Category Archives: Armed Forces

A Shred From The Diary of Indonesia

A Shred From The Diary of Indonesia

By Emha Ainun Nadjib

See the performances of plays in my country
called Bloodbath in Jember
Attack the Country of the White Ghost in Solo
Klaten, Semarang, Surabaya and Medan
The Terrorising of the Neighbourhood Security Post in Bandung
Ah, remember in the past
the performance of the folk drama
that was called Jihad Command.
Remember Malari.
Remember the hundreds of plays performed
whose scripts we did not known
and our naked eyes
so easily fooled and hoodwinked.
Ah, complete dramas
not played on a stage
but rather played out over the heads
of the sea of onlookers.
Blood flowing, flowers of death.
The foul stench of the saliva of the cunning directors
who hide in the hearts of the people.
Dramas of a civilisation that plays with lives
toys with humanity
tells dirty jokes to God.
We are very simple people and do not know
our Minds are steered
bit through the nose and doused in perfume
Backsides prodded and we bellow
We who are too simple and forgiving
chattering amongst ourselves
like small children running around with crackers
then falling sound asleep
after being fed sponge cake and chewing gum.
Ah, who owns this land.
Who owns the forests being cut down.
Tin ore and timber that are officially smuggled
Who owns the mines
decisions about the future
Who owns nature’s wealth
now being wasted completely
Who owns the changes
in the interests of official decisions
We ourselves here
who owns us.
Have we ever owned even a small amount
more than just being owned, and owned.
Have we ever determined even a small amount
more than just being determined, and determined.

Yogya, 13 March 1982

Short Story: Shoot Seven People Dead

Shoot Seven People Dead

By Ahmad Tohari

Dar farewells me with a firm grip. Then he turns and walks away saying he wants to go home to Jakarta and return to editing a famous periodical. But a moment later, he looks back, before approaching me once more.

“One more time. Are you still sure that what I did was my fate?” Dar asks with a solemn face.

I smile and shake my head. He has asked me the question many times, every time we meet. I just answered the question two minutes ago.

“You mean what you did when you shot seven people dead at the same time? How many times do I have to answer? The event happened fifty-four years ago. Whatever happens is called fate,” I answer, also serious.

“So you’re still sure?”


Dar looks at me but his face is still worried. Then he turns his large tall frame. Unfortunately, he walks away with steps that are not nearly as bold as the figure he cuts. I think Dar is overweight. And like me, he too is greying. What’s certain is that fifty-four years ago Dar and I were both in the final year of secondary school.

Today we’re taking our leave in the yard of a small food shop. Dar ordered rawon beef and rice soup, the oil floating on coconut-cream sauce glistening with fat.


The volleyball is fed in and Dar smashes it with a movement at least two seconds faster than the team on the other side of the net are expecting. The ball fires unobstructed into the other team’s court. A roar explodes, especially from the female students watching. Virtually all the girls in our school always go for Dar on the volleyball court, and maybe off it too. Dar again becomes the center of attention as he prepares to serve. But this time, we have to wait as someone calls him off the court. A cry of disappointment goes up from a group of female students. The person calling Dar off is someone we all know well. Along with two of his friends, this person often takes us for marching practice. And he uses tough discipline. He also teaches us how to raise and lower the flag. In fact, this trainer also teaches a special group of students, including Dar who is tall, how to crawl. Not any ordinary crawling, but how to crawl while you’re carrying a rifle, and gripping a commando knife between your teeth. So brave. That’s the way to storm enemy territory. And also how to disassemble and assemble a weapon. This activity makes the smaller, shorter ones among us feel jealous and insignificant compared to Dar.

Still at the side of the volleyball court, the trainer hands Dar a rifle that doesn’t have a magazine. Then with a tough-looking face, the trainer salutes bravely. This helps create an air full of heroism. We grow even more jealous of Dar, and I know the female students are going to admire the tall guy even more. Finally Dar goes back onto the court, now wearing the rifle, even though it doesn’t have a magazine.

From what Dar tells us, we learn that the weapon is an automatic rifle. It is called a Kalashnikov, or AK-47, and it is made in Russia. Gunfire from the weapon sprayed horizontally, says Dar, can bring down a banana tree trunk by making a gash like a machete slash. And one magazine full of bullets fired vertically can split the trunk from top to the bottom, making a cut like a machete slice too. Yes, Dar’s story about the fantastic rifle always manages to make us seem even more insignificant. Although Dar is still a high school child like us, we really believe he has actually done everything he tells us about.

