Indonesia VP dismisses tribunal on mass killings as ‘drama’

Natashya Gutierrez

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Indonesia VP dismisses tribunal on mass killings as ‘drama’
Vice President Jusuf Kalla also reiterates the government's stance that it will not apologize for the mass killings

JAKARTA, Indonesia – What does the vice president of Indonesia think about the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) wherein activists are seeking justice for a brutal 1965 massacre that killed at least 500,000 people?


This was the response of Vice President Jusuf Kalla in an exclusive interview with Rappler Indonesia, when asked about his thoughts regarding the trial that charges the state with crimes against humanity 50 years after the crackdown.

Kalla also reiterated that the government has no plans to apologize to the victims of the mass killings, pointing out that the tribunal holds no legal weight. (READ: ‘Indonesia must do more to provide justice for the 1960s mass killing victims’)

“The IPT, it is non-binding and a non-formal tribunal,” he said.

“Of course morally it’s important but (if) they ask Indonesia to apologize – the fact is this tragedy, the victims [included] our general… in the first day of this nightmare it was our general and many soldiers.”

He went on, “Why would Indonesia apologize for this tragedy? We were victims, Indonesian victims, government. Why will we apologize? For who? Who will apologize for this general?”

The anti-communist purge across the Southeast Asian archipelago that started after then General Suharto put down a coup on October 1, 1965.

Authorities blamed the attempted coup on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Security forces, supported by local groups, rampaged through the country massacring hundreds of thousands of people suspected of even weak links to the PKI, and jailing scores of others.

Suharto took power from then president Sukarno after the failed coup and ruled Indonesia, a former Dutch colony, with an iron fist for 32 years.

Calls have grown for action to come to terms with the dark episode since Suharto was toppled in 1998, but the authorities have been criticized for making little progress.

While the tribunal has no powers, the organizers are hoping that it might help push new President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to set in motion a genuine reconciliation.

Jokowi, who came to power last year, is viewed as a break from a string of rulers with links to the Suharto era.

But he has so far refused to apologize for the events of 1965, and an invitation to the Indonesian government to attend the hearings went unanswered. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.