Editorial: ‘Look of Silence’ a Call to Confront Our Past

By : Jakarta Globe | on 11:35 PM September 10, 2014
Category : Opinion, Editorial

The killing of more than a million alleged members of the Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, in the aftermath of the Sept. 30, 1965 power struggle will forever haunt this nation.

While several mass killings occurred later during the New Order regime, the communist massacre is the one event that still exposes us to international humiliation.

While we would like to portray ourselves as a nation that freed itself from colonialism, we will continue be seen as manipulators of history; a delusional nation that likes to fool itself by pretending it had never done anything bad.

We want to be a proud nation but the communist purge continues to remind us that we justify impunity and fail to deal with our past.

That’s the message of Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary films — the latest “The Look of Silence,” and the previous, “The Act of Killing.”

It has been nearly five decades of silence.

The impunity of the 1965-1966 killings serves as a template for later mass murders and extra-judicial killings — in Talangsari, Tanjung Priok, Timor Leste, Aceh, and until now in Papua: It shows that you can get away with murder on the pretext of serving the country. And who knows it can happen again in the future.

Many people in Indonesia still wish the tragedy will be erased with time. But movies, books and whatever form of warning will always be there because the death of a million people in a mass killing is way too much to sweep under the carpet.

Until we start to confront our own history, debunk the official story, admit to the crimes, ask for forgiveness and try to solve it in good faith with whatever method we can come up with, victims and perpetrators will never receive the justice they so rightly deserve.

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