Kenjataan2 (“Facts”)

The documents below informed the stories “Revealed: how UK spies incited mass murder of Indonesia’s communists” (Sunday 17 October 2021), “Slaughter in Indonesia: Britain’s secret propaganda war” (Sunday 17 October 2021) and “UK’s propaganda leaflets inspired 1960s massacre of Indonesian communists” (Sunday 23 January 2022) by Paul Lashmar, James Oliver and Nicholas Gilby, all published in the Observer newspaper.

A follow up article to the first two pieces was published by Paul Lashmar and Nicholas Gilby in the Observer newspaper on Sunday 24 October 2021, entitled “Survivors of 1965 Indonesia massacres urge UK to apologise“.  Other follow up articles appeared in the South China Morning Post on 21 October 2021 (“Victims of Indonesia’s 1965 communist killings tell UK to tell truth about its role in genocide and anti-Chinese propaganda“), the Jakarta Post on 27 October 2021 (“Guilt trip over 1965 killings“) and the Observer on 7 November 2021 (“Britain owes an apology to my father and millions of other Indonesians“).

The documents were found, unless otherwise stated, by Nicholas Gilby in The National Archives (TNA) in London.    They contain public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v2.0.

Britain’s “stiletto” in the Confrontation with Indonesia

The British Government set up the South East Asia Monitoring Unit (SEAMU) in Singapore, under the leadership of Edward (“Ed”) Evan Wynne, in January 1965.  It was Britain’s “stiletto” (a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point used as a stabbing weapon) in its secret war with President Sukarno’s Indonesia in the mid-1960s. For details of the “bludgeon”, please refer to Paul Lashmar and James Oliver’s excellent book Britain’s Secret Propaganda War.

Wynne was “responsible for covert propaganda directed at audiences inside Indonesia”.  The core task of his TOP SECRET unit of around ten people was to produce a fortnightly “newsletter” called Kenjataan2 (“Facts“), “purporting to come from a group of Indonesian patriots disillusioned with current developments in Indonesia”.

The first issue of Kenjataan2 was mailed into Indonesia in April 1965 and by January 1966 21 issues had been produced.  The last issue of Kenjataan2 was produced in August 1966.

The ten-page newsletter relentlessly promoted a number of themes to suit Britain’s objectives in Indonesia: the end of the Confrontation with Malaysia and the diminution of the influence of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).  President Sukarno was the architect of Confrontation and the PKI strongly supported him and this policy.  The themes of Kenjataan2 were:

  • Pro-nationalist
  • Anti-Confrontation
  • Anti-Red China
  • Anti-PKI
  • Anti-Sukarno
  • Anti-Subandrio (Sukarno’s Foreign Minister)
  • Anti-Dhani (Sukarno’s Air Force Commander)

Kenjataan2 comprised articles, cartoons and pictures from the world’s press, not available in Indonesia because of the censorship practised by President Sukarno’s government, as well as substantial comment on Indonesian affairs.  This skilful blend of fact and rhetoric gave Kenjataan2 credibility as well as novelty value.  As well as editorial, the commentary came from a number of fictional persons:

  • “Mat and Dibjo”: two “students of political science”
  • “Pak Pandir”, a sage gentleman
  • A “Young Poet”, writing in the style of W.H.Auden, Stephen Spender and Louis MacNiece, poets popular in Indonesia at the time
  • “Karol Bolegh”, a writer on political affairs

Wynne and his colleagues went to considerable lengths to disguise the true authorship of Kenjataan2.  His unit was part of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD), a secret propaganda unit with close links to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).  SEAMU was based in a discreet safe house on Winchester Road in the Alexandra Park area of Singapore, away from the main British headquarters in Phoenix Park.

The material written by Wynne and his colleagues was translated into Indonesian by an Indonesian exile attached to SEAMU, a professor of languages.  The unit maintained a card index of new words and expressions to ensure it kept up with the present day vocabulary and usage of the Indonesian language.

The newsletter was written in Singapore and then despatched to fourteen SIS stations across Asia, including Hong Kong, Tokyo and Manila, and air mailed into Indonesia to around 1,500 “personages of influence”.  It was deliberately produced in an untidy way, to suggest the authors were amateur journalists.

To avoid the attention of Sukarno’s censors, SEAMU only used a type of paper commonly available throughout the world.  The envelopes used for posting varied in size and colour and addresses were typed in the style of the posting country, in the language of that country and with typewriters commonly used there.  Stamps peculiar to the posting country were preferred.  A variety of covers were developed, from plain brown paper to white paper with imitation advertisements, to fox Sukarno’s censors.

The following chart illustrates well how SEAMU worked.  Supervised by Norman Reddaway, Britain’s “Coordinator of Political Warfare” in Singapore, it was one of the key users of intelligence produced in Singapore.  As well as the regular newsletter, it also undertook projects for Army Psyops.

FCO 168_2193 Chart of SEAMU operations

Document 1

IRD special issue “black” newsletter: “The Coup” (English and Indonesian)

Just 24 hours after the murder of six Indonesian Generals on the night of 30 September/1 October 1965, the Indonesian Army Commander in Sumatra, Ahmad Junus Mokoginta, broadcast a speech over the radio from Medan, Sumatra.  He

ordered that all members of the Armed Forces resolutely and completely annihilate this counter-revolution and all acts of treason down to the roots.

– Jess Melvin, The Army and the Indonesian Genocide: Mechanics of Mass Murder, p117.

Mokoginta’s speech was almost certainly picked up by the Foreign Office-funded BBC Monitoring Service (I am grateful to Duncan Campbell for this) and circulated to British officials in London and Singapore.

On 4 October, IRD officials wrote to Wynne telling him that the abortive coup gave “us all a splendid chance”.

