Significance of Memory in Peacebuilding: The Case of Post 1965 Indonesia

Friday, September 20th, 2013, 08:14 WIB

Perpetual peace is a dream of all of post-authoritarian and/or post-conflict societies. In this regard, high degree of trust, cooperation, and mutual reliance between conflicting parties in the future require their capabilities of reconciling with each other. Therefore, the peace extremely requires reconciliation with the violent past, in the sense that any attempt to utilize historical dialogue as a tool to initiate reconciliation process has to address the layers of justification which affect each actor’s acts of remembering (or forgetting). In the case of the post-1965 Tragedy in Indonesia, this is because each actor, including the perpetrators, lives in such inherent layers, namely similar historical, political, social, and economic settings.

Hayner (2011) emphasized that there have been 33 truth and reconciliation commissions since the 1990s, but only some succeeded. Most of them are established by post-authoritarian and/or post-conflict regimes seeking the truth about past human rights abuses and to make course toward reconciliation. This raises important questions on successfull and unsuccessfull reconciliation in some societies. Thus, all parties should have same opportunities to speak and to bring their voices because this is parts of the nation’s history-constructing process.

Ayu Diasti Rahmawati, a researcher at the Center for Security and Peace Studies (CSPS) of the Gadjah Mada University, presented this critical perspective. On Wednesday, 18 September 2013, Ayu become speaker at the ICRS-CRCS Wednesday Forum and presented her interesting paper entitled “Narrating the Truth of Agony: Memory and Reconciliation in Post-1965 Indonesia.” She has Master degree in International Affairs from the Graduate Program of International Affairs (GPIA) at the New School University, New York. “Her research interests include memory studies in conflict resolution, the dynamics between peace-building and state-building in conflict-affected states, as well as genocide studies with area focus of South East Asia.”

Ayu acknowledged that reconciliation has very complex and multi-dimensional process. In this sense, she brilliantly argued that “reconciliation requires the warring parties to firstly acknowledge their different remembering, or narratives, about the past.” Therefore, peacebuilder should pay attention to the politics of memory in all issues related to reconciliation, because any act of remembering and forgetting is usually non-political. Furthermore, it is relevant to emphasis historical dialogue as a tool in conflict resolution. In addition, reconciliation processes have to include “re-negotiation” of the post-conflict society’s collective memory about their violent past.

Then, Ayu critically addressed the case of the 1965 Tragedy in Indonesia, in which millions of alleged communist were massacred and heavily persecuted. In this regard, she thoroughly explored various challenges in efforts to perform historical dialogue as an instrument to jumpstart reconciliation process in the country. She insisted that the reconciliation process itself faces obstacles related to the Indonesians’ specific way of remembering the 1965 Tragedy. Peacebuilders can not simply consider the “propaganda” as a mere fabrication as the dominant narrative emphasizes so. However, particular memorizations about violent experiences in the past contribute in shaping of conflicting parties’ perceptions. In fact, different victims actually have different position toward the 1965 Tragedy. Moreover, it is essential to do not marginalize those affected by the 1965 Tragedy in telling their past memories. Additionally, these are relevant to prevent them from becoming a part of, under the single category of “victim, or survivor, narrative.”  (admin,che)