Subject: AFR: Eurico heads Anti-Communist Coaltion

[excerpt: Guterres, regarded as a hero by hardline nationalists, is now the chairman of the Anti-Communist Coalition, which brings together Moslem and nationalist groups agitating for a return to more authoritarian government.]

Australian Financial Review Monday, May 7, 2001

Muslim militants force leftist author's works off the bookshelves

Tim Dodd in Jakarta

For more than 30 years until Soeharto's fall in 1998, the writings of Indonesia's pre-eminent novelist and political prisoner, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, were banned in his own country.

Now his books have disappeared from bookshops again - not because of a government edict but because Indonesia's largest book seller has given in to threats from radical Muslim and nationalist groups to attack retailers who continue to stock Pramoedya's works.

The Gramedia chain (part of the group that owns two of Indonesia's most prominent newspapers, Kompas and The Jakarta Post) removed Pramoedya's books, along with other leftist literature, more than a week ago. It said a group called United Islamic Youth had threatened to raid bookshops and seize so-called communist books.

So for now, Pramoedya's novels and his extraordinary memoir of the years he spent in Soeharto's gulags, The Mute's Soliloquy, cannot be bought in Gramedia even though the retailer admits they have been good sellers. "They have been very popular," Mr Edi Harianto, sales supervisor at one of Gramedia's Jakarta branches, said on Friday.

Indonesia is one of the few places in the world where the communist bogey is alive and well and can be readily exploited for political advantage. It even promises to be a comeback vehicle for the notorious former East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, who was sentenced by a Jakarta court last week to six months' imprisonment.

Guterres, regarded as a hero by hardline nationalists, is now the chairman of the Anti-Communist Coalition, which brings together Moslem and nationalist groups agitating for a return to more authoritarian government.

One of its member groups, Red and White, appears to have close links to Soeharto associates. Thugs from this organisation gathered to protect former Soeharto minister Mr Ginandjar Kartasasmita when he was released from detention by court order last Wednesday after his arrest a month ago on corruption charges.

The irony is that the communist movement has been invisible in Indonesia since 1966 when Soeharto, after he grabbed power, launched a purge that wiped the party out and killed an estimated 500,000 people or more. Then, for as long as he ruled, the families of former communists were officially ostracised and prevented from obtaining a proper education and doing respectable jobs. Today, if the party exists at all, it is extremely weak.

Communism as an ideology is still officially banned under a parliamentary decree passed in 1966 and Soeharto's demise has not lessened its potency as a political smear tool. When President Abdurrahman Wahid, long a supporter of political pluralism, suggested removing the ban on communism last year, he was vilified from across the political spectrum and was forced to withdraw the idea.

Pramoedya is not the only author tarred with the communist label. Other left-leaning writers are getting the same treatment.

John M. Miller Internet: fbp@igc.org 48 Duffield St., Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA Phone: (718)596-7668 Fax: (718)222-4097


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