One day later, in Jakarta, the Indonesian Army published a 130-page book accusing the PKI of masterminding the coup (John Roosa, Pretext for Mass Murder, p63).  On the same day, in Medan, Sumatra, Mokoginta delivered his daily order

immediately annihilate the Counter Revolution and all forms of its treachery down to the roots.

– Jess Melvin, The Army and the Indonesian Genocide: Mechanics of Mass Murder, p128.

This was an order to massacre the PKI, almost all of whose members had nothing to do with the coup.  In Behind the Enigma: The authorised history of GCHQ, Britain’s Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency, Professor John Ferris confirms Britain’s eavesdropping agency was reading the communications of Indonesia’s military commanders on Sumatra (p588).  

On Friday 8 October, in a TOP SECRET telegram the Foreign Office instructed Singapore that SEAMU (and other British officials in Singapore) should help

encourage anti-Communist Indonesians to more vigorous action in the hope of crushing Communism in Indonesia altogether, even if only temporarily…to spread alarm and despondency in Indonesia to aggravate and prolong the present crisis.

On the same day London sent Wynne TOP SECRET instructions to produce a “short special issue soonest” on the theme “let this opportunity not be wasted.  It will never recur”.

Wynne and his colleagues worked fast.   On Saturday 9 October Wynne told IRD the “special issue” of Kenjataan2 would be despatched on Monday 11 October to Manila for posting, and on Tuesday 12 October to Tokyo.   Wynne anticipated the “special issue” would be circulating in Indonesia the following week (commencing 18 October).

According to a leading scholar of these events, Dr Jess Melvin, whose book The Army and the Indonesian Genocide: Mechanics of Mass Murder is based on Indonesian Army intelligence records, pogroms and public killings of PKI members and sympathisers took place in Aceh, Sumatra, from 7 to 13 October (chapter 5).   After 14 October, she writes, “the military’s annihilation campaign dramatically escalated”.

At that crucial time, Wynne’s “special issue”, supposedly written by Indonesian patriots independent of events, arrived in Indonesia reinforcing to local opinion formers the Army’s line that the PKI should be annihilated.  Six months later, around half a million innocent people were dead, and many thousands more raped, tortured, and starting imprisonment terms lasting years.

The “special issue” opens with a nod to Wynne’s instructions to keep a “restrained and unbelligerent tone”.

We do not cry out here for violent reactions – for there has been enough violence

the editor of Kenjataan2 pleads.  Nonetheless quickly a paradox is presented:

No, we do not cry out for violence, but we demand in the name of all patriotic people that this Communist cancer be cut out of the body of the State.

Within a few paragraphs the editor thunders

the evil must be eradicated, it must be extracted from the body of the State.  Aidit [the PKI leader] and his evil P.K.I. and all its works must be suppressed.

The editor emphasises the need for “action” to “suppress the PKI”.

Kenjataan2 then presents its version of the events of 30 September/1 October.  It opens by endorsing the Army’s blaming of the PKI:

The recent Communist plot to overthrow Sukarno was planned down to the last detail.

By the final two pages, the rhetoric heats up with lurid imagery:

Once before, after Madiun, we had a chance to throttle the Communist snake, and it was Sukarno who allowed that chance to slip through our fingers.  We cannot afford to make the same mistake again

On the final page the newsletter lists three tasks which have to be done, for “if this opportunity is lost it may never occur again”.  Among the three tasks is

the P.K.I. and all it stands for must be eliminated for all time.

The newsletter says

thanks to the loyalty of the Army and the leadership of it’s [sic] generals, the P.K.I. is now a wounded snake.  Now is the time to kill it before it has a chance to recover.

It concludes

we are great country and we should make the most of those innumerable natural gifts which God has bestowed upon us, but we can never do that until Communism and what it stands for has been destroyed

The coup is presented as an historic opportunity:

We have been given the opportunity!  Let us grasp it with both hands for such a chance, once lost will never come again !!!

Document 2

IRD “black” newsletter 18 “While Rome Burns…” (late October 1965) (English)

In newsletter 18, published in late October 1965, the editor of Kenjataan2 opens by blaming Red China and the PKI for the coup of 30 September/1 October, describing the Communists as “monsters”.

The editor complains about Sukarno’s

emasculation of the army who were determined to take strong steps to ensure that never again would these evil men of Aidit [the PKI leader] and Mao [Zedong, the Chinese dictator] and Chou [Enlai, the Chinese Foreign Minister] be allowed to threaten the security of the people.

Again, the editor calls for the elimination of the PKI, asking

Dear Readers – what would any sane and responsible statesman do facing the situation in our country after 30 September?  He would have started to get rid of those who have played the P.K.I. game, as well as the P.K.I.

The editor is pleased, however, that

there are good signs that the steadiness and determination of the army leadership is standing in the way of Peking.

He ends

Let us make sure that the P.K.I. are never allowed to raise their heads again.

At this time the Army was about two weeks into its campaign of mass killing.  Wynne’s black “newsletter” endorsed the Army’s objective of annihilating the PKI and praised their leadership.

For Kenjataan2’s sage gentleman, Pak Pandir, the pain caused by murder of the generals “lay heavy on my heart”.  He asks

how could Sukarno refuse the Army permission to take action against the P.K.I.?

Pandir then insinuates that perhaps Sukarno, and his Air Force Commander Omar Dhani, were themselves involved in the murder of the Generals.

A three page feature by a “student” is titled “China’s part in the September coup – the stab in the back”.  Sukarno, the newsletter claims, has been “hoodwinked by his friends in Peking” and “China’s wholesale connivance and participation in the [30 September/1 October] plot is undeniable”. It claims Red China is determined to export Communist revolution, that Sukarno is Mao’s pawn, and emphasises Chinese arms shipments to Sukarno’s “fifth force” (a militia, comprised mainly of PKI members, to repel any invasion by Malaysia and its British and American allies).

