Proscribed Books

Dec 28th, 2009, in News, by

Latest book bannings from the Attorney General's Office, revisionist history and religious pluralism.

In another round of book banning five books were recently proscribed by the Attorney General's Office, the first among them dealing with revisionist views of the events of 1965 and the liquidation of the Communist Party of Indonesia, and the role of Lekra, the communist literary/cultural front organisation led by Pramoedya Ananta Toer.


Dalih Pembunuhan Massal

  • Dalih Pembunuhan Massal Gerakan 30 September dan Kudeta Soeharto (translation of Pretext for Mass Murder by John Roosa) published by Institut Sejarah Sosial Indonesia dan Hasta Mitra

Lekra Tak Membakar Buku

  • Lekra Tak Membakar Buku (Suara Senyap Lembar Kebudayaan Harian Rakjat 1950-1965) (Lekra Didn't Burn Books: The Silenced Voice of the People's Daily, 1950-1965) by Rhoma Dwi Aria Yuliantri and Muhidin M Dahlan


A third work on West Papua calls for self-determination for the Papuans.

Suara Gereja Papua

  • Suara gereja bagi umat tertindas: penderitaan, tetesan darah, dan cucuran air mata umat Tuhan di Papua Barat harus diakhiri. (The voice of the church for the oppressed: the suffering, loss of blood, and tears of God's people in West Papua must be ended) by Socratez Sofyan Yoman


While two others offer alternative, non-orthodox, and religiously pluralistic views of how to get closer to one's Lord.

Enam Jalan Menuju Tuhan

  • Enam Jalan Menuju Tuhan (Six Paths to God) by Darmawan MM
  • Mengungkap Misteri Keragaman Agama (Revealing the Mystery of Religious Diversity) by Syahrudin Ahmad

A political analyst, Bima Arya Sugiarto, offered a typical commentary on the bannings

Banning these books will just make people want to read them.

Bima said books which genuinely violated the Basic Law of 1945 should be prohibited, but otherwise openness should be placed on at least level standing with the need to guard social and political stability. rakyatmerdeka


59 Comments on “Proscribed Books”

  1. avatar ET says:

    I think we’ve truly slipped down the rabbit hole when governments ban books promoting pluralism and tolerance.

    I think it’s quite clear what groups are behind this. Islamic paranoia strikes again. Anything that’s smells of pluralism and tolerance is haram and a will destroy the future generations.

    May Gus Dur turn around in his grave.

  2. avatar Odinius says:

    Patung:

    What is the official justification for banning something like “Berpihak dan Bertindak Intoleran?” Who decides and what is the process?

  3. avatar Oigal says:

    Your best bet for real democracy is the recall system (by which a percentage of voters can require the ‘representative’ to face another election) and referenda. otherwise the elites run things always to suit their own agenda.

    Sounds great on the surface but if I recall correctly it’s been a disaster whenever tried. Got any examples where it works? It would lead to insane populist decision making rather than coherent policies. I personally think four years terms, gives time for policies to be thought through and tried.

    Can you imagine it here, where knee-jerk mobs and emotions rule the day. Dang we would already be at war with Malaysia, Singapore and Australia depending on whose to blame this week for Indonesia’s ills.

  4. avatar Ross says:

    Britain now often uses direct democracy at local level, eg plebiscites on devolution. Australia uses referenda, as do numerous American states, as do the French, and of course the Swiss.
    It doesn’t always produce resluts I agree with, but that is democracy and it gives us mere folks a chance to thwart the establishment. Populist decision making is a lot better than elite diktat.
    As for Indonesia, sure, it could lead to problems, but recall might just work rather well, as more and more people wake up to the grubby self-indulgenece of the ruling class.

  5. avatar Oigal says:

    Australia uses referenda,

    Ah come on Ross! Australian Referendums are both very rare and government initiated not by the people. Invariably the referendums have to with government wanting to make changes to constitution. Interestingly, the answer is almost always no. That example has nothing to do with the concept of “recall system” you describe. The Swiss have played with it true and regret it. I would still be interested in any specific examples where it has worked as a system, none that I can think of. One of the issues in California is the inability of the government to pass sensible bills due to short sighted populist recall procedures.

    Your reference of local councils is very interesting. As a major issue and reason for them to be dissolved is the only people interested in them beyond “roads, rates n rubbish” is the self important shrills with little better to than attend council meetings and create havoc. The result being we end up with unrepresentative swill deciding things way beyond their remit.

