Sunday, May 15, 2011

Days before the fall of the Dictator; Jakarta uprising

It was exactly on my second month being detained in the Jakarta Regional Police Detention Centre, when we heard the gunshots for about one minute from the street about 50 meters away from our cells. It was May 14 and 15, 1998.
The prison guards prepared their weapons, because they informed that the masses outside were about to raid the detention centre to free the detainees. I was then transferred from my isolated cell to other cells full of "criminals". We were all about 30 persons in a 6 times 12 meters cell.

We were nervously waiting for what will happen to us. But we all believed that even if the prison was raided by thousands of angry masses, we will be safe. Because the angry masses were against the government, not us.

Being in the same cell with the "criminals", although for only 2 days, I got an impressive experience. I testify how the "criminals" really gave respect to the people like me, that was categorized by the authoritarian regime as a political detainee. It was these "criminals" who later provided me with information from outside, and gave me full supplies of basic needs in prison; newspaper, cigarettes, snacks, coffee, soap, detergent, tooth paste and tooth brush...
I knew these petty criminals were the results of social injustices reproduced by the dictatorship.

Well, the fact, our cells were never being raid by no one! What we heard and read from TV and newspapers that day and after was that on 13-15 May 1998, Jakarta was in total chaos. Rioting was everywhere. Looting and burnings also happened to malls, super markets and shops. Unfortunately, the riots and looting targeted some particular Tionghoa ethnic groups. But in many other cases, the masses also targeted properties belong to the dictator and his cronies!

Of these few days riots, thousands are reported killed, raped, tortured, detained and made disappeared.

Big questions are on why the masses put those targets? Where are the police or military in those three days?

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