Professor Taomo Zhou has shown that this latter claim was true – China had indeed supplied some arms to Sukarno’s so-called fifth force during 1965.  But these shipments presented no immediate “danger” to Indonesia, as suggested by the editor of Kenjataan2.  In his final meeting with Mao in August 1965, Aidit told him

[W]e plan to establish a military committee. The majority of that committee would be left wing but it should also include some middle elements…therefore the military commanders who are sympathetic to the right wing will not oppose us immediately…After it has been established, we need to arm the workers and peasants in a timely fashion.

In other words, as British officials knew and events subsequently proved, the PKI was completely defenceless against the Army.  The readers of Kenjataan2 were, however, led to believe the Army was engaged in a life or death struggle against the PKI.  Kenjataan2’s clever blend of selectively chosen and little-known facts with propaganda helped legitimise the Army’s view in the minds of its readers.

Document 3

IRD “black” newsletter 19 (early/mid November 1965) (English)

IRD “black” newsletter 19 (early/mid November 1965) (Indonesian)

In newsletter 19, published in early/mid November 1965, the editor of Kenjataan2 again opens with an attack on Red China.  Peking is the “master” of the PKI, the “hidden enemy of the Indonesian people” which had “fostered a bloody coup directed against the People and the State”.  The editor says “there is no room in our country for Peking’s agents and gun runners”.

Then follows a chilling “feature” by Karol Bolegh entitled “A Leopard cannot change its spots”.  Bolegh’s suggests that all members of the PKI bear responsibility for the coup.  By this time there were killings, orchestrated by the Army in many parts of Indonesia, of people who had no connection whatever with the coup and obviously no responsibility for it.

Bolegh says

Indonesians are being asked to believe that only a certain section of the P.K.I. is vicious…could anything be more naïve?  Could anything be more dangerous?

Bolegh then develops a key Kenjataan2 thesis – that the suppression of the PKI at Madiun in 1948 had not gone far enough.  Bolegh insists that all PKI members are traitors to the nation:

there has not been the slightest indication that in Comrade Aidit’s P.K.I. that there is any group or member who would wish to put national interests above the interests of Red China.

Bolegh argues no one should believe any protests of innocence from PKI members.  This would be to repeat the mistake of Madiun.  Bolegh then repeats the line of the “Special Issue” – this might be the last chance to prevent a PKI takeover.

The next feature is “the coup in retrospect” by “a student of Political Science”.  The “student” links together Red China, the PKI, Sukarno and Omar Dhani in a vast and vile conspiracy:

All the necessary evidence is there to prove without a shadow of a doubt that the plot was hatched in Peking and put into execution by Comrade Aidit and his murderers of the P.K.I., with the complicity of Subandrio and Omar Dani.

The “student” condemns Sukarno’s “procrastination in condemning the P.K.I.” and then thunders

the P.K.I. and all Communist organisations must be eliminated, and if Sukarno is loath to do that, then the Army must do it on his behalf…there is no room for Communism in our country.

After attacking Sukarno and Subandrio, the “student” suggests it would be a bad tactical move for the Generals to remove Sukarno at this time, as he was still very popular.  Instead they should focus on their task. 

Communism must be rooted out for all time

and the Generals should temporarily retain Sukarno as a figurehead, as indeed they did.

The “student” continues

the Army must be firm in its demands for the suppression of Communism.  They are now in a strong position and are doing an excellent job. 

They should not overplay their hand.

The students Mat and Dibjo conclude the newsletter by discussing the failings of Confrontation.

Knowledge about Kenjataan2 and its contents was very tightly restricted inside the British Government as this IRD memo, which asks two very senior Foreign Office officials to destroy this issue after reading, shows.

Document 4

IRD “black” newsletter 20 (late November 1965) (English)

IRD “black” newsletter 20 (late November 1965) (Indonesian)

In newsletter 20, published in late November 1965, the editor of Kenjataan2 immediately draws the attention of readers to an “important” speech by a leading General, Nasution, who narrowly escaped death on 30 September/1 October.  Nasution, the editors write, said

not only the actors of 30 September movement must be exterminated but ALSO ITS MASTERMINDS AND SUPPORTERS.

Around the time these words were typed in Singapore, thousands of PKI members, none of whom were involved in the “30 September movement”, were indeed being exterminated.

In an apparent acknowledgement of the massacres, the editor writes

after the brutality and blood of the past few weeks the people are tired and sickened.  It is now of course at this time that we MUST NOT flag in our efforts…LET US NOT GROW TIREDTHERE IS STILL A LOT TO BE DONE.

After two articles advocating Indonesia re-orients itself towards the Western world, and an attack on Subandrio for his alleged involvement in the coup, Kenjataan2 then argues again that Sukarno is being soft on the PKI.  It makes “A Plea For Leadership”.

It starts by falsely claiming

we are in grave danger, the P.K.I. guerrillas are consolidating

but then complains

the Army knows that is must destroy the P.K.I. but how can they get on with their job when Sukarno is confusing the issue…whose side is Sukarno on?

Kenjataan2 then claims

throughout the land men, women and children are being massacred at the instigation of the men [the coup plotters, identified as PKI] he [Sukarno] is still proud to call his friends.  Are the deaths of innocent people something that a national leader can shrug away with a smile?

It was true of course that throughout Indonesia men, women and children were being massacred, not by the PKI but by the Army and those the Army controlled.

Kenjataan2 then argues, in lurid terms, that Indonesia is in a life and death struggle against Red China and its supporters:

Red China is akin to a tiger which having become a man-eater has made its kill…the man is dead and the tiger is licking his blood from its jaws, and it is of no use sitting down to work out a political solution…for while Sukarno indulges in senseless procrastination the tiger is preparing to strike again.

It then presents examples of alleged PKI massacres and alleges it has received,

Gruesome stories of men and women shot to death.  Shot!  Shot !  SHOT!!