    Work in Indonesia, hardly. Look at the fuel excise for example, it is the single biggest distributor of wealth to the upper classes and yet any attempt to remove creates a popular uprising.

  6. avatar David says:

    What is the official justification for banning something like “Berpihak dan Bertindak Intoleran?” Who decides and what is the process?

    I’d guess it’s based on sort of generic laws about ‘threats to the integrity of the state’, ‘threats to social order’, Astrajingga hit the nail on the head, it’s about keeping the country ‘aman dan terkendali’. I suspect they don’t have any real objection to the content of the religious books, they’re just cowards, they don’t want trouble from hotheads and extremists. Like there have already been protests about the Setara book – Buku Setara Institute Dilarang in Gorontalo

    “Kami minta buku ini agar tidak diperbanyak lagi dan harus dicabut dari peredarannya secara nasional karena hanya akan meresahkan masyarakat,” kata Abdul Kadin, tokoh agama dari Muhamadiyah.

    Then

    Patrialis, a member of the National Mandate Party, said it was the responsibility of all Indonesians to prevent such books from being distributed widely.

    “Currently, the government with all of its ministers is working very hard to improve the people’s welfare, but at the same time there are certain people who want to discredit this government,” Patrialis said.

    “We do not know their intention or why they have to oppose the government.”

    That was bizarre.

    Apparently some/one of the books is from arramahmedia glorifying suicide bombing and such like. It looks like the process is this

    Departemen Hukum dan HAM akan merekomendasikan kepada Kejaksaan Agung terkait pelarangan sejumlah buku yang dianggap berbahaya bagi disintegrasi dan perlindungan keamanan masyarakat.

    So Depkumham makes recommendations for banning to AGO.

  7. avatar Ross says:

    Quite, true, Oigal, Australia could do with voter-initiated referenda. My rels there often complained that for example metrication, was not submitted to the perople, whereas the National Anthem was. Illogical.
    Still, better than Sweden, where the voters rejected a major policy and then had to watch their gutless Mps ignore their wishes. Same goes for Holland and France, where the master-knows best EU clique treated voters with contempt.
    However, abuse of the system does not invalidate it.
    The Swiss minaret vote was perfectly legitimate. Swiss don’t want their country changed and who can trust any parliament to defend native people’s interests. Look at Britain.
    The UK example I gave was to do with devolution, not town councils, and while the polls were intiated by the government, they got a few slaps in the kisser, which is always good. As to the quality of parish councillors, that is a totally different issue, and up to localities to sort out. They are probably not as corrupt and puppety as national legislators, at least in the UK.
    In America, they had an excellent California plebiscite last year, and could do with more of the same in every Western country.

  8. avatar Oigal says:

    My rels there often complained that for example metrication, was not submitted to the perople,

    Great example of the failings for what you propose Ross. No doubt metrics would ahve failed if put to a popular vote and mores the pity. Is there any one on the planet who can honestly say having a systems based on the “tens” is not ten (sorry) times better than some dodgy illogical bunch of rules based on handspans, cubits and lengths of elbow to hand. Not to mention british tons vs us tons and on and on..(Oh and yea I was around for both)

    In America, they had an excellent California plebiscite last year, and could do with more of the same in every Western country.

    Ross, California is bankrupt due in a large part to a government bound to short sighted, populist system rendering the place ungovernable in anything but the short term.

    The Swiss minaret vote was perfectly legitimate. Swiss don’t want their country changed and who can trust any parliament to defend native people’s interests.

    Perhaps but isn’t a government’s job to look after all its citizens. Problem with the system you are proposing is it leads to bastardisation of minorities by the vocal majority (and I mean vocal majority as opposed to a real majority). Why because no elected official can take a longer term view on anything.

  9. avatar Burung Koel says:

    No doubt metrics would ahve failed if put to a popular vote and mores the pity. Is there any one on the planet who can honestly say having a systems based on the “tens” is not ten (sorry) times better than some dodgy illogical bunch of rules based on handspans, cubits and lengths of elbow to hand.

    “The metric system is the tool of the devil. My car gets four rods to the hogshead and that’s the way I like it!”

    – Grandpa Simpson

  10. avatar Ross says:

    Oigal, just got home and read your ‘rebuttal.’
    Frankly, I never found it hard to work in ounces, tons, etc., nor in pounds, shillings and pence when I lived in the UK. even the densest guys in my class were s–t-hot at working out bookies” odds. ‘
    You fall into the trap of thinking that because you know better, or think you do, or think that some ‘expert’ does, then your right to make a decision supersedes that of the man in the street.
    Wrong – democracy is allowing folks to make mistakes and then have the chance to put ’em right.
    But time for rendang, please await my digestive processes.

