Freedom of Expression Under Fire in Indonesia
Indonesia continues to stifle discussions of 1965, but it’s much harder to do in the age of social media.
By Vannessa Hearman
October 30, 2015

I first read about the cancellation of a panel I was speaking on at the Ubud Writers and Readers festival in a news story. That day had been tense as panel organizers from the Herb Feith Foundation warned me that our panels could be cancelled due to police pressure on the festival. I was to host a panel of young activists writing on Bali and the legacy of the 1965 massacre.
I have researched and written about the events of 1965 for almost 10 years. Born in Indonesia, I myself had no knowledge about the killings until I started university in 1991 in Australia. In a way, this quest for knowledge has spurred me on to research and write about this past in conjunction with researchers based in Indonesia.
On September 30, 1965, a group of soldiers and officers calling itself the Thirtieth September Movement kidnapped and killed seven high ranking army men, including the Armed Forces Chief Ahmad Yani, in Jakarta. The army blamed this event on the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI, and under Major General Suharto led a violent suppression campaign against the Left. This massacre claimed half a million lives, including an estimated 80,000 or 5 percent of the population in Bali.
Under Suharto’s New Order regime, discussion of the massacre was banned. Books by leftist author Pramoedya Ananta Toer were banned. Those caught circulating the books were imprisoned. A 1966 parliamentary decree bans Marxism-Leninism, the PKI, and other leftist organizations. This decree, which then-President and Islamic cleric Abdurrahman Wahid discussed repealing in 2000, has been selectively used to censor discussions about the violence, in the guise of prohibiting the spread of communism.
It has never been easy to discuss, but since 1998 books, memoirs, and seminars about 1965 have by and large escaped censorship. This is remarkable when compared to the New Order regime. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the killings, however, and perhaps that is what makes 2015 unique in terms of the heightened attempts to censor discussion about 1965. Ironically the rise in censorship occurs under the presidency of Joko Widodo, whose election campaign mobilized the largest number of civil society activists and volunteers. We are yet to hear the president express his views on the bans.
The Ubud festival ban occurred during a troubling fortnight in which Lentera, an Indonesian language magazine published at the Christian university in Central Java, was also banned for discussing 1965. A Swedish citizen of Indonesian background, 77-year-old Tom Iljas, was deported on October 16 for visiting his father’s grave in West Sumatra. Iljas was accused of trying to make a film about the massacre.
This year there have been public events and seminars in Australia, the Netherlands, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Indonesia itself on 1965. The Frankfurt Book Fair profiled authors such as Laksmi Pamuntjak and Leila Chudori, whose recent works have 1965 as their centerpiece. The authorities’ fear seems to have spiked recently as a result of the increasing spotlight on 1965. There is evidence, though, that censorship no longer works as it did under the New Order.
The student magazine, Lentera (Lantern) ran an edition titled “Salatiga Red City” which discussed the anti-communist pogroms in the area, including the location of the killings and the impact on the university. Three students from the magazine were interrogated on October 16 and copies of the magazine were destroyed. Thanks to social media however, the magazine has been shared repeatedly on the internet in PDF format, to the extent that its Dropbox link ceased working and they resorted to Google Drive. The students also published a statement maintaining their right to publish little known facts about the slaughter in the area.
Iljas, meanwhile, was arrested on October 10 for allegedly filming without a permit. Authorities were concerned — Iljas’ father’s grave happens to be a mass grave with others, as his father was a victim of the 1965 purges. Iljas was a leftist who chose exile over returning to New Order Indonesia. Within hours of his arrest, Iljas’ case was shared throughout social media, though that did not stop his deportation.
A statement protesting all three cases, including Ubud, was circulated via Twitter and Facebook on October 24. Within a day, more than 150 people from all over the world had signed on. Censorship is becoming more difficult these days. The Monash University Press books to be discussed at the Ubud festival are available in English translation as free electronic books.