It claims these massacres were possible because of Chinese arms shipments to the PKI.  As a result

Incident follows incident.  Murder follows murder.  Our troops are handicapped and we are faced with a civil war

It then calls on Sukarno to say

let us all unite and go forward together to destroy the Communists in our midst.  Let us do it now, before they destroy us.

As is well known, at that time across Indonesia the Army organised death squads in villages to carry out many of the massacres of PKI members.

This account of events presented in Kenjataan2 is a travesty.  It was true that China had sent some arms to Indonesia, but the widespread massacres, usually carried out at night and away from prying eyes, were not the work of the PKI, or atrocities committed as part of a vicious civil war.

Karol Bolegh then argues that events are unfolding exactly according to the plan made by Mao’s Red China.  Bolegh claims that Indonesia is in great danger because Sukarno is unwilling to take action.  Bolegh cries

This is the time for action.  If the Central Government is too weak to take the necessary steps then regional government should take autonomous action in their own provinces and strike back at the Communists.

Document 5

IRD “black” newsletter 21 (early December 1965) (English)

IRD “black” newsletter 21 (early December 1965) (Indonesian)

In this issue of Kenjataan2 the editor opens with an attack on the policy of Confrontation, reminding readers that “our primary enemy is Peking and the P.K.I.”.  The Army faces the “burden” of “facing the brutal P.K.I.”.  In fact, far from facing a desperate struggle or a tough fight, it was the brutal Indonesian Army who were organising the massacre of thousands of PKI members as these words were written in Singapore.

Kenjataan2 then returns to its frequent anti-Red China theme.  Fortunately, it says, the “armed forces and police saved our country” while the PKI are “traitors” and “anti-Indonesia”.  It repeats the twisted portrayal of the situation presented in issue 20.  The “terror, bloodshed and murder in our towns and kampongs” is the responsibility, says Kenjataan2, not of the Indonesian Army, but, bizarrely, of Red China.  Red China aims to export revolution.  It is a “vulture” which is “content for other people to kill each other and then to gorge itself on the carcasses”.

In a feature titled “the cat and mouse game” Kenjataan2 claims Indonesia is the “mouse” to the Soviet and Red Chinese “cats”.  Indonesia had a narrow escape at Madiun (in 1948, when a left-wing rebellion was suppressed by the military).  Kenjataan2 then warns

we are congratulating ourselves that the Gestapu [the 30 September failed putsch] was a flop.  Sukarno is urging us to stop fighting ourselves, and the Government assures us that the P.K.I. is all but wiped out.

This, says Kenjataan2, is “the most dangerous anaesthesia that we could possibly inhale!”  Red China is making “sure that the fat little Indonesian mouse does not get away next time”.  Indeed,

unless we maintain a vigorous campaign to eradicate Communism throughout our widespread country the Red menace will envelop us again. 

Kenjataan2 thunders that “every Communist owes allegiance to either Moscow or Peking” and “every Indonesian who owes allegiance to a foreign power is a traitor to Indonesia”.

There is no room for mercy, for

we must close our ears to soft words, and when men tear up their Communist party cards we must treat the act with the scepticism it deserves.  We are fighting for our lives and the very existence of Indonesia and we must never forget that.  THE CATS ARE WAITING TO POUNCE!

The students Mat and Dibjo conclude the newsletter by discussing the current situation.  Mat opines that “Communism has got to be obliterated” and Dibjo responds “I know, and the Generals are doing it”.  Mat then responds “No! No! No!  It’s not just the Generals.  It’s all the loyal forces working together: the Army, the Navy, and most of the Air Force”.

Mat then echoes the “student of Political Science” who in issue 19 of Kenjataan2 had argued it was a bad tactical move for Suharto to seize power from Sukarno now.  Mat then rationalises the widespread massacres as the actions of true and dutiful patriots:

what you must get into your head is this; the army, as such, is only doing it’s [sic] duty.  It is carrying out orders to suppress Communism, and when I say the Army I want to repeat, to hammer it into your thick skull, that I’m not referring to the Generals, but to all the armed forces including, of course, the police.  That is their job, the job they have been trained to do.  They are not defying Sukarno, they are simply doing their job, and, I might add, they are doing it with the full support of the people.

Mat then repeats the argument of Kenjataan2 that “a Communist can have no patriotism since he is tied by the very word itself to a foreign power”.


Document 6

IRD “black” newsletter 22 (mid-late December 1965) (English)

IRD “black” newsletter 22 (mid-late December 1965) (Indonesian)

By this time the change of focus of Kenjataan2 was changing as events unfolded, away from the aftermath of the failed coup of 30 September/1 October and towards Confrontation and the inadequacies of Sukarno his key lieutenants.  As in the previous issue, the editor opens with an attack on the policy of Confrontation, and Sukarno’s role in sustaining it.  In another piece titled “let us grasp the chance” a “student” also calls for an end to Confrontation.

Kenjataan2 then launches an attack on Sukarno.  Its chief complaint is that he is being too soft on the PKI.  The article claims

the Nation is only in danger as long as the Communist Leaders are at large and their rank and file are allowed to go unpunished

The rank and file were not of course involved in the 30 September coup, as was self-evident by this point.  The author develops Sukarno’s dehumanising characterisation of the PKI as “rats”, complaining Sukarno has

treated them as pets, and encouraged them to breed and multiply while he restrained the cats that should have been allowed to exterminate them.

Sukarno is still

trying to prevent the cats from doing their job.

The author says “the Fighting Services and the police must be allowed to do their job unhindered”.  A “cleansing flame” is needed for the “complete purification of our country”.

“Indonesia – our friendless land” is the third article out of four to dwell on Indonesia’s foreign policy.  After attacking Subandrio, Kenjataan2 again criticises Confrontation, this time justifying the maintenance of the British base in Singapore.