  11. avatar Ross says:

    Back to democracies.
    The Swedish example referred to driving on the left or right. The Swedes, rightly or wrongly, voted to keep to their traditional ways, but the governent subsequently ignored the democratic decision.

    The problem with leaving things to our betters, is that they aren’t. In a general election, people are usually befuddled with slick slogans like ‘It’s The Economy, Stupid,’ and many important issues get side-lined through short-term materialistic urges.

    For example, in Canada and Britain, capital punishment was abolished in defiance of what even its opponents admitted were the wishes of a large majority of the electorate.

    The party system makes it even more difficult to redress such wrongs, because party leaders say ‘we won the confidence of the people for our policies,’ then almost in the same breath say that e.g. capital punishment is not a party issue and give 650 individuals a ‘free vote.’ If they say people voted them in for their party label, then they should refer non-party issues back to the people.

  12. avatar Ross says:

    And…in Canada, in 1965, the country’s very flag was hung out to dry by a majority of MPs who repeatedly refused to countenance a referendum. If ever an issue should have been up to the nation as a whole, that should have been it.
    Any Canucks out there who recall those dreadful days?

  13. avatar Odinius says:

    Oigal said:

    My turn to disagree, it is my opinion that a democracy rests on two planks. First, the politician is elected by the people and second, he is then bound to represent the interests of those people. Even in the money driven democracy of the USA, every congressman knows if he continually screws his constituents then he will be turfed. It would appear that factional power plays rule the day here. Not sure who is to blame the system or the people who don’t seem to demand much.

    Not entirely true. The introduction of competitive elections has drastically changed the institutions of power in Indonesia, in the sense that the old corporate parties are no longer the sole arbiters of political fortunes. Factionalism still plays a major role, as does corporatism, but it’s quite truncated in comparison to the Suharto days.

    Indonesian democracy is incomplete, yes, or as the political scientists call it, “non-consolidated.” But it’s a work in progress, and actually much farther along, by most objective markers, than Indonesia’s Southeast Asian brethren.

    Where I see a lot less work in progress is with the underlying liberal values that make democracy more than just a formal system of decision-making. This is where these book bannings fit in for me. They’re illiberal.

  14. avatar Burung Koel says:

    I happened to come by this recent MRI scan of the inside of Ross’s brain:

    Ross's Brain

  15. avatar Ross says:

    You’re suffering delusions of grandeur, Burung. I don’t have that many images of you in there.
    Pity you abhor the idea of people controlling their own polities. Join the modern world and believe in people power!

  16. avatar Oigal says:

    Now now Ross,

    Join the modern world and believe in people power!

    So whats your position on the People Power in 1965, all this time a supporter of Communist Indonesia. You do realise of course, that a full recall voting would have resulted in communist Indonesia in 1965 don’t you? It was the largest communist party outside of China and had the ability to rally its supporters to the cause.

    Frankly, I never found it hard to work in ounces, tons, etc., nor in pounds, shillings and pence when I lived in the UK. even the densest guys in my class were s–t-hot at working out bookies” odds. ‘
    You fall into the trap of thinking that because you know better, or think you do, or think that some ‘expert’ does, then your right to make a decision supersedes that of the man in the street.

    Who cares what you find hard to do or not? Point is if you put Metrics to the vote now in Australia it would wins hands down as it is simply a more logical system of measurement. The “man on the street” is the kid that was brought up on the metric system and the only people suffering withdrawl are the anti-changlings of yesteryear.

    Ross you seem befuddled on this topic as witnessed by the below

    many important issues get side-lined through short-term materialistic urges.

    which would be solved by having “recall” votes everytime the short term Materialistic urge strikes..huh?

    The Swedish example referred to driving on the left or right. The Swedes, rightly or wrongly, voted to keep to their traditional ways, but the governent subsequently ignored the democratic decision.

    This is your example of why the rest of the world should resort to the “recall” voting???

    then almost in the same breath say that e.g. capital punishment is not a party issue and give 650 individuals a ‘free vote.

    And if the people that elected him have not made their feelings known then they vote him out in the next election. Sounds workable to me, better than the alternative where only the fanatics start driving and voting in these so called recalls. Nothing worse “the letter to the editor” writers driving agendas and not the populace at large.

    P.S. Always been a capitial punishment supporter myself, only one condition. If later the person is provem innocent, then the Judge and jury have to be put to death for pre-meditated murder (only fair really)

  17. avatar Ross says:

    Aaah, Oigal, you are back to your normal self again.

