Saturday, April 16, 2011

Session III (Part I): Indonesia 1965-66

Dahlia G. Setiyawan: Better Dead than Red? Suppression and Reconstruction of Surabaya's PKI

Dahlia G. Setiyawan related the theme of transitional justice to the symbolism, or lack thereof, embodied in cities. The particular city is Surabaya where mass detainment and killings occurred in 1965, yet despite monuments and plaques throughout the city commemorating the heroes of the Indonesian revolution there is no formal acknowledgement of these tragedies. As evidence of this Ms. Setiyawan discusses the story of the Mayor of Surabaya in 1964, Moerachman, who planned to erect a statue dedicated to the agricultural workers and after the purge in 1965 he was imprisoned and murdered and with him the monument, likely viewed as Marxist, vanished from the city’s history. In fact, the very existence of the Mayor himself is absent from the pictures of the other mayors displayed in city hall, as if that period of time and the PKI never existed.

She then turned to historical plaques on two former jails in Surabaya, Koblen and Kalisosok, which only states that this site is where the fighters for the Indonesian revolution where held with no mention of the later detentions and atrocities that occurred in 1965. Then Ms. Setiyawan explains the complete denial by municipal leaders to address this part of Surabaya’s history in part by the cities leaders desire to look forward and use its time and money to develop the city (seventeen malls!), but also the underlying social pressure to suppress the history of the PKI.

As a parallel example of how a city can celebrate its historic past while acknowledging the less savory events that occurred, though equally as much of the city’s history, Ms. Setiyawan suggests Philadelphia. The famed city of brotherly love and home to historic American Revolution sites such as the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia still addresses slavery and the race riots that took place evidenced in the cities' monuments and plaques. Therefore, Ms. Setiyawan suggests Surabaya strive to promote transparency by giving the public access to the cities archives that are now inaccessible, updating the cultural heritage sites to tell the entire history of Surabya, and acknowledging the missing historical figures. Perhaps, these recommendations will lead to soft transitional justice mechanisms such as truth and reconciliation, open dialogue, and historical accuracy.

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