The police intimidation of the festival has turned the international spotlight to the massacres. The Ubud Writers’ Festival should have defended its freedom of programming, and in turn the democratic space opened up since the fall of the Suharto regime and our ability to speak at the festival. We need to continue to speak out against the violent or intimidatory suppression of freedom of expression in Indonesia. However thanks to social media and growing transnational activism on this past, Jokowi’s administration cannot bury 1965 as the Suharto regime had.
Dr. Vannessa Hearman is lecturer in Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney.
Sumber:”Chan CT’ [nasional-list]”, Friday, 30 October 2015, 22:51
Book Launch
Stormy with a chance of Fried Rice
Djin Siauw – 28 October 2015
First of all, I wish to thank Pat Walsh for asking me to launch his book. I was both honoured and shocked when he asked me to take over Ayu’s place this afternoon.
Honoured to be trusted and to be thought of as a person who has the appropriate quality to launch this very good and most interesting book.
I have known Pat for a long time. I first met him in 1979. On several occasions in the early 1980s, he helped me organize fund raising events for the political prisoners – classified as Golongan C Tapol – who were just released in 1979-1980 in Indonesia. And in the last few years both of us have been working closely together in the Herb Feith Foundation.
I was shocked because I am sure that I was never his “ban serep” – or spare tyre for this event. As of 2:30 yesterday afternoon, I had not read the book.
Obviously I cannot be compared with the beautiful Ayu, a powerful and famous writer who has written novels and who is certainly much more suitable to launch this book.
I am sure that there are many people in this room who are much more capable than I am in launching this book. But for some reasons Pat maintained that I should be the one.
The cancellation of all events that are connected to the mass killings, mass imprisonments and mass persecution that took place after October 1965 in this Festival, eliminated the opportunity I wish to use to say something. Pat’s decision to ask me to stand for Ayu gave me back this opportunity. So thank you Pat.
However, unfortunately you, the audience now have no choice. You simply have to listen to me. If you are not happy with quality of the launch because of my inability to grasp the artistic nature of the book or you have issues with my interpretation, you need to direct your anger and disappointment to Pat.
The title of the book is Stormy With a Chance of Fried Rice. Being an engineer, I simply failed to understand the basis of this title. It is neither a book about storms in Jakarta nor a book about the various different types of fried rice you can get in Jakarta. I had to ask Pat re what the title really implies.
Pat kindly described the basis of this title to me. He was apparently inspired by the kids movie called Cloudy with a Chance of Meat Balls. I never heard of this
movie, because I do not have grandchildren. He was in Indonesia between the two major storms that hit Jakarta in 2013 and 2014. And at the same time he was there during the most exciting period involving the political fights for power between the former general Prabowo and the pure civilian Jokowi.
I am sure that all of you are familiar with what Pat is so famous for. His dedication to Timor Leste’s independence and the adherence to human rights in Timor Leste and Indonesia make him a very special person. We are all of course pleased that his long years of hard work and dedication is recognized by the Australian and Timor Leste governments.
As soon as I received the electronic copy of the book Pat emailed me in the late afternoon yesterday, I began reading it. Knowing who Pat is, I thought the book contained significant accounts on the violations of human rights in Indonesia. As it turns out, it is a very light reading and contains the most enjoyable accounts on the busy and somewhat messy Jakarta and the people who live in it.
Symbolically Pat started the book with a story about Hari Pahlawan, The Heroes Day, 10th of November. I relate this occasion to the fact that the freedom fighters sacrificed their lives to achieve an independent Indonesia. Indonesia that is democratic. Indonesia that is based on the Five Principles – Pancasila. Indonesia that adheres to the rule of law.
Unfortunately, 70 years after independence and ironically a year after Jokowi was popularly elected as president, we are witnessing a violation of one of the fundamentals of democracy, hat is the freedom of Speech. We did not expect that Jokowi, a civilian leader that has no connection to the military aparatus that dominated the power in Indonesia for almost fifty years, could allow such violation in Ubud to take place.
In this very Festival, all events that are related to the historical truth, the mass killings and the sufferings of millions of innocent Indonesians are banned. This is a major setback. The Indonesian people and the Indonesian government should be reminded that this is not what the Indonesian freedom fighters fought for. This is not what they sacrificed their lives for.