By this time the eclipse of the PKI had gravely weakened Sukarno politically.  Kenjataan2 goes on to criticise his ineffective leadership and Indonesia’s perilous economic situation.  The article “is there a Government in the land?” opens by intoning

our thoughts are focused on the fighting services and police as they go about their mammoth task of stamping out Communism.

The strong men of the Army are compared favourably with Indonesia’s weak and useless politicians.  The Generals’

orders are to crush Communism, and that they are doing to the very best of their ability, while the politicians, whose job it is to look after the interests of the people, are doing absolutely nothing.

Next Kenjataan2 attacks Subandrio, the “modern Svengali”.  He is accused of wholeheartedly supporting the failed coup.  Kenjataan2 suggests he should have been executed for his actions.  The final article is an attack on the Air Force Chief Omar Dhani, the “sky-blue traitor”.

Document 7

IRD “black” newsletter 23 (early January 1966) (English)

IRD “black” newsletter 23 (early January 1966) (Indonesian)

Kenjataan2 opens with a piece on “the dangerous road ahead”.  The Army has “the job of eliminating Communism well in hand”.  The reader is told “the fighting services and the police are doing an excellent job, and they are shaking off any hand which tries to impede them in their course of action”.  Who will govern Indonesia?

Kenjataan2 complains “Sukarno has been trying to undermine the Army and put a brake on its drive to eliminate Communism”.  It is time for a change of regime.  The editor sets out his manifesto for Indonesia:

  1. Communism

Communism must be abolished in all its forms.  The work started by the Army must be carried on and intensified.

Naturally, Kenjataan2 also calls for an end to Confrontation, concluding

we must give our full support to the Fighting Services in their fight against Communism

Karol Bolegh, who last appeared in issue 20, now sets out “an alternative to Confrontasi?”, blaming Sukarno and Subandrio for its failure.

Kenjataan2’s next feature is “Subandrio and the Sadists” which features an account of the alleged mutilation of the Generals on 30 September/1 October by members of the Gerwani, the Indonesian Women’s Movement linked to the PKI.  Professor John Roosa, one of the leading scholars of the events of 1965 in Indonesia, has explained

Women were alleged to have danced naked in front of capture generals, cut their bodies a thousand times with razor blades, gouged out their eyeballs, and sliced off their genitals.  The entire story was fabricated

– John Roosa, The September 30th Movement: The Aporias of the Official Narratives in Douglas Kammen and Katherine MacGregor (editors), The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia, 1965-68, p30.

Kenjataan2’s write up is certainly sensational, almost absurdly so.  The plotters were “bestial” and according to a PKI member interrogated by the Army

No savage, no barbarian had ever been more diabolical in his fiendish ingenuity, and neither Hitler nor Genghis Khan had been more meticulous in their design of the torture chambers.

Kenjataan2 then repeats a story in the Jakarta Daily Mail, failing to mention it was an Army-run newspaper.  A “female fiend”, Mrs. Djamilah, was

“honoured” with the task of mutilating the Generals.

She reported joining one hundred Gerwani women in cutting the genitals of a General with a razor blade, then stabbing the General’s genitals until he died.  Kenjataan2 reports

that terrible story is made even more nauseating by the fact that Mrs. Djamilah is only fifteen years old

Kenjataan2 asks

what manner of men are these P.K.I. who take hundreds of young girls and train them in the art of mutilation?

After repeating a few foreign news snippets, another article takes aim at Red China, and berates Sukarno for his relations with Peking.  The answer?

if only he would jettison his calamitous ideas of Confrontation his requests for aid would be sympathetically received in every capital of the world.

Mat and Dibjo then appear to criticise Confrontation as one of Sukarno’s vanity projects.

As IRD’s covering minute shows, the recent focus on Confrontation has disturbed officials in London, worried like Hans Welser that the “black” newsletter was now too “white” (i.e. too obviously British-inspired).

Document 8

South East Asia Monitoring Unit annual report for 1965 (late January 1966)

At the end of January 1966 Edward (“Ed”) Evan Wynne, of the British South East Asia Monitoring Unit (SEAMU) in Singapore, wrote his annual report covering 1965.  It was despatched to London by his boss in Singapore, Norman Reddaway, Britain’s “Coordinator of Political Warfare” in its conflict with Indonesia, known as “Confrontation”.

The report is a measured account of the special operation Wynne and his small team mounted, containing many interesting details of exactly how the “black” newsletter Kenjataan2 was produced, which I draw on above.  It is obvious from this report that considerable effort and skill went into the production of Kenjataan2.  The significant censorship in paragraph 7 relates to information supplied by British and probably other allied intelligence agencies, used by Wynne to inform his operations.

In his excellent book Britain and the Confrontation with Indonesia 1960-66 Dr David Easter revealed the existence of SEAMU (p130), and accurately summarised its activities (p168).  He did not, it appears, know the content of the “black” newsletters, revealed above.  He wrote (p169)

Britain incited hostility to the communists and at least implicitly encouraged the mass murder of thousands of people.  However, it is hard to assess how important this encouragement was and to what extent London should be held responsible for the deaths of so many…we do not know how much material Britain was disseminating in Indonesia nor how it affected the opinions and attitudes of Indonesian leaders and public.  The Foreign Office itself was initially cautious about the significance of British propaganda.  In November 1965 it made the modest assessment that the propaganda ‘may have contributed marginally towards keeping the Generals going against the PKI and causing friction with China’.

Mr Derek Tonkin, a former British Ambassador who worked on Indonesia in the Foreign Office at this time in a relatively junior capacity, has told me on Twitter “the part played was so marginal as to be almost invisible”.

In his report Mr Wynne sets out his own case in paragraphs 15 to 23.  He concludes Kenjataan2

has received notice officially in Indonesia, and may have influenced current army and anti-P.K.I. propaganda in Indonesia.

