1978, should be prosecuted for various crimes, including mass rape, torture and murder.

The AGO returned the report to the commission citing insufficient evidence, particularly in relation to perpetrators, to justify any further investigative or judicial process.

“The Act of Killing”, which was made from 2005 to 2011 by American director Joshua Oppenheimer, presents the story of how former death squad leader Anwar Congo killed thousands of alleged PKI members in Medan.

In the film, Anwar describes his favorite killing technique as strangling a victim with wire to avoid too much blood. He said that after killing someone, he would celebrate by humming, twirling and dancing the cha-cha-cha.

The film has received more than 20 international awards, including the Aung San Suu Kyi Award at the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival. It also recently caught prominent US media attention with a screening at the New York Film Festival earlier this month, with articles appearing in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The Times article, with the headline “A Movie’s Killers Are All Too Real”, cited a scene from the documentary taken from a 2007 broadcast by the North Sumatra branch of TVRI state television in which the killers joked and bragged about their deeds, earning them applause from the studio audience, which was primarily made up of members of Pemuda Pancasila to which Anwar belonged. The program also garnered praise from government officials of the time, but condemnation from human rights groups; highlighting Indonesia’s sharp division on how to perceive its own history.

Historian at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Asvi Warman Adam, said on Wednesday that the current coverage of the film by the US media, which five decades ago “considered the massacre a necessary evil”, might make the US public aware of how the Cold War had blinded their government to the perpetration of atrocities in the name of stemming communism.

He added that, in Indonesia, “The Act of Killing” could provide a tool for rights activists to push for justice for victims because it presented proof in the words and actions of the perpetrators about what happened in 1965.

Meanwhile, Komnas HAM commissioner Roichatul Aswidah acknowledged that the medium of film could be a powerful tool for forming and activating public opinion. She cited the existing debate over the events of the mid to late 1960s, which was partially initiated by the Soeharto era propaganda film G30S: Pengkhianatan PKI (G30S:The PKI Betrayal, 1984), which was made mandatory viewing for students every Sept. 30 in the 1980s and 1990s.

She explained on Thursday that Soeharto’s propaganda about the cruelty of the PKI in that film had brainwashed several generations in the country.

She added that “The Act of Killing” could be used to counter that erroneous thinking and provide the nation with a chance to learn from its mistakes.

“This film could reconfirm what the victims have been saying so far. However, it could also be a double-edged sword, because people could glorify the perpetrators actions,” she said. (koi)

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