    It’s reassuring that you retain the liberal’s distaste for direct democracy, always requiring that it be filtered through the establishment. Obviously the ‘populace at large’ would have their say in any recall vote. If only the wicked activists wanted a legislator replaced, then there would be no change in the person doing the job.

    ‘Materialistic urges’ unfortunately dominate most election campaigns, people getting totally focused on economic matters rather than issues of principle, eg Crime and punishment, immigration, etc. so as a result, popular sentiment is not reflected in parliaments. Thus referenda are useful.

    I don’t understand your disregard for the Swedes. If they want to drive on the right or the left, it should have been their decision – not a bunch of politicians. Otherwise, why have a referendum?

    Not quite sure whether your support for the death penalty is real or not. As your Aussie heroine Pauline Hanson said, please explain.

    As for the PKI, I shall rest up a day or so and get back onto this Sunday night.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  18. avatar David says:

    P.S. Always been a capitial punishment supporter myself, only one condition. If later the person is provem innocent, then the Judge and jury have to be put to death for pre-meditated murder (only fair really)

    When Germany got occupied by the Allies the Soviets in particular went on a killing spree of men they thought were SS, of course the SS guys weren’t dumb enough to walk around in their uniforms so in many cases the Russians were just guessing a bit and no doubt they killed many of the wrong people. Frank Knofelmacher in Melbourne who I had tremendous respect for once said about it, and I’m not sure if he was quoting somebody in reference to this case or not (the quote is from the Bible originally of course), but

    The Lord knows those who are his.

  19. avatar Burung Koel says:

    Pity you abhor the idea of people controlling their own polities. Join the modern world and believe in people power!

    @ Ross

    I have no problem with greater democracy, it was more to do with your opposition to the metric system. If it wasn’t for SI units, I think I’d still be in my undergraduate thermodynamics class calculating in BTUs.

    However, Citizen Initiated Referenda are fine, on one condition – voting on the propositions is made compulsory. Otherwise you will end up with government by the noisiest and angriest, or those with the most money to push their campaigns. Not a good recipe for representative democracy.

    But isn’t it interesting that many of those people who advocate for greater accountability through referenda are also those who object to compulsory voting.

  20. avatar Ross says:

    G’day, Burung. I have no objection to compulsory voting, which seems to be acceptable to Aussies, who are a sensible people.
    There are philosophical objections, but I can’t get worked up about them.
    The turn-out in Britain and America seems to be declining, largely, in my view, through governments’ failure to represent people’s aspirations, notably on some of the issues mentioned above, and due to judicial flouting of the people’s will, SUpreme Court in US and Canada, EuroCourt in the UK…

  21. avatar Ross says:

    Oke, Oigal, back to 1965!
    Yes, the PKI was the largest and certainly best-organised party at the time, funded and directed by foreign totalitarians. Had a recall system been in place, it might well have used such a mechanism to its advantage.
    Large parties, well -resourced, led by bad people, are not ipso facto precluded from successfully manipulating democratic systems to their advantage. Quite the contrary.

    In Germany in the early Thirties, a large mass partry, headed up by some very nasty sorts, backed by funds from the super-rich, used Weimar’s political system to take power, no need for any abuse of citizens’ intiatives.
    Last year in America, a powerful political organisation led by a man of very unsavoury and even mysterious, character, financed by the hyper-rich, like Soros, won the Presidential election.

    So of course any political constitution can be subverted by big money and bad people. That being so, should we thus scrap European-style parliamentary democracy and the US-style presidential system? I doubt if you’d agree, so why single out referenda and recall as bad ways forward?

    Your answer, I suspect, is that people are imperfect and thus they can make wrong decisions for wrong reasons. No new insights there, but if vox pop is not a good thing, which alternative to democracy would you prefer?

  22. avatar David says:

    Here’s John Roosa on the issue – http://johnroosa-dpm.blogspot.com/2010/01/book-banning-in-indonesia-blast-from.html and there’s a video on that page that lets you more or less read the translation online.

  23. avatar Ross says:

    Too late at night to get into the Roosa material, but I notice he makes a reference to Holocaust ‘denial,’ suggesting that courts rather than politicians have the right to ban books.
    But it all comes back to the law that enables banning at all. If a book or magazine incites readers to violence, then – if we assume people are that suggestible – okay, there’s an argument for banning. But Rossa is merely challenging the establishment view of modern history, similarly to David Irving.
    I shall try to get hold of his book, just as I want to read that one about the javanese kuturkampf.

