Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lest we forget Indonesia

DOING BUSINESS with the dictator: Thatcher and Suharto

We are passing through the fortieth anniversary of one of the worst massacres in history, ranking with the crimes of Hitler or Stalin. Yet far from being brought to justice, the chief perpetrator, Indonesia's dictator Suharto, has retired in comfort. Far from intervening to remove his regime, US and British governments shored it up for decades, supplying it with arms and aid. ( see pic above of partners in crime). But after all they had helped install this murderous regime.
On 1 October 1965, a group of Indonesian army officers staged a coup attempt, killing six generals. General Suharto, not a target of the attack, struck back against the perpetrators. His troops fanned out across the country, assisted by Islamist gangs which they armed, slaughtering members of the Indonesian Communist Party, which was wrongly blamed for the coup attempt. The campaign was the opportunity to wipe out workers and peasants unions. Estimates of the death toll range from half a million to three million. No-one has ever been held to account for this appalling crime.
As in Iraq (which went through a similar, if smaller, bloodbath in 1963) and other countries, the hand of the CIA was not hard to detect behind the Indonesian coup. But it was not alone. British intelligence had sponsored a radio station in Singapore broadcasting to Indonesia. Like a Far Eastern version of the Czarist Black Hundreds, the British-backed propaganda speciality was combining anti-communism with inciting hatred of Indonesia's Chinese minority, who became pogrom victims. .
"I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change," Sir Andrew Gilchrist, the British ambassador in Jakarta, informed the Foreign Office on October 5 1965. Declassified files show that Britain wanted the Indonesian army to act and encouraged it to do so.British policy was "to encourage the emergence of a general's regime", one intelligence official explained. Another noted that "it seems pretty clear that the generals are going to need all the help they can get and accept without being tagged as hopelessly pro-western, if they are going to be able to gain ascendancy over the communists". Therefore, "we can hardly go wrong by tacitly backing the generals".(Mark Curtis, October 6th, 05 "The Guardian"
As the regime settled down to rule mass arrests landed hundreds of thousands of people in prison. By the early 1970s, around 70,000 were still in detention, of whom not more than two hundred were ever tried. The innocent victims of this purge, and their relatives, still suffer discrimination to this day.
After reducing the incumbent President Sukarno to nothing more than a figurehead, Suharto took over as President in March 1966. From then until May 1998, when he was forced to step down, Indonesia was ruled by a military dictatorship responsible for massive and widespread violations of human rights throughout the country, especially in Aceh and West Papua, and in East Timor, which the armed forces brutally occupied in 1975.
"Tapol" is the Indonesian term for political prisoners, and TAPOL, based in Thornton Heath, Surrey, is the campaign that has worked for years to expose human rights abuses and atrocities in Indonesia, and in East Timor and West Papua..It has also exposed British and US support for the military, and now it is calling for compensation to surviving relatives of the massacre victims, and prisoners, who faced blacklisting for jobs even after their release.
Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL, herself one of those jailed without trial, says:
"While millions of his victims still endure continued discrimination, Suharto the architect of their suffering lives in secluded luxury with his children who enriched themselves during his years in power. He must not be allowed to go unpunished."
TAPOL is calling for full rehabilitation and restitution for the victims of the 1965 tragedy and for Suharto to be brought to trial for the crimes against humanity committed by his regime. We should also be calling for the whole truth to be brought out on how US and British governments helped Suharto to power and backed his dictatorship.

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