It has been said that “history is written by the victors.” Such is certainly the case in Indonesia where first the Dutch, followed by the Japanese and then Indonesian leaders themselves, have dominated the writing of history and attempted to make official their own vision and version of the past. The dissemination and monopoly of Indonesia’s official history was especially evident in the period 1965-1998, the years of President Soeharto’s ‘New Order’ regime.
All observers stress the historical significance of the abortive so-called Communist coup of 1965. This led to the establishment of the New Order with all of its political, cultural and institutional characteristics. As is well recorded, the events of 1965-66 involved the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians, the imprisonment without trial of thousands more, and the systematic elimination of mass organizations and cultural forms associated with “leftist” thought.
From the period 2000-2004, researchers hired by Lontar conducted interviews with 145 people whose lives were severely altered by the impact of the events of 1965. Many of their stories are harrowing; all of them are sad, and all bear witness to a lasting trauma.
This historical memory study has several outputs. First and foremost among them is a collection of 374 hours of taped interviews, which will over time be made available for public access through the Lontar Digital Library. In addition, this study has resulted in several publications, including: