1985: Mohammed Munir, Indonesian Communist

1 comment May 14th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 1985, the onetime General Secretary of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was suddenly executed for subversion.

Not to be confused with Egyptian pop singer Mohamed Mounir.

Though the date here says 1985, Munir was actually a very late casualty of the 1960s: specifically, the murky attempted “coup” of 1965 whose authorship the army quickly ascribed to the Communists and on that doubtful basis unleashed a ferocious bloodletting in 1965-66.*

Along with the hundreds of thousands of leftists slaughtered — many in Muslim sectarian violence, as distinct from being specifically hunted down by the army — some 200,000 wound up in prison.

According to a U.S. Department of Defense publication, Low-Intensity Conflict in the Third World (pdf),

the vast majority [of those 200,000 prisoners] were gradually released and rehabilitated during the first seven to 10 years of President Suharto’s New Order. By the mid-1970s, although Western sources could not agree on the remaining number, probably no more than 30,000 people remained in custody; but their living conditions and situations were often extremely bad. In the late 1970s, responding to the Carter administration, Vatican, The Hague, and Amnesty International remonstrances, the Suharto government implemented a series of staged, publicized releases of remaining PKI prisoners. All told, between 25,000 and 30,000 were released between 1977 and the early 1980s. In the early 1980s, most western sources estimated that no more than 5,000 hard-core PKI and other radical personnel remained in custody.

As the former head of the PKI-affiliated trade union SOBSI, Munir was “radical personnel” in the eyes of the Suharto dictatorship.

He’d been condemned on subversion charges in 1973, but the government had simply left that sort of people to rot in prison. (It had been five years between Munir’s arrest and his trial in the first place; clearly, nobody in Jakarta thought him a clear and present danger.)

According to this doctoral thesis,

On 14 May 1985 he was taken from his cell, and without explanation, shot. On 19 July 1985 there were further executions of Rustomo, Gatot, Lestario and Djoko Untung — all former senior members of the PKI in East Java. It was unclear whether the government had other agendas, or if the condemned had simply come to the end of a long, tedious and inhumane process … What the imprisonments and executions did, however, was to illustrate the continued power and convenience of state violence and anti-communism.

That “convenient” anti-communism helped clamp down on internal dissension.

The official campaigns made reformist sentiment in the civil service and the pro-democracy aspirations of students synonymous with communism. The fear generated served as a warning to progressive elements within the bureaucracy not to tamper … It was, in effect, a warning to all sections of society not to challenge the relationship between the ruler and the ruled.

* With the blessing of the West, naturally.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Indonesia,Power,Shot

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1966: Christiaan Soumokil, South Moluccan President

7 comments April 12th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1966, an Indonesian firing squad on the island of Obira (or Obi) shot Chris Soumokil (the link is to his Dutch wikipedia page) for having styled himself the president of the Republic of the South Moluccas.

Soumokil’s fate underscores the many contradictory eddies of nationalism in the post-colonial age, and especially in that “imagined community” par excellence, the scattered archipelago of Indonesia.

Here is the background in outline, from a 2005 anti-terrorism text whose interest in the topic will soon become apparent:

The disintegration of the Dutch East Indies and the rapid dissolution of the federative state was anxiously watched in the Moluccas. … [Moluccans] were a privileged group and had favourable career opportunities … [they] were deeply concerned when Sukarno first proclaimed independence in 1945; indeed, many seemingly chose the side of the Dutch government and hoped for a return to colonial times, because they feared that a Java-dominated Indonesian state would significantly worsen their position. …

When Sukarno, in the spring of 1950, dissolved the state of East Indonesia, of which the Moluccas were a province, a group of Moluccans immediately responded by proclaiming and independent Republic of the South Moluccas (Republik Maluku Selatan) on 24 April. This, of course, was unacceptable for Sukarno. In November 1950, the Indonesian army occupied the island of Ambon, the cultural and political centre of the Moluccas. The RMS government and its sympathizers fled to the island of Ceram, where it started a guerrilla war against the Indonesian government. In the early 1960s it became clear that this struggle was utterly hopeless. In 1962, The Netherlands transferred New Guinea to the Republic of Indonesia, thereby depriving the RMS guerrillas of the safe haven where it [sic] had prepared its actions and found refuge.

Soumokil was captured in December 1962 and imprisoned; he was executed* just a month after the Indonesian government was seized by Suharto, on a programme of putting disorder to the sword.

Although politically moribund, the South Moluccan struggle to which Soumokil is a martyr is far from forgotten. And this is where the story of nationalism takes an unexpected turn.

Moluccan refugees in the Netherlands — a “temporarily” displaced population that became permanent, comprised largely out of ferociously anti-Indonesian former soldiers** among whom the RMS government-in-exile still maintains itself today — carried the memory of this struggle forward, far more so than it persisted in the Moluccas themselves.

For this Moluccan diaspora, already subject to all the strains of migration, the affair was a betrayal by their host country, which had failed to repay their ancestors’ loyalty to Holland during the colonial period by backing their people’s aspirations for independence — and had done this even while placing another colony, Suriname, on precisely the sort of stewardship-to-independence track the RMS had in mind for itself.

Soumokil’s execution (and his widow’s subsequent release to the Netherlands) helped (the link is Dutch) radicalize the next generation of Dutch Moluccans to the extent of carrying out some spectacular terrorist actions.

Though there haven’t been any bombs lately, there remains to this day enough currency in this cause to recommend it in the identity formation of the YouTube generation.

* An account of Soumokil’s last hours given by Soumokil’s widow posted here gives the particulars thus:

On April 11, 1966, Mrs. Soumokil and her son Tommie were given permission to pay a last visit to Mr. Dr. Soumokil from 08.00 AM to 11.30 AM to say good-bye to each other.

On April 12, 1966, at 01.00 AM Mr. Dr. Soumokil had been taken by the Indonesian Military from the condemned cell and transferred by motorboat to the island Obi in the archipelago Pulau Seribu … On April 12, 1966, one minute before 07.00am, Mr. Dr. Soumokil gave his last breath. He had been shot by the Indonesian firing-squad.

** Also generally Christian, vis-a-vis the predominantly Muslim Indonesia.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Heads of State,History,Indonesia,Martyrs,Netherlands,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Power,Separatists,Shot,Treason

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