Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has asked the Education and Culture Ministry to teach the history of the country's human rights abuses in school. The recommendation came after a recent study showed that the younger generation was largely unaware of the darker chapters of the country's past.
A new survey by Komnas HAM in collaboration with the Kompas Research and Development Department (Litbang) found that people under 22 years old had little awareness of past human rights tragedies in the country. These included the 1997 to 1998 riots and activist abductions and the 1965 purge of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
The young respondents, called Gen Z in the study, knew little about the critical traumas of the country's history, which claimed thousands of lives and shifted Indonesia's political course.
Komnas HAM commissioner M. Choirul Anam said the government was responsible for the ignorance as the events were not covered in formal school curricula.
"[The survey] shows the challenge that Nadiem Makarim faces as the education and culture minister to provide not just an innovative education but also a civic one so that such violations won't happen again in the future," said Komnas HAM commissioner Choirul Anam.
He said the tragedies should be part of the school curriculum so that Indonesians would always remember the nation had gone through "dark" days.
"We should prevent this dark history from repeating itself. That's the challenge for Pak Nadiem Makarim. Education is not only about innovation but also about finding the truth," said Choirul.
The study found that about 50 percent of Gen Z respondents were unaware of the 1965 tragedy and about 50 percent were also unaware of the events of 1997 to 1998.
The Komnas HAM-Litbang Kompas study was conducted from September to October and surveyed 1,200 respondents between the ages of 17 and 65 from 34 provinces in Indonesia.
The survey sought to capture societal perceptions of past human rights violations, many of which remain unresolved.
According to Litbang Kompas, the study was limited to five major unresolved cases of human rights abuses: the 1965 massacre, the mysterious shootings of 1983 to 1985, the 1998 human rights activist kidnappings, the 1998 Semanggi-Trisakti shooting and the May 1998 riots.
Choirul said the survey demonstrated the urgent need to address past cases of human rights abuses. More than twelve cases on human rights violations have been proposed to the Attorney General. Choirul called on the government to take them on.
The survey found that 71 percent of respondents hoped the past human rights violations would be addressed quickly. However, 18 percent of respondents said such a resolution was unnecessary because the cases were too far in the past.
Respondents were pessimistic about the government's will to pursue the cases.
Education and Culture Ministry research and development head Totok Supriyanto said more information about the human rights violations could be added to the curriculum.
"We already have such lessons in our current curriculum. I am not sure how people are unaware of them," he said on Thursday.
Schools continue to teach the official New Order version of events. (trn)