I REMEMBER VERY very well the words the president used. We were all summoned to a big hall. It’s always like that with big people, generals, presidents and the like; the longer you wait around picking blackheads and scratching your arse, the more important they must be. At any rate when the president finally arrived he smiled at everyone and shook hands with his ministers, but behind that smile we all sensed a grim and very determined mood, that’s what I remember. Determined and also a little angry; that was his style. It was very effective. Everyone was scared of the president. In his speech, which was long and rambling as usual, he warned that there were elements intent on sabotaging the country’s progress and that these elements must be crushed. He said, and I remember his exact words, ‘These elements are from the extreme left.’ We were all a little taken aback.
Not long afterwards the director, Sujono was his name, summoned a small group of us to his office. He looked flushed and angry. First of all he said we weren’t doing our jobs properly, which is why the president was so angry. Then he offered us a chance to redeem ourselves. A special department was to be formed. Its job would be catching communists. ‘They’re like lice, everywhere,’ the director said. ‘We must redouble our efforts and not relax for one moment until they are crushed.’ The director held up one hand for us all to see and rubbed his index finger against his fleshy thumb, as if crushing lice. Actually, crushing communists wasn’t all that much more difficult – especially with the weight of state power behind us. Back then I felt proud to be engaged in a struggle so central to the nation’s survival – this battle against the extreme left. Not just left, mind you; extreme left.
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