The Jakarta Post
The annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) has been forced to
cancel a series of panel discussions on the 1965 Communist repression in
Indonesia following scrutiny from local authorities, the festival director said
Founder and director of the UWRF Janet DeNeefe said in a statement published on the festival's website that she was disappointed about the cancellation of the three sessions dedicated to the victims of 1965 bloody massacre.
As well as the panel discussion, also cancelled were a screening of Joshua Oppenheimer's film The Look of Silence and an art exhibition and book launch titled The Act of Living.
"The team has worked extremely hard over the past few weeks to try and ensure that these programs would go ahead. It's extremely disappointing and saddening that after all our efforts, and those of our panelists and partners, we are unable to host these sessions without jeopardizing the rest of the festival," she said in statement on Friday.
The announcement was made after extensive negotiations with local authorities.
She said that the festival had a mission to create a platform for people to discuss various issues that have a great impact on many people, such as the 1965 tragedy.
"We chose to dedicate a proportion of the program to enriching our understanding of this, through themes of reconciliation and remembrance," she added, saying that the sessions would create discussions to help those whose lives were severely affected.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1965 communist purge, during which it is believed that up to 1 million people were killed, from 1965 to 1966.
The 12th festival will run from Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, with the grand theme of "17,000 Islands of Imagination".
This will be the first time the UWRF has had panel sessions come under scrutiny from local authorities, including the government, police and military.
The festival, director DeNeefe said, will continue to promote freedom of literary, artistic and creative expression.
"We sincerely hope that the festival will continue to create open space for constructive conversation in the years to come," she said.
Hanna Nabila, national media coordinator for the UWRF, said that the organizers had explained that the discussion will be about victims of the tragedy.
"We don't get into the political side, actually. But, maybe it is still too sensitive, so we didn't get authorization for several programs," she told thejakartapost.com.
Even though authorities did not make explicit threats, Hanna said the organizer would follow through and cancel the necessary sessions.
"We worry that if we don't obey them, unwanted things may occur," she said.
Gianyar Police chief Adj. Sr. Cmr. Farman admitted that the authorities had banned certain sessions at the UWRF relating to the 1965 massacre.
"This is for the benefit of the people. The spirit of the festival is not to discuss things that would just open old wounds," he said.
Farman claimed that the authorities only gave the organizer permission to hold a festival of writers and readers, not film screenings.
"The movie did not even pass the censorship requirements," he said referring to Oppenheimer's movie.
He warned the organizers to follow through and cancel the sessions, saying that if they didn't the police would forcefully stop the festival. (rin)
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