On this day September 30, 1965

On the night of 30 September six senior army generals were kidnapped and executed in Jakarta by a battalion of soldiers from the Presidential Guard.Backed by elements of the armed forces, the insurgents occupied Merdeka Square including the areas in front of the Presidential Palace, the national radio station, and telecommunications centre.

Suharto

Suharto

At 7:10 a.m. a Lieutenant-Colonel Untung announced on radio that the “30 September Movement” had forestalled a coup by “power-mad generals”, and that it was “an internal army affair”.

Apart from Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Abdul Harris Nasution—who was targeted but escaped assassination and in was in hiding—Suharto was the most senior general not removed by the 30 September group.

Suharto had been in hospital that evening with his three-year old son Tommy who had a scalding injury. It was here that he spoke to Colonel Abdul Latief, the only key person in the ensuing events with whom he spoke that evening.

Upon being told of the shootings and disappearances, Suharto went to Kostrad headquarters just before dawn from where he could see soldiers occupying Merdeka Square. He led Kostrad in seizing control of the centre of Jakarta, capturing key strategic sites.

Suharto announced over the radio at 9:00 p.m. that six generals had been kidnapped by “counter-revolutionaries”. He said he was in control of the army, and that he would crush the 30 September Movement and safeguard Sukarno.

Suharto issued an ultimatum to Halim Air Force Base, where the G30S had based themselves and where Sukarno (the reasons for his presence are unclear and were subject of claim and counter-claim), General Omar Dhani and Aidit had gathered. The coup leaders fled Jakarta while G30S-sympathetic battalions in Central Java quickly came under Suharto control.

The poorly organised and coordinated coup thus failed, and by 2 October, Suharto’s faction was firmly in control of the army. Sukarno’s obedience to Suharto’s 1 October ultimatum to leave Halim changed all power relationships. Sukarno’s fragile balance of power between the military, political Islam, communists, and nationalists that underlay his “Guided Democracy” was collapsing.

Complicated and partisan theories continue to this day over the identity of the attempted coup’s organisers and their aims. The army’s (and subsequently the “New Order’s”) official version was that the PKI was solely responsible. Other theories include Suharto being behind the events; that the army and Suharto was merely taking advantage of a poorly executed coup; and that Sukarno was behind the events.

A military propaganda campaign convinced both Indonesian and international audiences that it was a Communist coup, and that the murders were cowardly atrocities against Indonesian heroes. The army led a campaign to purge Indonesian society, government and armed forces of the communist party and leftist organisations. The purge quickly spread from Jakarta to the rest of the country.

In some areas the army organised civilian and religious groups and local militias, in other areas communal vigilante action preceded the army. The most widely accepted estimates are that at least half a million were killed. As many as 1.5 million were imprisoned at one stage or another. As a result of the purge, one of Sukarno’s three pillars of support, the Indonesian Communist Party, was effectively eliminated by the other two, the military and political Islam.

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