13 Days Remaining

Tuesday 19th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

THE attempts to prevent a summit from going ahead in Jakarta on the massacres of 1965 show just how great a step was taken when the International People’s Tribunal into the killings reported last year.

They also underline how much work is left to be done. It is significant that the tribunal was held in The Hague, and that the Indonesian, British and US governments all rejected invitations to participate.

Britain is vital to our understanding of the events of 1965 — this is far from a matter of curiosity about another country’s history but an episode in which our own government and its major ally were deeply involved.

Prior to 1965 Britain and the US had been waging a covert war against nationalist president Sukarno, whom the Foreign Office noted with “anxiety” was being influenced by the massive and massively popular communist party (PKI). In the tumult after Sukarno-supporting military officers killed generals they believed were plotting a coup, anti-Sukarno generals (including later dictator Suharto) seized the opportunity to move against the PKI — with strong support from the US and Britain.

Huge numbers of women, men and children were killed — the exact toll is unknown, estimates range from half to three million. Secret documents from the time are chilling. One British official reported that some victims “are given a knife and invited to kill themselves. Most refuse and are told to turn around and are shot in the back.” Another told of “half a dozen heads … neatly arranged on the parapet of a small bridge.” “A woman of 78 … was taken away one night by a village execution squad.”

In secret, officials admitted it was “a struggle basically for the commanding heights of the Indonesian economy.” Britain was a close friend to Suharto until his resignation in 1998. He is pictured on the cover of that year’s Foreign Office human rights report, shaking hands with then foreign secretary Robin Cook.

Our government will be quite happy to see discussion of 1965 suppressed, along with any tricky questions about why it supported such a massacre, or what lessons we can draw from it today.

Killer drivers

A TWO-YEAR driving ban for someone who chose to get behind the wheel while three times over the drinkdrive limit (which is more lenient in England and Wales than Scotland) is pathetic.

It is symptomatic of Britain’s car culture, where road crime isn’t “real crime” despite the fact that driving is the one point in a person’s day-to-day life where they could quite easily kill another person.

This is shown clearly with speeding — notice the endless complaints about speed cameras, and the admission to the RAC by 44 per cent of drivers that they break 20 and 30mph speed limits. Yet even at 30mph, if you drive into a person you have a 50 per cent chance of killing them.

Or the case of a delivery driver who drove on the pavement (which is illegal), killed a four-year-old girl and yet was acquitted by a jury.

Or the 43 per cent of drivers with 12 penalty points on their licence (10,000 of them) — at which point you should be disqualified — still legally driving around, often by pleading “exceptional hardship.”

We are rightly outraged at — thankfully rare — terrorist killings, yet have nothing to say about the four people killed and 60 seriously injured every day on our roads. Sixty years of deliberate political decisions have created this car culture, and a society where people often must rely on them for transport. It can and must be changed.