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In the Light of Day: Reconciliation after a Dictatorship

Grade Level



World Studies, Government, Advanced Placement Comparative Politics, Advanced Placement World Studies (important note: lesson should be used following the AP exam as an enrichment activity.)

Estimated time of completion

In addition to watching SHADOW PLAY, the lesson and its activities may take 90 minutes, making it appropriate for one block in schools on the block schedule, or it may be extended to include another class.


Viewing the documentary SHADOW PLAY, students will learn about the rise to power of one of this century's most ruthless dictator who presided over the fourth most populous nation of the world. They will also learn about life in Indonesia following the fall of Suharto.

In completing this lesson, student will learn about how various societies have coped with emerging from a similar period of despotic rule and construct a proposed solution for Indonesia. In their research and decision-making, the students will gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of establishing a stable democratic society.


Students will:

  • Discover how "truth commissions" have worked in nations emerging from periods of despotism.
  • Identify decisions that are made in the creation of truth commissions.
  • Evaluate how those decisions might be made to meet Indonesia's particular needs.
  • Develop and use a vocabulary associated with legal and political efforts at reconciliation such as "amnesty" or "mandate."


    This lesson addresses the following national content standards found at

    What is Government and What Should it Do?
    Standard 2
    Understands the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited governments

    World History
    Era 9 - The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes
    Standard 44
    Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world


  • Access to the World Wide Web
      Entire class in a computer lab; or teacher prints selected materials in advance of the lesson. The teacher may determine the necessary information to print by following instructions on the Truth Commission Design Sheet.

    Teaching Procedure

    1. Introduce and show the video SHADOW PLAY.

    2. Review with the students the portion of the video that portrays the efforts of Ibnoe Santuso's relatives to have him re-interred.

    3. Provide the students with background on truth commissions and their use, a PowerPoint presentation (for Macintosh of for PC).

    4. Break the students into workable groups.

    5. Assign each group to answer a series of questions regarding one of the five nations' experiences with truth commissions. (The worksheet provides information on where and how to obtain the answers.) In completing this work, they will become experts on that particular truth commissions.

    6. When they have obtained the required information reorganize the groups so that the new groups contain an experts on each of the nations. Each group will now use their newly found expertise to design a truth commission for Indonesia. For this they will need a Truth Commission Design Sheet.

    7. Have each group report their proposed truth commission to the whole class for contrast and comparison. (An opportunity for teacher comment, as well.)

    Extended Activities

    1. Students may want to forward their recommendations to the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States. Often public officials respond to items sent them. The name of the Ambassador and his address are: T.A. Samodra Sriwidjaja, Embassy of Republic of Indonesia, 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

    2. Students may want to examine the work of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation established in 2001 by the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor.

    Assessment Recomendations

    1. Points may be awarded for completion of exercise.

    2. Points may be awarded by evaluating the rational given by students for the choices they made in selecting the components for their truth commission.

    Related Web Sites

    The following Web sites may be of use to a teacher preparing a lesson on this topic:

    United States Institute of Peace, information about and links to truth commissions worldwide.

    CIA factbook information on Indonesia.

    Print this page.
    Email this page to a friend.

  • Photo of smiling Indonesians

    These days, indonesians have reasons to smile. Free from despotic rule, they are enjoying the challenges of a democratic government.

    "Survivors of violence often ache for retribution against identifiable perpetrators, and for public acknowledgment of what happened. Some want financial redress; psychological or spiritual healing seems crucial to others. Some survivors, and their fellow citizens, place higher priorities on moving ahead with life, building or rebuilding trust across previously divided groups, and establishing or strengthening democratic institutions. Many believe that the entire society needs to stand behind efforts to punish the wrongdoers, and to deter any such conduct in the future. People understandably may have great trouble sorting out priorities among these possibilities."
    --Harvard Law Professor Martha Minow


    These files require Microsoft PowerPoint
    Download for Macintosh
    Download for PC

    © 2002 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

    Real Player 56k T1 Real Player 56k T1 Introduction Lesson Plans Lesson Plan 1 Lesson Plan 2 National Standards Resources