Once the volleyball court is vacated by the hero, it is as if all our enthusiasm has evaporated. All the more so as the female students also move away. I still remember him. And of course Dar receives more, and more exciting, training. Dar relates that the person training us has asked him to enroll in the military academy later. So he will have to do heaps of physical training. Dar just says yes to the trainer to make sure there are no bad feelings. But in fact Dar has told me he really wants to become a painter.


Dar is picked up. And as their journey takes them into the teak forest, he asks the person who met him, “Where are we going?” Dar receives the reply. “A great task lies ahead of you over there. Only a great youth could gain the opportunity to carry out such a great task. Not even me in fact.”

Although he isn’t satisfied with the answer, Dar is actually reluctant to push for an explanation.

The jeep travels slowly, crawling through the shadows cast by the trees. It stops where the narrow road runs along the edge of a steep embankment. There are several unarmed men standing together down there. Below the edge, only a few meters away, a river flows swiftly. As the sun is already low in the west, Dar and the others are frequently struck by the glare of the bright sunlight reflecting from the water’s surface.

The trainer hands Dar a full magazine loaded with bullets. Dar accepts it with a show of boldness. Without hesitation, he skillfully mounts the magazine. From the open end, the bullets are visible. They’re pointed, copper-headed, reddish in color. The size of fingers. Dar tells me that the bullets burst as soon as they hit their target. If they’re targeted at somebody’s back, the wound is a gaping hole as large as the hole in the back of a kuntilanak vampire. That’s what Dar tells all of his high school friends. Fifty-four years ago.

The trainer smiles as he gives Dar the thumbs up. Dar returns the smile. When the trainer snaps a dashing salute to Dar, he responds with the same enthusiasm. Then Dar and the trainer take a few steps descending the embankment. About five meters in front of them, a woven bamboo panel is visible being held upright by stakes at both ends. Along the center of the woven panel is a thick white horizontal line about two meters long.

Dar senses that he is confronting something and a situation which he does not comprehend. “What is all of this?” he asks.

And the man answers flatly, “I am going to test your accuracy. Please fire at the white line until you’re out of bullets. Let’s go, champ!”

Dar’s face warms because he feels that he has been presented with a challenge. He takes a deep breath, moves his left leg forward, and leans to the front slightly. He raises the AK-47. His palms are moist. He consciously assumes a brave firing pose. Right index finger tightens on the trigger. Rat-a, tat, tat, tat, tat. Instantly the thick white line on the woven bamboo panel is erased by the spray of bullets.

There follows a second of perfect quiet. In that moment, Dar almost screams for joy because he feels that he has become a great marksman. But a moment later, complete confusion descends. Words fail him as he notices a blotch of blood seeping through the tear in the woven bamboo there before him. He also hears something collapse. He throws down the AK-47 and runs to see what is behind the wall. Several bodies are slumped over, covered in blood. Two are rolling down toward the river. Then two splashes sound out and the river instantly becomes red. Dar suddenly feels dizzy. He sways, then faints.


Dar and I meet again a few months later at the small food stall, Dar once again about to return to Jakarta. His stomach is fat and I chide him, “You should eat less. If you don’t, you won’t have a long life.”

Dar defends himself. “Actually I’ve suffered from memory loss all my life because I once shot seven people dead. When I eat, I can forget I have memory problems. That’s all. I won’t ever stop liking food. And I’m also going to keep asking you if you’re still sure that what I did then was fate.”

“Yes. It was fate! It’s a deep scar! It’s our curse!” I answer rather loudly. But the words make my flesh crawl and I can’t hold back the tears.


Maybe Dar’s excuse is right, that by eating all the time he can forget the deep emotional injury. But why does he have to eat another rawon beef and rice soup, and then another? Finishing the large bowl of soup, he stands up as if he wants to assume a comfortable position to belch. I stand up too, but not to burp. Instead, I stroke his belly. “You have to take care of your stomach so it doesn’t get any bigger. That’s if you don’t want to die early.”

The fact is it’s just a joke. And Dar and I laugh together. But maybe it’s bad luck or something, because later it turns out that my words are definitely no joke at all. A few days later, I hear the news that Dar has suffered a stroke. Of course I want to go and visit him in Jakarta right away. But before I can leave, more news arrives. Dar has passed away.

