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The Communist Abortive Coup

Over-confident of their strength and precipitated by the serious illness of President Soekarno, who was undergoing treatment by a Chinese medical team from Beijing, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) attempted another coup on September 30, 1965. The uprising, however, was abrupt and quickly stamped out by the Armed Forces under Major General Soeharto, then Chief of the Army's Strategic Command.

On the night of September 30, or more precisely in the early hours of October 1, 1965, armed PKI men and members of Cakrabirawa, the President's security guard, set out to kidnap, torture and kill six top Army Generals. Their bodies were dumped in an abandoned well at Lubang Buaya, on the outskirts of Jakarta. The coup was staged in the wake of troop deployments to Kalimantan, at the height of Indonesia's confrontation with Malaysia. Moreover, at the time, many cabinet members were attending a celebration of the Chinese October Revolution in Beijing. It was during this power vacuum that the communists struck again.

Under instructions from General Soeharto, crack troops of the Army's Commando Regiment (RPKAD) freed the central radio station (RRI) and the telecommunication center from communist occupation. Students made for the streets in militant demonstrations to fight for a three-point claim, or "Tritura," that aimed to ban the PKI, replace Soekarno's cabinet ministers, and reduce the prices of basic necessities. They set up a "street parliament" to gather the demands of the people.

Under these explosive conditions, President Soekarno eventually gave in and granted Soeharto full power to restore order and security in the country. The transfer of power was effected by a presidential order known as "the 11th of March order" of 1966. Soon afterwards, on March 12, 1966, General Soeharto banned the PKI. This decision was endorsed and sanctioned by virtue of the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly Decree No XXV/MPRS/1966. He also formed a new cabinet, but Soekarno remained as Chief Executive. This brought dualism into the cabinet, particularly when Soekarno did not show support for the cabinet's program to establish political and economic stability. Hence, a special session of the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly (MPRS) was convened from March 7-12, 1967. The Assembly resolved to relieve Soekarno of his presidential duties and appointed Soeharto as Acting President, pending the election of a new President by an elected People's Consultative Assembly.