General! A poem of solidarity from Timor-Leste for victims of the 1965 tragedy in Indonesia

“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:

Cutting genitals

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

September 1999

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

Can’t silence

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


Explanatory notes:

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.

Click here for the original Indonesian version.

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