Oh Lord, fifty-four years ago, Dar shot seven people dead. And today he passed away. Well, what can I say? There definitely isn’t any need for me to ask for forgiveness for Dar because You are All Knowing.


Ahmad Tohari, “Shoot Seven People Dead” (Menembak Mati Tujuh Orang) was published in the Central Java daily newspaper Suara Merdeka on 13 October 2019. [Retrieved from]

Ahmad Tohari was born in Banyumas on 13  June 1948. He now lives in the village of Tinggarjaya, Jatilawang, Purwokerto in Central Java province. His most popular work is the novel trilogy Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk [The Ronggeng Dancer of Paruk Hamlet]. His collections of short stories include Karyamin’s Smile (Senyum Karyamin), Nyanyian Malam, dan Mata yang Enak Dipandang. Other works include the novels Kubah (1982), Di Kaki Bakit Cibalak (1977), Bekisar Merah (1993), Lingkar Tanah Lingkar Air (1995), Belantik (2001), and Orang-orang Proyek (2002). The short story They Spelt The Begging Ban (Mereka Mengeja Larangan Mengemis) was published in Kompas daily on 15 September 2019.

Nasi Rawon

Nasi Rawon

Featured image credit: VOXSPORTS VOXER, 17th ASEAN University Games : Volleyball (M) – Singapore vs Indonesia, Photography by Lim Yong Teck (SUSC)




Poem for a Student Meeting

Poem for a Student Meeting

By W.S. Rendra

The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Looked at the brown river snaking its way to the sea,
And listened to the hum of the bees in the forest.

And now it starts to climb into the sky
And it presides to bear witness, that we are gathered here
To investigate the current situation.

We ask:
Why are good intentions sometimes no use?
Why can good intentions clash with good intentions?
People say: “We have good intentions.”
And we ask: “Good intentions for who?”

Yes, some are mighty and some are humble.
Some are armed and some are injured.
Some have positions and some are occupied.
Some have plenty and some are emptied.
And we here ask:
“Your good intentions are for who?
You stand on the side of who?”

Why are good intentions put into practice
But more and more farmers lose their land?
Farms in the mountains are bought up by people from the city.
Huge plantations
Only benefit just one small group.
Advanced equipment that is imported
Doesn’t suit farmers with tiny pieces of land.

Well we ask:
“So your good intentions are for who?”

Now the sun is rising high in the sky.
And will indeed be enthroned above the palm trees.
And here in the hot air we will also ask:
All of us are educated to stand on the side of who?
Will the knowledge taught here
Be an instrument of liberation,
Or of oppression?

The sun shall soon go down.
Night will arrive,
The geckos chatter on the wall
And the moon sail forth.
But our questions shall not abate.
They shall live in the people’s dreams,
Grow in the fields that recede into the distance.

And on the morrow,
The sun shall rise once more.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate,
Our questions shall become a forest,
Transform into rivers,
And become the waves of an ocean.

Under this hot sun, we ask:
There are those who scream, and those who beat,
There are some with nothing, and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions,
Stand on the side of who?

1 December 1977

This poem was presented to students at the University of Indonesia, and performed in the film “Yang Muda Yang Bercinta” directed by Syumanjaya.

Poem for a Student Meeting (Sajak Pertemuan Mahasiswa), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 38.

The featured image is from Yang Tegak Berdiri Kokoh dan Yang Lunglai Meleyot-Leyot: Tentang Patung, Ruang Publik dan Kekuasaan.

Tugu Tani Today

Tugu Tani Today (Source:

For background on the history and controversy surrounding Tugu Tani see Matvey Manizer, Kisah Di Balik Tugu Tani: Patung Pahlawan, Banyak Ormas Menuduh Patung di Tugu Tani di Jakpus and the following article from The Jakarta Post ‘Tugu Tani’ a hero statue, not farmers statue: History book .

National Peasants Day 2017

National Peasants Day 2017 (Source:

Shu Li Peasant Heroes 1945 NGA

Shu Li, Peasant Heroes, c. 1945 NGA

New Book: Race, Islam and Power

Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia

By Andreas Harsono

(Jakarta) – Political changes in post-Suharto Indonesia have triggered ethnic and religious violence across the country, says a book by Andreas Harsono, a veteran Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, that was published today.

