DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES
By Putra Satria Wijaya
Photography Loreen Neville
Among those within the monument, there are two objects that captures the attention of most visitors to the museum – the Torture Veranda and the Old Well of Lubang Buaya, sited side by side in front of the monument itself.
The Torture Veranda is a small house, which was the place where four of the seven Indonesian Army Officers kidnapped were tortured. The Old Well of Lubang Buaya is an old well – just 0,75 meter in diameter and 12 meters deep – down which the bodies of the seven were finally deposited.
The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) aimed to become the largest legal party in the nation of Indonesia. It was already the second largest before its existence was finally outlawed. Following the attempted coup d’état in September 1965, the Indonesian people insisted that the government dismantle the Indonesian Communist Party. Even until this day, communist beliefs are still forbidden in Indonesia.D.N. Aidit, the chairman of the Indonesian Communist Party at the time, was very close to the first Indonesian president, Soekarno. According to how it was related at the museum, by using Soekarno, the communist hoped to penetrate all levels of the Indonesian community and introduce communist ideals throughout the land. The blended concept of NASAKOM (Nationalism, Religion and Communist) in Indonesia, was the time supported by Soekarno; in June 1965, an indoctrination program of NASAKOM was introduced by President Soekarno. To empower the communist base in Indonesia, the PKI also demanded that President Soekarno arm the farmers and laborers and make them a fifth force in the Indonesian Armed Force along with the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police Department. Lieutenant General Ahmad Yani, Minster and Chief Commander of the Indonesian Army disapproved of this demand conveyed in January 1965.
An issue about the Dewan Jendral (The Generals Council) appeared in May 1965. The issue surfaced from a document called the Gilchrist Document named after the British Ambassador to Indonesia at the time. The document purported that there was a group of Army Generals called “Dewan Jendral” who were plotting their own agenda to influence President Soekarno’s political policies. They were also believed to have a special relationship with CIA, as one sentence mentioned “our local army friends”.
Lieutenant General Ahmad Yani denied all such suggestions contained in the document that was obtained from a villa owned by William (Bill) Palmer, chairman of the American Motion Pictures Association of Importers. This issue was utilized by the communists as a pretext however, in order to attack the generals of the Indonesian Army who were against them. In preparing the coup, at a time when President Soekarno was reported to be sick, the PKI tried to sweep away all their rivals, including those generals in the Indonesian Army.
On Thursday night, 30th September 1965, the PKI undertook their mission by kidnapping the generals in Jakarta. The plan was to take the generals to meet with President Soekarno on 1 October, but they were killed before that could take place. The operation was led by Lieutenant Colonel Untung Soetopo, one of the Commanders of Cakrabirawa the Presidential Security Troop.
Of the seven men targeted by the PKI, only six were taken. The primacy target, General Abdul Haris Nasution – Chief of Indonesian Armed Forces – was missed, though, his daughter, Ade Irma Suryani Nasution was shot dead, and his adjutant or assistant was taken with the six other generals.
If as stated in the plans, the idea was to bring the generals before President Soekarno, it all went horribly wrong. They were killed in their own homes – Lieutenant General Ahmad Yani, Lieutenant General Haryono Mas Tirtodarmo and Brigadier General Donald Izacus Pabdjaitan. Those dragged alive to a village called Lubang Buaya were Lieutenant General R. Suprapto, Lieutenant General Suwondo Parman, Brigadier General Soetojo Siswomihardjo, along with General Nasution’s faithful assistant First Lieutenant Piere Andreas Tendean.
Here, they were brutally tortured and, probably because they refused to provide satisfactory proof of any Generals’ coup, they were then murdered and their cadavers dumped down the narrow well with the others.
Early the next morning, the communist seized RRI – the central radio station of the Republic of Indonesia – to announce that their operation had merely focused on the members of “Dewan Jendral” who were preparing a coup against the Indonesian government.
Soeharto, was at the time a Major General and the Chief of the Strategic Commando for the Indonesian Army (KOSTRAD). Amongst those targets of the mission, he was the only general of the Indonesian Army missing from the scene when the six others were captured. Major General Soeharto was already organizing the resistance to this state of events, and after retaking the RRI building on 1 October, he was able to reassure the nation that both President Soekarno and General Nasution were both safe.
The next move was to secure Halim Perdana kusuma Airport, and on 2 October the Indonesian Army achieved this objective. It was a day later to Lubang Buaya to discover the atrocities there, and not until 4th October 1965, were the bodies of the seven victims recovered from the narrow well.
Indonesian Armed Forces Day falls on 5th of October, but in the year of 1965, it was a day of deep sorrow. At 10.00 a.m. the funeral of the seven gallant officers took place instead of the normal pomp and pageantry of Armed Forces Day.
In the aftermath of this tragic incident, there was an outpour of hatred against the communists and anybody so tainted. The eradication of the communist cadre throughout Indonesia, particularly in Central Java, was to lead to a prolonged bloody slaughter.
Due to the will and unity of the Indonesian people however, communism no longer exists as an organized force in Indonesia – though at times its specter has been raised to ensure compliance to actions by the government.
The full details of that glory night in September 1965, and the truth regarding the events leading up to it will probably never be truly known. For dead man tell no tales.
Col. H. Fachrudin, the dead of the head of the monument which is currently managed by the Indonesian Armed Forces, added that the area of Lubang Buaya is still being preserved as it used to be. Necessary restorations were made with out entirely changing the concept of its historical event.
Published in Roving Insight Magazine 1998