A “black newsletter”, however cleverly produced, circulated to around 1,500 individuals in a country comprising around 6,000 inhabited islands with a population of perhaps 100 million, will inevitably never decisively influence events on its own.  As Dr Easter rightly says “the Indonesian Army leaders did not appear to need much encouragement from Britain to act against the PKI” (page 169).

Nonetheless, Mr Wynne puts his case with in a surprisingly measured way:

The Indonesians themselves have taken to propaganda on very much the same lines as that of Kenjataan2, at least anti-P.K.I. elements in both civilian and military life…I lean towards the assumption that at present much of what it says is being resaid by the anti-P.K.I. elements.  Its main value as propaganda is that it does present facts and comment from the outside world, and any student of the press of other publications in Djakarta will immediately appreciate the value of this, and none more than those in Indonesia, whose reading material has perforce (for most Western publications are banned) to read the turgid and badly produced writings of the local press, with their mass of sloganised presentations of the home-made ideologies of the regime.

The newsletter almost certainly packed a bigger punch than one might expect, precisely because it was extremely well informed, cogently argued, and presented facts not generally available because of Sukarno’s censors.  To which one might add that a newsletter apparently produced by patriots external and independent of events, echoing the Army line, may have provided powerful psychological reinforcement for those who may otherwise have been somewhat doubtful of the drastic action the Army was taking against the PKI.

The newsletter also contains in an Annex notes on its other operations, certain technical aspects and the original SEAMU directive.

In his covering letter to IRD in London, Norman Reddaway is plain his intentions have been to assist the Generals (because they were most likely to serve British interests).  He writes there are

indications that the [news]Letter and the Generals are plugging a good many of the same themes…it is right that they and we are singing in harmony.

As Easter explains, certainly by the end of January 1966, when Wynne wrote this report, the British knew “the slaughter of communists in Java and Sumatra has been on a very large scale” (Easter, p167).  An Indonesian Army liaison officer had told British Military Attachés in Jakarta that probably around half a million had been killed (Easter, p167).  Sukarno himself thought 87,000 had died, as British intelligence knew (I am grateful to Mr Tonkin for this reference). 

Nowhere in Reddaway’s covering letter or in Wynne’s report is there any mention of the consequence of their dehumanising characterisations of the PKI, their encouragement of the “elimination” of Communism, or their approval of the Army’s actions against the PKI.  We know they believed their propaganda was effective, but they are shy about setting out what the consequences for the PKI were.  Of course, one would not expect a cri de couer in a document of this kind from men determined to fulfil their mission.  It is sad nonetheless that they could not bring themselves to mention that the anti-PKI campaign of the Army, which they had supported, had led to so many deaths.

Document 9

IRD “black” newsletter 24 (late January 1966) (English)

IRD “black” newsletter 24 (late January 1966) (Indonesian)

This issue of Kenjataan2 continues the its open attacks on Sukarno and his policies, opening with an attack on him for shielding the “guilty men”: Subandrio, Omar Dhani and the plotters of the 30 September/1 October coup.  The editor claims the “blood” of the coup has “stained the Indonesian revolution” and that it can only be “washed clean by the judgement of the people on the guilty men”.

Again Kenjatann2’s framing of the post-coup events is a travesty.  As the editor then knew, far more blood had been spilled by the Army-orchestrated killings of people entirely innocent of the events of 30 September/1 October, than was spilled by the plotters in those fateful few hours.  There was never to be any judgement in an Indonesian court of the real guilty men of the months after the coup – Suharto, Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, Ahmad Junus Mokoginta and the others who masterminded the massacres.

In “the Paradox of Malaysia” Karol Bolegh resumes Kenjataan2’s attack on Confrontation.  Only Red China benefits from Confrontation but luckily

the P.K.I. made mistakes and the Army saved the day and launched an all out campaign to eliminate Communism in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, “Communism is like a smouldering forest fire which is likely to burst into flames at any place and at any moment”.  It would be wrong to think “military suppression is all that is required to stamp out the P.K.I.”  Naturally, Kenjataan2 is not explicit about what “military suppression” entails.

In a passage worthy of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, Karol Bolegh warns of the dangers of Communist indoctrination, in particular in Kalimantan (on the island of Borneo) where “children are being taught to despise their parents”.  Across Indonesia “a whole crop of ripe young Communists are raised every year”.  Soon the Generals will have to choose between the “suspected danger of Necolim” (Neo-colonialism, colonialism and imperialism i.e. Britain) or “the very real menace of the flowing red tide”.  Indonesia should abandon Confrontation and join Malaysia in a fight against their true enemy: Communism.

In “the eighty hungry men”, Kenjataan2 suggests its preference for a military man to become President, possibly General Nasution, a respected General who narrowly escaped death during the coup.  The author writes

whatever the future may hold for us it is of paramount importance that a successor to Sukarno be nominated immediately. 

The lack of a successor is a problem for “no-one dare imagine what a slaughter should take place should Sukarno die”.  As those words were typed the slaughter of the PKI had been going on for three months.

The “eighty hungry men” of Sukarno’s bloated Cabinet, incompetent and corrupt, should be kicked “from their comfortable chairs into the hands of the electorate”.  Readers should realise the final defeat of Communism “is still a long way off”.  If Nasution becomes President-elect, he should purge Sukarno’s Government.

Kenjataan2 ends with another vicious attack on Subandrio who has “tried to sell his own country to Red China” and supported the coup.  He is, no less, a

treble-traitor who clings to life with the tenacity of a centipede. 

Kenjataan2 then suggests that it was in Subandrio’s interests that Aidit (the PKI leader) be executed rather than tried.  It asks

Did Subandrio prevail on Sukarno to ensure that Aidit was shot on sight?  Such an act is terrible to contemplate but it is not beyond Subandrio to have conceived such a plan to in order to save his own neck.