The 280-page book, Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia, was published by Monash University Publishing a week before Indonesia’s general elections on April 17, 2019. Harsono spent five years travelling around Indonesia, from the westernmost island of Sabang to its easternmost city of Merauke in West Papua, from Miangas Island in the north, near the Philippines border, to Ndana Island, near the coast of Australia. Harsono’s journey took him to more than 90 locations, including 41 small towns and 11 remote islands. Many of those locations were the sites of either state or communal violence. (Read more here or here.)

Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia by Andreas Harsono
Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia by Andreas Harsono

Mengenang Sosok BJ Habibie

Mengenang Sosok BJ Habibie

Op-Ed: Diplomasi Gaya Menlu Downer: kalau tidak berhasil, membully lagi

Oleh Hamish McDonald, redaksi Asia-Pasifik SMH, 12 Juli 2008

Email masih saja terus berdatangan beberapa kali sehari dari Departemen Luar Negeri dan Perdagangan, dilampiri setiap transkrip dari apa yang dikatakan menteri di segala macam acara dan pemberitahuan tempat di mana saja sang menteri dapat disergap oleh para wartawan untuk acara yang berikutnya.

Padahal entah kenapa tidak demikian keadaannya dengan Stephen Smith dari Partai Buruh sebagai Menlu. Fungsionaris partai yang berasal dari kota Perth itu terlalu bersikap hati-hati, terlalu terbatas, terlalu ekonomis dengan bahasanya. Singkatnya, terlalu diplomatis.

Di mana gaya bicara Alexander Downer yang cerewet itu yang telah kita kenal dengan begitu akrab selama lebih dari 11 tahun, omelannya yang mengandung begitu banyak penghinaan pribadi dan hipotesis keterlaluan sehingga akhirnya lampiran tersebut selalu saja dibuka, sekedar untuk berjaga-jaga.

Sayangnya, dia telah kehilangan jabatan dan bakal keluar dari Parlemen. Daripada ikut bergabung dengan wahana tentang apakah Menlu Downer merupakan raksasa dalam sejarah diplomatik Australia, ataupun menjadi seorang pelawak bak Inspektur Clouseau, mari kita simak apa yang diklaimnya sebagai “capaian terbesar” selama menjadi menteri luar negeri Australia yakni Timor Leste.

Dalam tulisannya di harian Sydney Morning Herald kemarin, Downer akhirnya tampil sebagai sang penggagas surat terkenal dari perdana menteri Australia saat itu John Howard kepada presiden Indonesia saat itu BJ Habibie pada bulan Desember 1998, yang mengusulkan solusi untuk keresahan yang makin berkembang di Timor Leste waktu itu.

Bisa saja diartikan dari apa yang ditulis Downer bahwa surat tersebut mengandung argumentasi untuk kemerdekaan Timor Leste yang menghasilkan referendum PBB pada bulan Agustus 1999 dan pengeluaran destruktif pasukan Indonesia beberapa minggu kemudian.

Tetapi surat itu mengusulkan sebuah strategi untuk menghindari keputusan yang jelas, dirancang untuk meredakan desakan atas kemerdekaan di wilayah itu, dan jelas berdasarkan harapan pemerintah Australia bila orang Indonesia akhirnya bisa lebih terorganisir, Timor Leste pada akhirnya akan memutuskan untuk tetap berada di dalam Indonesia.

Surat itu menggunakan contoh perjanjian-perjanjian Matignon dan Noumea antara Perancis dan kelompok-kelompok saingan Kanak dan pendatang di Kaledonia Baru pada tahun 1988 dan 1998, yang memberikan otonomi yang lebih luas di kepulauan itu dan menunda pelaksanaan langkah penentuan nasib sendiri sampai sekitar tahun 2013 dan 2018.

Reaksi tak terduga dari Presiden BJ Habibie adalah kemarahan besar karena dibandingkan dengan kekuatan kolonial Eropa, dan keputusan mendadak pada bulan Januari 1999 untuk memberikan pemungutan suara langsung kepada rakyat Timor Leste tentang tinggal atau pisah, daripada kemungkinan membuang-buang dana selama 20 tahun mendatang dalam upaya merubah sikapnya.

Sepanjang bulan-bulan penuh kekerasan menjelang pemungutan suara pada bulan Agustus, Downer dengan tegas berpegang pada “diplomasi cerdas” yang dianjurkan oleh kepala departemennya, almarhum Ashton Calvert, daripada ikut himbauan bergabung pasukan penjaga perdamaian dari luar.

