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Manoa 12.1 (2000) 203-213

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The Incident

Seno Gumira Ajidarma

I'm sitting at my desk, looking at a journalist's report on the recent "incident." The journalist doesn't name her source; she only says that he is a twenty-two-year-old university student--an eyewitness.

Several radio stations had publicized the memorial service and flower-laying ceremony for the person who had been killed several weeks before. So everyone, including children, turned out: about three thousand people at the church and another fifteen hundred at the cemetery. From the church to the cemetery, the demonstrators were carrying posters and yelling things, but the procession was uneventful. When we were going by the military base, however, we heard that a soldier had been stabbed.

The anti-riot police had shown up--two truckloads, in fact, to keep order --but because of the size of the crowd, they didn't even get out of their vehicles. Later, when three truckloads of soldiers arrived, the police got up the courage to deploy. When we got to the cemetery, we noticed that it was circled almost entirely by soldiers.

We were acting like we usually did, thinking that the demonstration that day would be pretty much like demonstrations in the past. We figured we'd be beaten, arrested, and later tortured. So we just stood our ground. None of us ever thought they'd shoot us.

When the first shot rang out, we didn't know if it was a warning shot over our heads or what. Maybe that firrst one was just fired into the air, but right away we heard a volley of gunfire lasting five minutes or more. At that point, I was in the middle of the crowd and saw all the people in front fall down. The government later said nineteen people had been killed, but with that many soldiers shooting rapid-fire into such a large crowd, there's no way only nineteen people died. Furthermore, there were lots of soldiers with guns and a very large crowd.

Nineteen dead? That's absolutely impossible. A number of the parents said that as many as five of their children never returned home. I personally know of more than nineteen who died, and the names of many of them aren't on any official list.

At the cemetery, the soldiers removed our rosaries, cut off their crosses, broke them apart, stomped on them, and ordered us to swallow them. They tore apart our missals the same way. [End Page 203]

I take out a report from another eyewitness. This time the journalist indicates only that her informant is about twenty years old:

I left the house that day at around six o'clock to go to church. At mass, the priest said nothing--either in his sermon or otherwise--to incite the congregation to demonstrate. He talked about mortality.

About thirty-five hundred people were at mass, including about two thousand who were outside because the church couldn't hold everyone. After mass was over, there was still about the same number of people outside--most of them young. They carried banners and flags, but I didn't see anyone with a weapon. I was in the back of the crowd when everyone started walking toward the graveyard.

There had been about thirty soldiers on guard at church. On the way to the cemetery, some of them tried to stop us in front of the governor's office. At that point, I ran ahead. Later, in front of police headquarters, all the policemen rushed out to join the soldiers. At the cemetery, the place was crawling with troops: riot police, who didn't dare deploy, and combat soldiers. The soldiers were the ones who carried out the massacre. Most of them were bare-chested and carrying firearms; they were the ones who fired on us. Others were dressed in uniforms and carried long knives--a kind of bayonet.

When the soldiers first started shooting, they were divided into two lines--the first line out front, and the second in back. We...


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