Book Banning

Mar 21st, 2007, in News, by

The Attorney General Office’s banning of some history books.

On 5th March, the Attorney General’s Office banned the further printing and distribution of thirteen history books from the 2004 junior and senior high school curriculums because they play down the role of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) in the 1948 uprising in Madiun, East Java, and the 1965 coup attempt in Jakarta.

According to the AGO the books not only failed to state the facts about the PKI’s role in the events but went further and challenged some “accepted truths”, which could create public disorder. The AGO has the authority to monitor the circulation of written materials and has in the past banned a number of books deemed capable of disrupting political stability since the Soeharto era.

After the fall of Soeharto in 1998 alternative information on the 1965 coup started to surface. In 2002, during the presidency of Abdurrahman Wahid, a number of historians started developing a different analysis of G30S in a supplement to the state’s version of Indonesian history and distributed it to schools.

This effort was later accommodated by the National Education Ministry’s research and development centre and aspects of it were included in the 2004 curriculum.

One history textbook for the final year of high school, from the 2004 curriculum, gave five different possible explanations for who was behind the 1965 coup attempt and murdering of six army generals. The traditional acronym name of the event was shortenened from G30S PKI to just G30S (the September 30th movement).

Ratna Hapsari, the head of Jakarta’s history teachers’ association, says of the banning:

As teachers, we are supposed to not only reveal historical facts, but also to explain the larger context and meaning of an event like G30S.

She said the banning was unconstitutional and technically incorrect as it also banned a number of textbooks that were not supposed to contain the information the AGO said was missing.

The book for seventh graders by Tugiyono, for example, does not cover the PKI coup d’etat because that chapter is for ninth graders. Seventh graders only learn the pre-modern history of kingdoms in the archipelago.

Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) head Johnson Panjaitan said the root of the problem lay in the fact that the state still holds the power of censorship over information and historical facts. The PBHI plans to take legal action against the ban.

If the nation has truly been reformed, there should no longer be institutions capable of censoring public information.


March 25th 2007.

Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh defended the banning of the books saying that a Military Court had proven that the PKI was involved in the events of 1965 and therefore the omission of these facts in the books was unacceptable. Historians were free to debate the matter, he said, but school books could not be allowed to omit key facts. antara

9 Comments on “Book Banning”

  1. Ross says:

    The Attorney General has a right to make sure these schools pin-point the clearly established villains, who were, in 1948 at Madiun, the PKI. Again in 1965, it was a red coup. Even the Jakarta Post recently published a piece on Aidit’s brother which confirmed that Aidit (the PKI leader) warned his sibling to steer clear of Jakarta prior to the Communist power-grab. The bad guys were planning it well ahead of time.
    The Jakarta Post, alas, as usual has gone overboard, its pro-communist sympathies evident everywhere. Their journalist Annisa ignores all rules of objective reporting in favour of ludicrous slogans like ‘stigmatisation’ and ‘paranoia.’ The editorial board of the JP appears not to realise that such tactics are no substitute for rational approaches. An enemy like the PKI, determined to war down your principles and your country is not a source of ‘paranoia’ but of real concern.
    The plain fact is that the PKI stigmatised themselves by their conscious adherence to a movement whose worldwide cause was and remains the destruction of freedom and indeed religion, so no wonder Indonesians loathe the reds.

  2. Colson says:

    Censorship, gggrrrrrr.

    Shouldn’t education be about providing information, facts and opinions? Shouldn’t the result of education be engaged and critical minds? Critical of vested, dogmatic, eternal “truths” and keen on investigating alternatives?

  3. Andrew says:

    This is hardly surprising – it happens everywhere save a few countries in the world. The reality is that no matter how hard they try to control the information, people have access to the internet. It is true that all internet sources can be trusted, but that’s the point: the government just doesn’t have control (anymore). Unless they want to go the hard way, like internet censorship in China (or even worse, censor-everything N. Korea).

  4. Teng says:

    It’s a well known fact that the PKI was involved. But if you read all the history (by non-Indonesian authors) it is very clear that the whole issue stinks!

    It is SO obvious it wasn’t just the PKI or a “red coup”… nor does it justify the 1 million killings of PKI members (and so called PKI members) In 1965 you could shout “Komunis” to a person you didn’t like and he would be killed. This is a well known fact, albeit one that is rarely mentioned in Indonesian history books.

    It has been a doctrine since 65 to see the communist as the “big enemy”. Even now if you drive to Jakarta every now and then you see a spanduk saying: Lashkar Anti-Komunis….. come one people… for f*ck sake…. how many communists are there still in Indonesia… three?

    Why don’t you get a job instead of organizing a Laskar Anti-Komunis. Its not like there’s a real “Red Danger” in Indonesia

  5. Mohammed Khafi says:

    Knowing that the CIA are jokingly pointed out as the perpetrators of every bad thing that befalls us on this forum, in this case they have a lot of responsibility for what happened in those terrible times, although it is doubtful that they realised the scale of the horrors that they were unleashing: CIA Death Lists. Could the authorities have stopped it, or was it politicall expedient to allow the massacres to take place? Well it is doubtful that we will even know the truth from our sources at home, the power structure that arose in those days, although officially ended seems to have strings to pull even in our present democratic era!


  6. Odinius says:

    The CIA does bear a lot of responsibility, MK (and even more for the East Timor atrocities), but they did not kill the 500,000 PKI and suspected PKI in 1965. Only helped it along, which is bad enough.

    People need to take responsibility for the past. Honesty is the only way forward.

  7. Jonathan, a radical leftist says:

    The 1948 Madiun seperatist movement was clearly done by the PKI, but the 1965 coup mastermind is still disputed. The PKI were immediately accused of it because of Soeharto’s and, in a larger essence the Army’s staunch anti-communist policy. No one would’ve attacked PKI headquarters if the Army didn’t claim that the PKI did the coup. On another matter, now everybody believes that communists are bad because of 32 years of anti-communist propaganda under Soeharto’s military regime. The fact now is that communist parties fight for essential civil rights, protection of the environment and believe that freedom of religion is essential. Are we going to be a nation that doesn’t tolerate ideological freedom? I hope not. On the banning of books, I believe that it is a restriction on freedom of speech.

  8. Randy says:

    The Indonesian Government still hold propaganda about 1965. even many people today know the truth who’s behind the coup. The government and popular public opinion as supporter of Soeharto New Order propaganda will do anything to stop any opinion about the truth. including the government keep poisoning the children of the new generation.

  9. Ziad says:

    The PKI’s involvement in the 1965 is not clear, the fact that the right wing army generals were planning to crack on the PKI and Sukarno is a matter of fact, however one million of massacred people and many more who suffered the consequences of the new order’s vicious repression deserves some mention and lots of respect, they deserve that their rights be reinstituted and moral and material compensation. The PKI have surely committed mistakes, they may be attributed some partial responsibility in the 65 events in any case that was not a coup, that was a minor issue, the true coup was Suharto’s take over power and the unleashing of one of the most horrific massacres in history. But the PKI was fighting for the poor, for Indonesia dignity and was following a peaceful path that was very likely going to bring them to power through the ballots in 1970. One has to remember that many positive contributions of the PKI and hopefully one day (I mean soon) bring it back to political life since it is an integral part of Indonesian history and it should have a place in its future. Whatever crimes are attributed to the PKI they can not be compared in any way to Suharto’s crimes, yet Indonesia needs to find a place for all political actors, banning books is a silly act that does not help reconciliation.

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