Pat refers to the existence of political prisoners in the sixties and seventies. Firstly by vividly recalling a Jamu lady statue made by a political prisoner that he bought from a prison shop in Bandung in 1969. Interestingly, when my father, Siauw Giok Tjhan, was a political prisoner, his fellow prisoner also gave us a present, in the form of a Jamu Lady statue, made of exactly the same material. My father said that this statue was meant to reflect a principle that life is a struggle – Hidup adalah sebuah perjuangan. More importantly, it reflected harapan – hopes. The Jamu, Indonesian herbal medicine, would eventually eliminate bad things and Indonesia would recover from the problems that are
due to bad things. I am not sure whether Pat has the same understanding of that statue.
In another section of the book, Pat refers to the Plantungan camp. A camp in Central Java, a former colony that was used to isolate people who suffered from leprosy. This was the equivalent of Buru Island, but for female political prisoners. Some 500 prisoners were isolated there for many years.
Ironically, The Soeharto regime made the first of October as the Hari Kesaktian Pancasila – The Pancasila Sanctity Day. This was of course the day in 1965 that made General Soeharto the most powerful person in Indonesia. And under his military leadership, the government violated the main principles of Pancasila, in particular the second, third and fifth principles, namely:
Second Principle: Just and Civilised Humanity (Kemanusiaan yang adil dan beradab) – which is very much linked Human Rights;
Third Principle: the Unity of Indonesia – Persatuan Indonesia. People who are suspected to have different political convictions to those in power were killed, jailed and purged;
Fifth Principle: Social Justice for all Indonesian people – Keadilan sosial bagi seluruh rakyat Indonesia. There was no social justice throughout Soeharto’s leadership.
How could a government claim that it fully adhered to these principles when millions innocent people were cruelly killed without any legal proceedings; one hundred thousands of political prisoners were detained for years without any legal proceedings and millions of innocent people were purged and persecuted for more than 30 years without any legal proofs of any wrong doings.
Furthermore It is now public knowledge that The G30S movement in 1965 was not designed to replace Pancasila with communism as Soeharto regime alleged. It was in fact launched to protect President Soekarno, the initiator of Pancasila.
Whilst Pat does not elaborate the connection of the military regime that violated the Pancasila principles and committed crimes against humanity post October 1965 with the invasion and occupation of East Timor, he does touch on the fact that the wars experienced in East Timor were not those of civil wars. And he does make it very clear that it was the military regime, not Indonesian people who were to blame for the invasion and violation of human rights in Timor Leste.
On a lighter note, Pat talks about the lack of effectiveness in the Indonesian bureaucracy. He was exposed to this when he extended his visa without going
through an agent. He had to deal with nineteen officials to get his visa extended.
This is something that Jokowi promises to fix. He has, on a number of occasions indicated that he would like the processing times for various permits to be significantly compressed.
On the mess of Jakarta, Pat does not appear to be optimistic. He refers to Robin Chase’s assertion that Jakarta does not need more infrastructure but rather a change of behaviour. One can sense Pat’s pessimism about the ability of anyone to fix Jakarta’s problems. Obviously Governor A Hok does not share his pessimism.
But Pat’s hope about Indonesia is definitely shared by many Indonesians. He refers to Gusdur’s encouragement to the Indonesians “to think of their country as a big house with many rooms. Within each room, he would say, people of different persuasions can be themselves but when they come into the communal parts of the house, like the living room and the kitchen, they have to share and cooperate for the common good”. This is democracy in the truest sense of the word.
Pat’s hope is “while Indonesians are in the living room, they will read and discuss each other’s scriptures dengan hati besar dan kepala dingin (with a big heart and a cold head) and, like Gus Dur, bow in awe and joy before the wondrous diversity, creativity and richness of humanity”.
This is a very good book many people would enjoy reading and learn about Indonesia albeit somewhat limited to Jakarta’s life style.

Sumber:”Chan CT’ [nasional-list]”, Friday, 30 October 2015, 22:51


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