Jakarta. Thousands of Islamists protested in the Indonesian capital on Friday (29/09), accusing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's government of discrediting them while overlooking what they believe to be the "revival of communism" in Indonesia.
The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) has been banned in the world's largest Muslim-majority country since 1966, after a failed coup attempt against then President Soekarno was blamed on the party — at that time the third largest communist party in the world.
The incident led to a government-sponsored and military-backed anti-communist pogrom in 1965-1966, in which up to three million communists were massacred. Millions more were jailed without trial.
Recently, Islamist groups have been complaining that the PKI might be making a comeback in Indonesia. A group of them surrounded a gathering of democracy activists at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation on Sept. 18 — accusing the event of hosting communists — and threw rocks at the building before being dispersed by police.
On Friday, white-clad protesters, wielding flags, poured in front of the main gate of the House of Representatives (DPR) building in South Jakarta amid heavy security. Traffic was redirected.
Thousands of police and military officers stood on guard at every entrance of the complex. Barbed-wire barriers and water cannons were set up at the main entrance.
After hours of oration on the streets, several representatives of the demonstrators, including members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), entered parliament and were received by lawmakers.
Referring to the 1966 legislative decree that disbanded and banned the PKI, as well as any attempt to spread communist and Marxist-Leninist teachings, DPR deputy speaker Fadli Zon said: "The law is final, it can never be revoked."
"It already explicitly rejects all forms of communist teachings," Fadli, who belongs to the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), told the Islamist representatives.
Debates on how the government should resolve the 1965-1966 mass killings have been going on since the fall of President Suharto's New Order government in 1998.
In March 2000, President Abdurrahman Wahid apologized to families of the victims of the communist pogrom and said he would try to revoke the 1966 parliamentary decree that bans the PKI.
Since then, rights activists have been calling for the government to restore justice to the families of the jailed and killed PKI members — who are still routinely stigmatized — including by organizing an International People's Tribunal in Den Haag, the Netherlands, in November 2015 that declared Indonesia should take responsibility for the 1965-1966 mass killings.
In April 2016, the government held the "1965 Symposium" to — in then Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan's words — "resolve a dark part of Indonesia's history." The event invited survivors of the anti-communist pogrom.
But since late last year, riding on the wave of popular resentment against then Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's insult of Islam, Islamist groups have been gaining grounds and they have also been increasingly vocal in accusing Jokowi's government of turning a blind eye to what they claim is a revival of the PKI.
"If the PKI comes back, the Muslim community will come under threat, for sure," protest leader Slamet Maarif told reporters earlier this week.