Written by my husband.
I’d like to share about my father’s story. It began when he was a junior high school headmaster in one of small cities in Central Java, Indonesia circa 1960. He is a hard worker man, he came from an upper-middle class family, very humble and a genuine Javanese man. One day, all of sudden, he was taken by military personil to their office, being interrogated and forced to stay there for a night, subsequently the next day up to 3 months he had to stay in Banjarnegara prison, then he was brought to one of the most horrible prisons in Indonesia, Nusa Kambangan, the place where serious criminals serve their sentences. That was his tough 5 years of his life. Not only that, he then had to serve another 9 years in Pulau Buru, another wild and infamous punishment island prison in Indonesia. Indonesians will creep just by hearing this name, Pulau Buru, is a real life horror place, it’s a black hole; once you get in, never expect to get out.
The questions are as good as many; Why was he taken by the military? Why was he imprisoned? Why was he sent to the prison without any trial? Why nobody could release him if he was innocent? What has actually happened?
I am not a yes man even to my own father, I will not just accept what my father said that he was a victim of kidnapping. I did research, I asked around, I interviewed my father, our family, my uncles, my father’s ex neighbors, reading all of his documents, almost everyone I could ask about what happened at November 1st, 1965? The answers I collected are quite similar; nobody knew what really happened, nobody said that my father was one of the communist party participants. It is true that he is a fan of Soekarno, the former president of Indonesia, and my father was one of the first batch of Indonesians who enjoy independence from day one, and that is his right to be loyal to anyone he wants. I believe my father is innocent; he was just a humble teacher who was a family man with two sons and was expecting a daughter.
Another story I got from people from my hometown; at that time, it was really easy to put someone into prison; create a gossip;
“That guy is a communist, I saw him went to the city hall attending the Communist Party campaign“.
Make sure that this gossip is spread to be heard by enough people and it reached the military intelligences. I learned that probably that was what happened to my father. He did not have any right to fight, but he was lucky enough to come back home alive, and able to share the story about one of his prisoner friend who was taken by the guard and found dead the next day next to the beach in Pulau Buru. The corpse was not identifiable, the face was tormented, the body was decayed. Assumption made; he was tortured to death because he was quite vocal. That was his first experience to bury a decomposing body, and that was not his last.
My father sent postcards to his former wife about once every month, we still have the copy of those. A very simple post card with Rp 1.5 stamps, censored. He wrote that he was healthy, he missed his family and asking his mother in law’s health, expecting some prayers from his family for his health, mentally and spiritually. But he never asked his family to fight for his right, they are too scared about the consequences, and my father was aware of it, as well as his family.
The consequences to speak up, to tell everyone about your right, was something dangerous back then. So it was better to keep silence otherwise you will have to pay your tongue with your whole life. With this knowledge in mind and in their subconscious, my father and his family decided to keep silence and “let it go” for whatever happened, we called it fate. That was my father’s fate, and being sent to Pulau Buru is the end of world, no one will expect him to return.
With such frustration, the difficulties to make a living alone, my father’s former wife was faced to a very difficult choice, she had no dream of having her husband to return and their life must go on, she had to pronounce my father dead. That was the idea provided to their children and everyone. Around a good 40 years later, in one fine afternoon on the Ied Mubarak day, we reunited, I met my brothers and sister from my father’s former wife and we shared the story. They did not know that our father was still alive until around the year 1990-ish and they kept looking until finally found our home where my father’s new little family stayed.
October 10th, 1979, fourteen years after the day he was kidnapped by the military, he was sent home to find that everything he left had gone. He had nothing; no family, no friend, no money, no house, nothing. Given such condition, my father was very mad, and he had been developing a theory that somehow reasoning his action to execute the head of the district who happened to be the one who initiate the gossip, defamation about my father. “Kayin is a communist“.
Fortunately, he cancelled his plan, and later realised that the target of his execution had passed away a few years before he was released. He started to make a new life in Wonosobo, a small city next to Banjarnegara, the place where he used to live and imprisoned for the first three months. He built a small farm and quite successful in a very short period of time.
From that 14 years of imprisonment without trial, my father lost his whole wealth, he lost his family, he lost the trust from the community, he was marginalised and he is marginalised ever since. My father’s red stamp was brought along with his life since then, he met a widow with one children who later happened to be my mother, and thanks to their patience, their children were grown up to be a healthy men and woman. I still remembered how hard we were trying to hide my father’s past history whenever possible, we could not ignore the fact that the community tries to isolate the common enemy; the communist. We had no choice other than hide it even when we do not even know what is the meaning of communist. Disclosing my father’s past history is a taboo, talking about communism is taboo.
The grand father of a friend was also kidnapped by the military, but he has worse story than my father’s. He did not have a chance to share the story to his family. He was just a farmer in Gunung Kidul, a remote district located in between rocky mountains at the south part of the Kingdom of Yogyakarta, Java. I did not know about his grandfather’s story until one day he shared a poster titled “Their boots on my grandfather’s head”.
We shared exactly the same experience; the fact that we have to hide our story, the fact that we were isolated, the fact that people talk behind our back, so many limitations to do things just because we worried that whatever acts we choose might bring us bad, not only to ourselves, but also to our family.
My father sent many letters to the current president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a few times when he was elected for the first time. He wrote about his condition and had been asking for rehabilitation, he wanted to be pronounced innocent and wanted the government to apologize to him. He sent letters to The Supreme Court few times, as well as The Constitutional Court and The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) with the same copy as he wrote to the president, with no response. Once, he got response from Komnas HAM, but he did not feel satisfied.
He is now 83 years old, and is still trying to settle down his case, we never talked about his story anymore, but deep in my heart, I understand that he is willing to struggle for his right. However, he realised that he is not young anymore, instead of spending his energy to remember all that experience he had gone through, and bring back all those painful memories, he choose to settle down and spending his time with my mother.
Living without rights is like an untasteful dead. Why said so? Imagine, you are in the middle of work then you rushed back home, when you get out from the train, you were kidnapped and you got no chance to see your beautiful daughter in the new ballet costume you bought her a few days before, ever. You never come back; your wife and children have no clue where you are, they have no choice, no place to ask, they know nothing. You are eagerly to shout out loud and fight but your hands were bounded, your head was sacked, you are useless, while you are innocent. It’s just because you had a little problem with one of your neighbors who played music too loud at night that disturb your lovely daughter, then he created a gossip that you are a communist, talk about it in a coffee shop every morning as a manifestation of his hatred when you come to his door one night to ask to lower down his music because your daughter could not sleep because she had a high fever.
The above example may be too much, but that happened million times in the past, and it may be happening right now. I believe everyone knows about Munir, we never know what is the status of his murderer. The case has been there for more than 8 years now, and there isn’t any outcome. This case happened during the democracy time, post reformation!
Munir’s case is not the only one, the same case may be happening right now, someone out there might get murdered because of their faith, their religion, their sex preference, their political choice, their taste of music, their right as a human. It might not happened to you or your family in the past, but it may happen to you or your family in the future. Or may not be.