Tentu dapat disangka bahwa jika militer Indonesia dan milisi lokalnya benar-benar berhasil dalam rencananya untuk membujuk penduduk Timor Leste untuk memilih otonomi yang lebih luas dan bukannya kemerdekaan, pemerintah Australia akan setuju saja dengan hasilnya.

Pada hari Senin, Presiden Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, dan Presiden Timor Leste Jose Ramos Horta akan merilis laporan penyelidikan Komisi Kebenaran dan Persahabatan bersama mereka tentang kekerasan tahun 1999. Tetapi oknum-oknum yang paling bertanggung jawab atas kekerasan itu akan tetap tidak terekspos ataupun dihukum.

Ini sebagian besar disebabkan oleh kebijakan Downer dan rekan-rekannya untuk tidak mendukung, dengan cara yang tidak lebih dari tokenisme, penyelidikan PBB sebelumnya atau mengutuk pengadilan konyol para kambing hitam tingkat junior dan menengah yang diadakan di Jakarta.

Tetapi alasan utama mengapa sebuah jalan di Dili tidak akan diberi nama Downer Sang Liberator terletak pada negosiasi antara Downer dan departemennya dengan pemerintah Timor Leste yang baru dan PBB mengenai sumber daya minyak dasar laut di Laut Timor.

Dalam bukunya Shakedown [Pemerasan], penulis Paul Cleary, yang menjadi anggota tim PBB selama negosiasi tersebut, telah menggambarkan taktik intimidasi yang diadopsi oleh Downer untuk membujuk negara baru yang remuk itu untuk menandatangani pelepasan haknya atas 80 persen dari ladang gas terbesar dalam zona maritim yang disengketakan. Dengan menggebrak meja pada salah satu pertemuan, Downer dikutip mengatakan kepada perdana menteri Timor Leste saat itu Mari Alkatiri, “Kita tidak perlu mengeksploitasi sumber daya tersebut. Itu dapat tinggal di sana selama 20, 40, 50 tahun.”

Pihak Timor Leste dan PBB bersikeras, memenangkan persyaratan yang jauh lebih menguntungkan dalam perjanjian perbatasan sementara yang akhirnya disepakati pada tahun 2006.

Peter Galbraith, mantan diplomat AS dan penulis buku tentang isu-isu kebijakan luar negeri, bekerja pada kantor PBB sebagai penasihat negosiasi. Dia mengingat ketika pergi ke kota Adelaide pada tahun 2000 untuk memberitahu Downer bahwa pihak Timor ingin merundingkan kembali perjanjian “Celah Timor” yang sudah disepakati oleh Indonesia pada tahun 1989.

“Entah mengapa, dia merasa sangat terhina karena kami sedang melakukan itu, karena saya melakukan itu,” kata Galbraith. “Pada pertemuan itu dia sepertinya terus menegaskan bahwa dia sudah lebih berhasil daripada ayahnya yang terkenal sedangkan saya mungkin kurang berhasil ketimbang ayah saya. Ada suatu psikodrama nyata di sana yang benar-benar tidak ada hubungan dengan masalahnya.”

(Galbraith adalah putra ekonom dan penulis terkenal JK Galbraith. Ayah Downer, Sir Alexander, adalah menteri imigrasi dalam pemerintahan PM Robert Menzies.)

“Tentang negosiasi minyak itu,” tambah Galbraith, “Downerlah yang mengadopsi pendekatan yang selain merendahkan juga mengintimidasi orang Timor Leste dan PBB yang akhirnya menjadikannya salah satu orang yang paling tidak populer di Timor Leste.

“Sangat merusak reputasi Australia, dan berakhir dengan persetujuan yang lebih buruk bagi Australia dibandingkan dengan hasil pendekatan yang lebih diplomatis. Masalahnya akan diselesaikan lebih cepat dan Australia akan dapat memiliki bagian minyak yang lebih besar.”

Galbraith, penasihat senior dalam kampanye presidensial calon Demokrat AS Barack Obama, mengatakan, “Menjadi menteri luar negeri yang paling lama mengabdi Australia mungkin tak sama dengan menjadi menlu yang terbaik.

“Dia tidak akan gagal dalam pekerjaannya sebagai negosiator Siprus,” tambah Galbraith, merujuk pada jabatan baru Downer sebagai utusan khusus PBB. “Karena tentu saja jika ada kemungkinan serius untuk mencapai kemajuan antara Yunani dan Turki mengenai sengketa Siprus, PBB tidak akan menunjuk Downer.”

Siti Hartinah