  24. avatar Odinius says:

    Now, I don’t believe in book banning at all. But one crucial difference is that Roosa has written a work of history; Irving, a work of fantasy. A second is that Irving’s fantasy has been banned in countries whose governments perpetrated certain horrors, because it denies what they did; Roosa’s has been banned in a country whose government perpetrated certain horrors, because it states what they did.

    Making the situation even more ironic, Roosa’s book is only tangentially about the killings; it’s about the failed PKI coup that preceded it.

    …and making it most ridiculous of all are all the absurd, hateful books you find sold in any Gramedia, yet this piece of measured, well-researched history gets banned? Intolerable.

  25. avatar Ross says:

    You are substituting your own personal judgement for objective consideration, Odinius. Yes, your opinions are shared by many, but so, probably are the AGO’s here.

    But I agree it is odd that you can pick up a copy of jihadist junk like Imam Samoedra’s (and his soul-mate A. Hitler) in respectable stores but not get Roosa’s, though I have yet to read Roosa’s.

    His blog that I accessed via Patung’s link indicates he admires Sukarno, who was truly a classic fascist, gotong royong corporatism, ultra-nationalist rhetoric and suppression of anti-totalitarian parties. Yet Roosa studs his ‘academic’ prose with lefty emotics like ‘neo-colonial’ etc.
    Should be a fun read.

  26. avatar Odinius says:

    Speaking of “personal judgement” clouding “objective consideration!” Ross, you should read the book with an open mind, as you might even like it. If anything Roosa’s main claim is primarily objectionable to the left of Indonesian historiography, as he presents evidence showing that the PKI leadership, if not the rank-and-file, did indeed foment the initial coup (and it’s quite convincing). I imagine the book was banned on its name alone, with little consideration for its content.

    Over to Irving, there’s plenty of history based on highly problematic arguments that’s nevertheless well-researched and professional. Bernard Lewis, for example. David Irving doesn’t manage to fall into that category…he’s a conspiracy theorist and little else. Thus comparing Roosa and Irving is like like comparing a professionally-made vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine and a home-made skateboard upon which someone has painted the word “car.” 🙂

  27. avatar Ross says:

    I certainly hope to read the book, Odinius.
    As to Irving, you should read a few of his other books, notably Uprising, which is very good.
    If you cast your mind back, plenty of people thought he was good enough before he provoked controversy.
    It’s the fact that he has been more or less destroyed because he touched on ‘sensitive’ areas of history that evokes my sympathetic interest in him.

    I simply don’t like the way some Western countries effectively ban books while lecturing Indonesia et all for censorship.
    Censorship is not always a bad thing, having been part of most nations’ set-up since time immemorial. But it has become pervasive in PC terms in the West, too many concerns with ‘upsetting’ minorities.
    Being upset is part of growing up. You get used to it and probably benefit from it.

  28. avatar Odinius says:

    I don’t like banning books in any situation. I might give Germany special dispensation, given its history and its rather noble decision to actually face its demons head on, rather than pretend either that they never happened or that its water under the bridge, as most societies–Japan, Indonesia, Serbia, Croatia, France, the US, the UK, Russia, China–do. But generally speaking, political censorship is illiberal and undemocratic. Besides, better to give the idiots the rope to hang themselves than turn them into martyrs.

    Over to Roosa, it’s damned interesting. He is, without any doubt, a left-leaning liberal. I imagine he began this quest seeking evidence that the G30S coup was staged by Suharto. He found evidence to the contrary. At the same time, his evidence does not validate the government’s position of a deep-seeded conspiracy that necessitated direct action against the PKI rank-and-file. Instead, he found that the original coup was disorganized and small, and was seized upon by the army as a pretext for its subsequent actions against a rank-and-file that had no clue what was going on.

    In academic circles, though, this has generally situated the book in direct conflict with the left-leaning scholars who have sought to exonerate the PKI and cast the coup as either an “internal army affair” or completely fake. In attempting to rebut Roosa, they have pointed to the Latief memoir, which seems to support the “no PKI involvement in G30S” thesis, but this could very well be a last after-the-fact shot at his enemies, and Roosa’s evidence to the contrary is pretty convincing.

  29. avatar Ross says:

    So Roosa is an honest historian open to the argument of evidence..
    Reminds me of how Allen Weinstein started his investigation into Alger Hiss believing in that man’s innocence, and discovered that the proof of his guilt was too powerful.
    Yes, a ‘must-read,’ I think.

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