Learn­ing from the sur­vivors of 1965

The Jakarta Post - - HEADLINES - Bam­bang Muryanto

Sri Muhay­ati could not hold back her tears af­ter per­form­ing a play en­ti­tled Ge­jo­lak Makam Kera­mat (Sa­cred Grave Un­rest) in front of around 400 au­di­ence mem­bers at the Koes­nadi Hard­josoe­mantri Cul­tural Cen­ter, in Yogyakarta, in July.

Sev­eral youths who watched the play asked for per­mis­sion to em­brace the 76-year-old.

The scene was cap­tured in a video record­ing of the play, which was re­cently shown dur­ing an event at Kedai Ke­bun restau­rant, also in Yogyakarta.

“I was deeply touched. We weren’t sell­ing our suf­fer­ing,” Muhay­ati told The Jakarta Post af­ter watch­ing the video along with the other sur­vivors of the 1965 tragedy.

For Muhay­ati, the young peo­ple’s re­ac­tion af­ter watch­ing the play in­di­cated that they had be­gun to un­der­stand the grav­ity of the tragedy, which fol­lowed the death of seven gen­er­als on Sept. 30, 1965.

“They’ve started to grasp the his­tory of the 1965 in­ci­dent; [that it was] noth­ing like what they were told as chil­dren,” she said.

The tragedy be­gan with the mur­der of seven gen­er­als by Cakra­bi­rawa state palace guards in Jakarta. Army Strate­gic Re­serve Com­man­der Maj. Gen. Soe­harto ac­cused the In­done­sian Com­mu­nist Party (PKI) of at­tempt­ing a coup and mas­ter­mind­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion.

The mil­i­tary and po­lice later hunted down any­one viewed as sup­port­ers of the now-de­funct PKI. The Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights (Kom­nas HAM) noted in 2012 the pres­ence of ini­tial ev­i­dence of sys­tem­atic rights vi­o­la­tions, rang­ing from the de­nial of free­dom and rapes to the forced dis­ap­pear­ance of peo­ple, with vic­tims es­ti­mated to have reached be­tween 500,000 and 3 mil­lion.

Muhay­ati was among the peo­ple caught amid the po­lit­i­cal up­heaval. Af­ter au­thor­i­ties ar­rested her fa­ther, she and her mother were also cap­tured. Her fa­ther, a PKI mem­ber, was ex­e­cuted and buried in a mass grave in Wonosobo, Cen­tral Java.

“I was jailed for five years, mov­ing from one prison to an­other,” she said.

Ge­jo­lak Makam Kera­mat was adapted by vis­ual artist Agung Kur­ni­awan from Leng (Hole), a play writ­ten by Bam­bang SP from the Gapit theater group. It de­picts a fac­tory that evicts and dis­rupts the life of vil­lage peo­ple. Any vil­lager who dares to op­pose the fac­tory, a sym­bol of cap­i­tal­ism, dis­ap­pears with­out a trace. This story is close to the fate of the 1965 tragedy vic­tims, who were ei­ther jailed or dis­ap­peared.

The 13 sur­vivors were slated to read the story of Ge­jo­lak while sit­ting or stand­ing. How­ever, Su­mar­niati, who tes­ti­fied at the In­ter­na­tional Peo­ple’s Tri­bunal (IPT) on Crimes Against Hu­man­ity in In­done­sia 1965 in the Nether­lands in 2016, and had trained 19 times for the event, failed to go on stage af­ter suf­fer­ing from a light stroke.

Although phys­i­cally in­firm due to their age, the 1965 tragedy sur­vivors re­tained their high spir­its for the the­atri­cal per­for­mance to of­fer their best con­tri­bu­tion.

Muhay­ati said Ge­jo­lak play­ers are mem­bers of the Ta­mara theater troupe, an acro­nym for Tak Mu­dah Meny­erah (Un­will­ing to Sur­ren­der). They also be­long to the Kiper or­ga­ni­za­tion, an ab­bre­vi­a­tion for Kiprah Perem­puan (Goal­keeper).

“Kiper is an or­ga­ni­za­tion to keep the goal of fam­i­lies; we’re sup­port­ing each other to sur­vive and be able to ed­u­cate our pos­ter­ity to be­come wor­thy cit­i­zens of the coun­try,” she said.

High en­thu­si­asm was also shown by an­other player, Ku­a­tini, 75, who lives in Soro­ge­nen vil­lage, Ban­tul, in Yogyakarta. She covered the dis­tance of 6 kilo­me­ters by bi­cy­cle to Yogyakarta for theater train­ing.

Sri Wahyun­ing, 84, a former state palace singer of the 1960s, also dis­played her great zeal de­spite her need for a sup­port to walk. She wrapped up Ge­jo­lak by singing her own song ti­tled “Rawa Pen­ing,” which is a marshy zone near Am­barawa and Salatiga, Cen­tral Java.

“I want the youths to be con­cerned about the na­tion and state of In­done­sia,” she said.

Agung, the ini­tia­tor of Ge­jo­lak Makam Kera­mat, was the pro­moter of the record­ing and per­for­mance of Dialita in Yogyakarta, an all-fe­male choir group of 1965 sur­vivors liv­ing in Jakarta. Agung wishes to in­vite the younger gen­er­a­tion to learn about the tragedy through the arts.

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