In reality, Aidit had been found hiding and summarily executed by the Army two months earlier in Central Java.  Whether or not the precise circumstances of his death were known in Singapore, Kenjataan2 nonetheless peddled wild speculation in service of its character assassination of Subandrio.

Document 10

Review of IRD’s “black” newsletter (January 1966)

At the start of 1966 IRD officials in London reviewed Kenjataan2.  They were concerned about its output.  No concern was expressed that many thousands had died at the hands of the Army and its death squads, following Kenjataan2’s dehumanising characterisations of the PKI and its repeated encouragement of the “elimination” of Communism.  Officials worried the British hidden hand would be exposed, and that Kenjataan2 might be

embarrassing to the Generals because of its open support of their policies.

It was “too outspoken in its attacks on Sukarno” and failed to pay enough attention to news from Indonesia.

Wynne felt some attacks on Sukarno were worthwhile and buttress the Generals:

We believe our efforts in general have tended to fall into line with the Generals’ own propaganda policy, and attacks on Sukarno may find them even more receptive to our efforts as they dare not make these attacks themselves.

Officials considered abandoning the “newsletter” and producing a fake “black” Army newsletter, fittingly enough given Kenjataan2 so powerfully reinforced the Army’s line to Indonesian opinion-formers.  It would, however, be too obviously a rehash of Kenjataan2, and the idea was dropped.

As for the “guilty men” such as Omar Dhani, Wynne confirmed vicious character assassination was part of his modus operandi.  Kenjataan2 must “lose no opportunity to blacken him and assassinate his evil character”.  Wynne had started his attacks on Subandrio in issue 21 which some officials in London said were “welcome”.

Wynne successfully rebuffed the idea of an amendment of his directive because

we are guided by Norman Reddaway.  His themes (now revised by all concerned) and his daily appreciation of the situation in Indonesia seem to me to be more important than the writing of a new directive or amendment of the old one.  Norman determines our day to day policy, and we try to turn this guidance into the written word.

It was Reddaway who wielded Britain’s stiletto in its secret war against Indonesia, with Wynne supplying the poison pen.

Document 11

Policy Directive for South East Asia Monitoring Unit (February 1965)

In February 1965, shortly after he arrived in Singapore, IRD in London sent Wynne his instructions, by means of a directive.  This document was appended to Wynne’s 1965 Annual Report (see document 8 above), but this copy is interesting as it contains fewer redactions and reveals the involvement of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as “MI6”, as follows:

The Unit will, after consultation with our friends [a standard Whitehall euphemism for SIS] in Singapore, select the countries from which copies of the newsletter are to be mailed and will be responsible for addressing the envelopes.  The actual mailing of the envelopes will be the responsibility of our friends.

Wynne would have full access to the British intelligence machine:

the Unit will have access to all categories of intelligence but naturally will not use information obtained through secret sources without clearance having been obtained through the usual channels.

As confirmed in the chart above, Wynne and Reddaway attended the “Weekly Meeting of collectors and users of intelligence”.

Document 12

IRD “black” newsletter 25 (early February 1966) (English)

IRD “black” newsletter 25 (early February 1966) (Indonesian)

This issue of Kenjataan2 starts with a renewed call for Indonesia to end Confrontation, highlighting the comment of an Indonesian Government Minister that Confrontation is responsible for Indonesia’s economic woes. Pak Pandir, the “sage gentleman”, then recycles the familiar theme that Red China knew about the coup attempt in advance and supplied arms to the PKI. Now Pandir alleges Red China has removed incriminating documents from its Embassy.

In “Two ways of doing it”, a “student” responds directly to any (well founded) suspicions readers might have that Kenjataan2 is “working for the Necolim” (Neo-colonialism, colonialism and imperialism i.e. Britain). The “student” flatters its readers as “intelligent students of affairs” and reminds them the group behind Kenjataan2 are patriots, who can see Confrontation is ruining Indonesia, so Confrontation must be abandoned.

In “The Year of the Snake” Karol Bolegh makes another attack on Red China, blaming it for the coup and listing the Governments that have rebuffed Chinese attempts to win over international opinion. Indonesia, on the other hand, still has good relations with Red China, which wants Indonesia enslaved.

In “Untung’s friends” Kenjataan2 again heaps praise on the Army which is “doing their job with commendable success and despatch”. The PKI, it claims, has been “badly shaken but it has not been broken”. Indonesia’s citizens should not be complacent but

Be on your GUARD! Help the Army to unmask the Traitors and save our Country from another Gestapu !!!”

As those writing this must have realised, they were encouraging people to make allegations which could easily result in summary executions of those they accused or their arbitrary imprisonment.

In “They looked the wrong way” Kenjataan2 offers a callous and disgraceful justification of the anti-Chinese pogroms which occurred in several parts of Indonesia during the 1965-66 mass killings. In Joshua Oppenheimer’s remarkable film The Act of Killing, two former death squad members drive around Medan in Sumatra, boasting and pointing at locations where they killed people. “Remember the ‘Crush the Chinese’ campaign of 1966?” one asks. “I killed every Chinese person I met. I stabbed them. I don’t remember how many, but it was dozens.” They laugh out loud.

Kenjataann2’s commentary about these terrible events opens by criticising “young hooligans” who have “run wild”, attacking people not linked to the coup. It then criticises the “reprehensible” blackmail of Indonesian Chinese but then says “it must be admitted that in many cases the Chinese have only themselves to blame”.  The article quotes a Sukarno speech of 1951, warning that a revolution in Indonesia would inevitably target Indonesia’s Chinese. Indonesia’s Chinese had a “fair warning” to “keep out of international politics”.

