As you are probably aware, a huge collection of recently declassified documents from the US Government relating to the mass killings that took place in Indonesia from 1965-1966 were released to the public yesterday. The files reveal chilling new details of how much the US knew about and supported the killings, which were justified as necessary to purge the country of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) after an attempted military coup.
Despite the CIA’s own attempts to keep the documents hidden for decades, the new files have already been dismissed by some in Indonesia as “western propaganda” (judging from the comments on this excellent BBC Indonesia report), which is unsurprising since the anti-PKI propaganda put out by Suharto’s New Order regime to justify the killings have been so effective that the long-gone threat of communism remains both a taboo subject and an effective political weapon in Indonesia to this day.
Hoaxes alleging that President Joko Widodo has some connection to the PKI (and that he is actually secretly a Chinese Christian) have been dogging him ever since he started pursuing the presidency. Jokowi has also been criticized by human rights activists for his own anti-communist rhetoric, but considering how widespread some rumors about his PKI allegiance have become, it’s not surprising.
Just yesterday, the president addressed one of the more ridiculous hoaxes about his alleged communist sympathies while speaking before members of the Indonesian Islamic Association (Persis) in Bandung, West Java.
The hoax involves a photo showing a person who resembles Jokowi standing near PKI leader DN Aidit as he’s giving a speech.
— RMOLSumut.com (@rmolsumut) October 18, 2017
“In 1955, when DN Aidit gave a speech, there is a picture showing me there, but I was not even born in 1955. Even when the PKI was dissolved in 1965, I was a toddler,” he said as quoted by Wartakota.
The president said that there have been rumors about his connection to the PKI since he started his political career and said he had to answer them because it was very dangerous if people believed them.
While the president said such rumors were slander against himself and his family (some of the hoaxsters suggested that the person in the photo was actually Jokowi’s father), he said anybody was welcome to investigate the matter as he has nothing to hide.
Despite the PKI being gone for over 50 years, the specter of communism continues to haunt Indonesia. In September, a group of demonstrators violently laid siege on a pro-democracy event held by the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation after rumors spread online that it was actually a pro-PKI event.