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Youths protest release of Gerwani women

Indonesian Observer - June 21, 1999

Jakarta – The government yesterday released several members of the long defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) from Tangerang Women's Penitentiary, prompting a group of youths to stage a protest.

Members of the Tangerang Student Youth Forum rallied outside the jail, warning that the women may start preaching the forbidden ideology and inflict great suffering upon the nation.

The youths said the women – members of the PKI's Gerwani unit – had on October 1, 1965, mutilated the bodies of six slain generals and a lieutenant, before dumping them in a well in East Jakarta popularly known as Lubang Buaya.

The killings were part of what the government claimed was an attempted coup by the PKI.

The youths said the elderly Gerwani members are still fanatic communists and will be a bad influence on society.

Several police were present outside the jail to protect the released women. It appeared police had known the youths' demonstration would take place.

Aware of the tight security, the youths were content to hurl abuse at the women and display banners with slogans condemning communism. The called on the government to ensure that communism never be given an opportunity to re-emerge.

Prior to the botched 1965 coup, the PKI was the biggest communist party in the world, outside of China. Earlier this year the government released several male members of the PKI from East Jakarta's Cipinang jail.

They said the coup attempt was the brainchild of former president Soeharto, who planned it in order to rise to power and crush his military opponents.

Historians have long pointed out that if the PKI had really staged the coup attempt, they would not have focused solely on Jakarta, as they had well-organized networks throughout the nation.

Analysts say that although some PKI members were probably involved in the 1965 killings, they were only following orders from military personnel.

In the wake of the attempted coup, Soeharto managed to oust founding president Soekarno. Communism was banned and about 400,000 alleged PKI members and their supporters were massacred. Entire villages were wiped out during the killings.

In cases where all residents of certain villages were slaughtered, many of the killings occurred at the behest of landlords, who had earlier been outraged when PKI cadres encouraged peasants to take over fields.

Officials in the Education and Culture Minstry have said Indonesian history textbooks may need to be rewritten, following the release of information that most people were once too scared to talk about.

Since the fall of the reviled Soeharto last year, the government has lifted a ban against academic research on Marxism. However, Justice Minister Muladi, a former university professor, has said a ban against publishing such research would remain.

Under Soeharto's authoritarian 32-year rule, possession of books on Marx and Lenin was deemed a subversive act and punishable by imprisonment.

Muladi said the relaxation of the ban on research would uphold the principle of academic freedom. However, publishing texts on communism can still lead to imprisonment. Muladi said college students would be allowed to study communism as long as there was no attempt to preach it to the public.