“When journalism is silent, literature must speak,” in the words of Indonesian writer Seno Gumira Ajidarma, whose reporting on the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre in Timor-Leste (East Timor) broke the silence about the killings in Indonesia.
As Indonesian military elites try to downplay discussion of the massacres that engulfed their country, in 1965, a powerful new poem from emerging Timorese writer Dadolin Murak expresses solidarity from now-independent Timor-Leste for the victims of 1965 and those trying to debate the 1965 tragedy today. “General!” is a wake-up call and a warning that is receiving wide distribution in the Indonesian language. Below is a translation into English of this important “poem of solidarity.” Some explanatory notes for non-Indonesian readers follow.
By Dadolin Murak
We didn’t know
The dark affair of 30 September 1965
When you came
We were indoctrinated by your false history:
Slashing with razors, gouging out eyes
Joined the communist cavorting at Lubang Buaya
We were forbidden to speak of Boaventura and Nicolau Lobato
You forced us to memorize the seven Heroes of your Revolution
You even forced us to memorize the number of feathers on the Garuda’s wings
And the birth date of Diponegoro and Imam Bonjol
Not forgetting Suharto’s ancestors and grandchildren who we knew by heart
He called them the perfect Pancasila family!
Your methods were truly sadistic
To stamp out the seeds of resistance
Yet through 24 years
Still we proved
That all your weapons were not as sharp
As the steel of our resistance
From the land you once colonized
Our hearts torn open
The rank tactics you long used
To gag and kill us
You still use
Towards the children of your own nation
Our country still has many troubles
But a discussion of history
Has never been raided by the state apparatus
discussion is a pre-condition
for human civilization
In our country, General!
The muezzin’s call to prayer and the Alleluyah choir
Resonate together as if in a sonata
Gay and Lesbian people hold hands
With no fear they will be tortured by the Police
Today is September 30th
A dark day in the history of your country
And of the world
The same month
You scorched the earth of our small country
You used bullets
When you failed at the ballot box
There is still a long litany of bleak history
The May 1998 tragedy in the heart of your country
The kidnapping of Wiji Thukul and his friends
The poisoning of Comrade Munir
The massacre in the land of Cendrawasih
Santa Cruz, 1991 in Dili
Let our friends speak out
About the history of civilized nations
They are the children of that dark history
Learn from history
The barrel of your guns
The cry for justice from the children of your nation!
Dili, September 25, 2017
* A poem of solidarity from Timor-Leste for the discussion of the 1965 tragedy in Jakarta and victims of the 1965 tragedy
The “dark affair of 30 September 1965” – a group of junior army officers kidnapped leading generals. The army command under general Suharto struck back and seized power, blaming the abduction on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and accusing the PKI of carrying out lurid acts on the dead generals at Lubang Buaya, near Jakarta.
Dom Boaventura was a Timorese fighter who resisted Portuguese colonial rule. Nicolau Lobato was the leader of Fretilin, the political party that declared Timorese independence in 1975, until his death in 1978 fighting against Indonesian colonial rule. Indonesia colonized Timor-Leste for 24 years, from 1975 to 1999. Human rights violations included, most famously, the Santa Cruz massacre of November 1991. In September 1999, a UN-supervised referendum saw the Timorese vote for independence.
Indonesia has a pantheon of “national heroes” (pahlawan nasional) recognized as key figures in its nationalist movement. they include Diponegoro and Imam Bonjol, who opposed Dutch colonial rule over Indonesia. The garuda is a mythical bird that is the Indonesian national symbol. General Suharto was the Indonesian president from 1966 to 1998. Pancasila (the five principles) was Indonesia’s official national ideology.
Wiji Thukul, the “people’s poet,” was “disappeared” after writing a series of anti-regime poems in Indonesia.
Munir Said Thalib was a human rights activist and Right Livelihood Award laureate. On board a flight to the Netherlands in 2004 he was poisoned with arsenic. His killer has been linked to Indonesian State Intelligence agents.
The land of Cendrawasih (the bird of paradise) refers to West Papua, a former Dutch colony taken over by Indonesia in the 1960s where independence sentiment remains strong and human rights violations remain common.