Some Indonesian Chinese “very foolishly” supported the PKI, says the article, and “wealthy Chinese business men” gave it money. They ignored Sukarno’s warning and put their own lives and that other Chinese in jeopardy. “It was inevitable” that “many innocent Chinese would suffer in consequence”. “We may deplore the unbridled fury” unleashed on Indonesia’s Chinese claims the article, but

we realise that for the most part they only have themselves to blame.

There was more fury to come. After this article, for example, from April 1966 Aceh’s Chinese community suffered indiscriminate violence, with all “alien Chinese” ordered to leave the province by August.

The final article continues Kenjataan2’s character assassination of Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Subandrio, Sukarno’s “cockerel”. It opens by again arguing it would be unwise for the Army to remove Sukarno from power now. The article reserves special venom for Subandrio, who “was involved up to the neck in the coup”. He is a villain who played a part in the “bestial” slaughter of the six Generals. Now only Sukarno, seduced by Subandrio’s “honeyed smile” and poison words, can save him from execution. “The Army has only pulled out a few of the cockerel’s many feathers, they haven’t even clipped its wings,” the article concludes. The bird which has “done so much to foul our nest” needs its “neck wrung; and the whole of Indonesia will rejoice”.

Document 13

The Army newsletter Dr. Soebandrio and the 30-Sept. Movement No.3

By December 1965, SEAMU’s campaign against Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Subandrio was in full swing. Kenjataan2 claimed (in issue 19 of early November 1965 ) there was not “a shadow of a doubt” that Subandrio was complicit in the coup attempt of 30 September 1965. This allegation was repeated in the following issue (20).

Following the coup Indonesia’s Generals had set out to undermine President Sukarno’s regime. On 8 December, Norman Reddaway in Singapore told IRD’s man in Hong Kong, Leslie Smith, he had received a document circulated by the Generals accusing Subandrio of being involved in the coup. Reddaway would send Smith the translated document, which he should hand to a journalist to embarrass Subandrio. Back in London, John Edmonds of IRD wrote “our mouths watered” when hearing about this “very promising anti-Subandrio ploy”.

Smith failed to secure the wide publicity Reddaway wanted for the document. But Reddaway soon found another, remarking “the Generals [are] doing anti-Subandrio propaganda in a pretty systematic way”. The British Embassy in Jakarta sent another such document to Reddaway two days before Christmas 1965. On New Year’s Eve, Reddaway told the Embassy one of these documents had been used by Ed Wynne in Kenjataan2.

Sure enough, Kenjataan2 published an attack on Subandrio, the “modern Svengali”, in issue 22 (mid-late December 1965). Drawing on the Army’s propaganda dated late October 1965, the “black” newsletter accused Subandrio of wholeheartedly supporting the failed coup, and suggested he should be executed.

Like the efforts of a schoolboy who re-writes his friend’s essay to fool the teacher, it is not hard to spot Wynne’s recycling of Army propaganda in his attempt to frame Subandrio, the architect of Confrontation and Britain’s enemy, as complicit in the coup.

The Army newsletter Dr. Soebandrio and the 30-Sept. Movement No.3 said that on 20 September 1965 that Subandrio had told Ministers and officials that

if I am not in charge, there is nothing but talk and talk, without producing any concrete or satisfactory results.

In the “modern Svengali” Kenjataan2 states

ten days before the coup was launched Subandrio told a secret meeting of selected Ministers that if he did not lead the nation, no concrete achievements would be possible.

The Army newsletter Dr. Soebandrio and the 30-Sept. Movement No.3 said that on 23 September 1965 Subandrio summoned Ministers to discuss the food supply in Jakarta, but none had this responsibility. Subandrio said

an explosive atmosphere exists among the soldiers; when this atmosphere comes to a head, who will be able to control it?

In the “modern Svengali” Kenjataan2 states

three days later [Subandrio] declared ‘the situation is reaching the exploding point. And when that point is nobody can prevent that explosion’.

It then reveals that “no ministers connected with the food problem were asked to attend!”.

The Army newsletter Dr. Soebandrio and the 30-Sept. Movement No.3 says that on 28 September 1965 Subandrio held a giant rally at Tandjong Karang where he called for the villagers to “crush all other devils”. The following day, Subandrio gave “another speech, similar to that he gave at Tandjong Karang the day before”.

In the “modern Svengali” Kenjataan2 states on 28 September Subandrio

accompanied by a large party of Communists, including Njoto left for Sumatra, and there, in Tanjung Karang, he told a mass rally that the villagers should be ready to take action against the city devils, and this call to action he repeated at another rally held on the following day.

The Army newsletter Dr. Soebandrio and the 30-Sept. Movement No.3 says that on 30 September 1965 Subandrio said in Medan “there are rumours that the Council of Generals will carry out a coup, just as there are rumours that PKI will stage their coup. Njoto is my best friend”.

In the “modern Svengali” Kenjataan2 says

on the eve of the Coup [Subandrio] told people in Medan that he believed the Generals had formed a military junta with the aim of seizing power. Subandrio also said that rumours were being spread to the effect that is was the P.K.I. who were going to overthrow Sukarno. These rumours Subandrio laughed to scorn. “How could such a thing be possible, he demanded, “Since Njoto is standing here by my side?

The Army newsletter Dr. Soebandrio and the 30-Sept. Movement No.3 says that on 1 October at 10am Subandrio received a message saying

the efforts of the Council of Generals have been foiled. The Revolutionary Council has now been set up. Please (Hope) send further instructions.

In the “modern Svengali” Kenjataan2 reports that at 10am on 1 October, Subandrio received a message saying

The Attempt by the Council has been foiled. The Revolutionary Council has been set up. Awaiting further instructions.

Kenjataan2 then embellishes the Army’s tale, to fit with the British attempt to frame Subandrio as part of the coup attempt:

the courier had been sent by Colonel Untung [the coup leader in Jakarta] who needed further instructions from his leader – Subandrio!!

SEAMU was truly “singing in harmony” with the Generals.