Seminar: The Current Controversy around the “1965 Tragedy”: On the Cusp of a New Phase of Democratisation?



About the Seminar

In April this year, the then Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, Luhut Panjaitan, together with the Governor of the National Defence Institute (LEMHAMNAS), retired major-General Agus Wijoyo, organised a national symposium on the “1965 tragedy”. This followed several years of persistent advocacy by human rights and victims groups. It also followed promises of resolving” the “1965 tragedy”– though vague – made by Joko Widodo during his presidential campaign in 2014. The symposium went for two days and heard presentations from a range of parties, including former political prisoners and historians. The symposium is yet to make public its recommendations to the President.

In the wake of the symposium another symposium was organised by retired generals, with the presence of the Minister for Defence, Ryamizard Ryacudu. This symposium took a position hostile to any “reconciliation” process that conceded wrong doing by the Indonesian state or military. It advocated the launching of a movement to squash what it saw as a revival of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). At the same time, there was an escalation of actions by anti-communist groups, including some using the Islamic banner, to physically disrupt events around the country considered to be sympathetic to the PKI. This activity championed by former generals, Kivlan Zein and Kiki Syahnakri, has in turn elicited resistance and counter-polemics. Government spokesperson’s statements appear to be seeking a middle course.

This presentation will report on these events but also present an analysis that the emergence of a public national discussion on this issue challenges the limits imposed by post New Order “reformasi” democracy, and asks whether those limits are likely to collapse or be extended.

About the Speaker

Dr Max Lane is a Senior Visiting Fellow at ISEAS and has been an irregular guest lecturer at Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and Yogyakarta State University. He is author of Unfinished Nation: Indonesia before and After Suharto (Verso, 2008), Catastrophe in Indonesia (Seagull, 2010) and Decentralization and Its Discontents: An Essay on Class, Political Agency and National Perspective in Indonesian Politics (ISEAS, 2014).   He is also translator of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s This Earth of Mankind and its sequels, Arok of Java and The Chinese in Indonesia, as well as of W.S. Rendra’s Struggle of the Naga Tribe. He has observed Indonesia as an officer of the Australian Embassy, a researcher at the Australian Parliament, a journalist as well as an academic.

He is currently writing a monograph length introduction to the politics of the Indonesian labour movement. His next publication will be Indonesia and Not: Poems and Otherwise (Djaman Baroe, Yogyakarta, forthcoming, 2016.)


To register, please fill in this form and email to by 18 November 2016.


Nov 21 2016


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2