Dynamics of Dissent in Indonesia: Sawito and the Phantom Coup

Dynamics of Dissent in Indonesia: Sawito and the Phantom Coup

Dynamics of Dissent in Indonesia: Sawito and the Phantom Coup

Dynamics of Dissent in Indonesia: Sawito and the Phantom Coup

Excerpt

In June 1978, a forty-five year old Indonesian named Sawito Kartowibowo was pronounced guilty of subversion. He was charged with having composed a number of inflammatory documents criticizing the government’s failings and requesting that Suharto stand down as President. These documents would have been quite insignificant if those who had endorsed them had not been so well known. Their signatories included former Vice-President Mohammad Hatta and four very prominent and well-respected religious leaders: the head of the Catholic Church in Indonesia, Cardinal Darmoyuwono; the Moslem publicist and writer, Hamka [H. Abdulmalik Karim Amrullah]; leading mystic and founder of the Indonesian Police, Said Sukanto Tjokrodiatmojo; and retired General T. B. Simatupang, a Protestant leader and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff. As it was, the controversy over the documents became a national issue.

The Sawito affair is one of the enigmas of recent Indonesian history. Puzzles abounded from the afternoon in September 1976 when the government dramatically announced the discovery of a “plot to topple

The original version of this study was submitted as a BA Honours thesis in 1982 at Murdoch University, Western Australia. After a visit to Indonesia in 1983 I revised the manuscript and incorporated new material. Sincere thanks are due to all those who contributed their ideas and criticisms, including Herbert Feith, Keith Foulcher, Dick Robison, Max Lane, Ong Hok Ham, Ben Anderson, and several Indonesian friends who, unfortunately, must remain anonymous. I am especially indebted to Paul Stange, who supervised my work in 1982, for his constant interest, insight, and inspiration. For providing me with primary material or invaluable contacts, I would kindly thank Yap Thiam Hien, William Liddle, Graham O’Rourke, Anton Lucas, Margo Lyon, and Rodney Lewis. I am also very grateful to my mother Ray Bourchier and my brother Michael for their help in proofreading and typing the draft manuscript.

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