Academic journal article Nebula

Lubang Buaya: Myth, Misogyny and Massacre (1)

Academic journal article Nebula

Lubang Buaya: Myth, Misogyny and Massacre (1)

Article excerpt

In 1992 when this work was first presented at a postgraduate seminar at the University of Sydney a very different political climate pertained in Indonesia. Then the airing of topics such as this in the public domain was totally taboo inside Indonesia, unless the writer adhered strictly to the "script" sanctioned by the Soeharto regime. Even outside Indonesia, scholars thought twice before venturing into this highly sensitive terrain. (2) At that juncture few expected that within a few years President Soeharto would be removed from power and that his New Order regime would fall (or begin to fall) with him, ushering Indonesia towards democracy. (3) Perhaps nothing has better epitomised the new atmosphere of political openness that has pertained in Indonesia since May 1998 than the public questioning of the New Order's foundation narrative that has begun to emerge, although not without considerable resistance and reluctance. (4) An important dimension of this questioning has been the hitherto unimaginable publication in Indonesia of numerous works of history related to this sensitive subject matter, a phenomenon echoed beyond Indonesia where overseas scholars have also been prompted by the new climate to engage in this re-examination. (5) I hope that this revised work can make a contribution to the revived scholarly discussion of this pivotal period in Indonesia's post-independence history.

This foundation narrative in question, foundation myth to put it less politely, was centred on the regime's version of events associated with what it referred to as "Gestapu". (6) This acronym refers to what according to the regime was a coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), a terrible disaster had it been successful from which the regime claimed to have narrowly saved the country thanks to the decisive intervention of then General Soeharto. Having thus emerged as Indonesia's savior in its hour of most desperate need, the regime narrative continued, Soeharto proceeded to establish the New Order in order to safeguard the nation and to steer it towards development and prosperity. The focus of this article is on a particular component of the Soeharto-New

Order foundation narrative, one that is integral and fundamental to it: the myth of Lubang Buaya. More specifically, the primary focus here is on the contribution that this myth's propagation in 1965-66 makes toward an explanation for the mass political killings that occurred in Indonesia in this period, killings which both accompanied and propelled the regime change associated with Soeharto's seizure of power. By the time these killings petered out in 1967 hundreds of thousands of people with leftist associations had been put to death arbitrarily, mostly at the hands of their civilian political opponents operating in concert with the Army (Cribb, 1990: 7-14).

The Lubang Buaya myth was a black propaganda campaign which luridly and highly effectively detailed alleged crimes against humanity, against the Indonesian nation and state, against God, and against the normative Indonesian cosmic and social order. These alleged crimes occurred at a place called Lubang Buaya (Crocodile Hole) on the night of 30 September-1 October 1965. The campaign was primarily aimed at the PKI and through it at the secondary target of the so-called "Old Order" regime of President Sukarno of which the PKI was a major bulwark. The autonomous women's movement was also a target, an aspect to which I will return below. Accordingly, elements of the PKI, or more correctly elements associated with the PKI, were alleged to have committed the heinous crimes detailed in the propaganda. The featured perpetrators were claimed to be members of Gerwani (Movement of Indonesian Women), a PKI-affiliated women's organisation that occupied (in context) the most radical end of the spectrum of the Indonesian women's movement. Interestingly, after their initial splash (both inside and outside of Indonesia), the specific details of the horrific events alleged to have taken place at Lubang Buaya have rarely been accorded more than a passing reference. …

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