(INDONESIA and the GREAT SLAUGHTER – continued)

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A “Pre-emptive” Coup

On 21 August 1965, a report circulated among Indonesia’s Communist Party leaders of an impending coup by Indonesia’s anti-Communist generals against President Sukarno. On September 30 a group of military officers led by Lieutenant Colonel Untung, a member of Sukarno’s palace guard, moved troops against what they claimed was an impending coup supported by the CIA.

Lieutenant Colonel Untung’s group was friendly toward the Left and in contact with members of Communist Party. On September 30, the PKI leader, D.N. Aidit, with some other Communists, were at Untung’s headquarters at the Halim air base in southeast Jakarta. Untung described them as friendly observers. The next day in the early morning hours, October 1, squads of soldiers belonging to Untung’s group burst into the homes of seven generals. It would be claimed that they intended to arrest the generals and drag them before President Sukarno. Instead, three of the generals were killed. A fourth, General Nasution, escaped with a broken ankle from leaping over a fence, but his five-year-old daughter was shot and would later die. The troops did take a few as prisoners to their headquarters at the Halim air base. Untung's troops also occupied the national radio station and posted themselves outside the president’s palace.

If the anti-Communist generals had staged a coup against Sukarno, the onus of subversion would have been upon them, and Sukarno, with help from the Communists, might have been able to rally the nation and crush them. Now, with the Left having moved first, the surviving anti-Communist generals could pose as saviors rather than rebels.

Untung’s group had not warned Sukarno of their action, and Sukarno at first thought he was in danger. According to plan, a member of Untung’s group drove to Sukarno’s palace during the morning of October 1 to inform him of what they had accomplished, but he found Sukarno gone. They found him at the air base, where Sukarno's personal jet airplane had always been on standby. With Sukarno was Major General Suharto, who had not been on Untung’s hit list and who had placed himself at Sukarno’s disposal, awaiting his orders and guaranteeing his safety.

President Sukarno and those with him listened to a radio broadcast by Untung's group that described the anti-Communist generals who had been planning a coup as “power-crazy,” as having neglected their subordinates while “living luxurious and happy-go-lucky lives” and as having squandered government funds. The coup broadcast announced a replacement of the government’s cabinet and listed the members of the new council that would for the time being have authority throughout Indonesia. The council was to consist of forty-five people, including a few minor-ranking Communists and twenty-four military men, many of whom had not known they would be on the list and did not want to be there. President Sukarno was displeased. Untung’s group was in effect challenging his constitutional powers. To Sukarno they were at least a disturbance.

Sukarno ordered an immediate end to all bloodshed. For the time being, Major-General Suharto was elevated to Army Chief-of Staff, replacing General Yani, one of those killed by Untung’s group. President Sukarno allowed Suharto’s forces to establish control over the national radio station and elsewhere.

On October 5 a public funeral took place in Jakarta for the assassinated generals. On October 6, President Sukarno met with his cabinet and issued a statement denouncing Untung’s putsch. At the end of the meetings army officers under General Suharto arrested one of Sukarno’s Communist cabinet members who had been in attendance. 

The leader of the PKI, D.N. Aidit, meanwhile was somewhat out of touch with what was happening. He had flown in an army plane to various places in Indonesia where he met with local party leaders. He instructed them to leave the military to settle things among themselves. He told them there were to be no demonstrations and no creating suspicion by going underground.


Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.