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Jakarta Post

Ubud cancels sessions on 1965 massacre

  • Ni Komang Erviani

    The Jakarta Post

Denpasar   /   Sat, October 24, 2015   /  06:07 pm

Organizers of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF), due to kick off Friday, have canceled all sessions that were to look at the massacre of communists in Indonesia in the 1960s, citing pressure from the government.

Three panel discussions, a book launch and an art exhibition, as well as a screening of Joshua Oppenheimer'€™s film The Look of Silence, have been scrapped from the festival in Ubud, the internationally renowned artists'€™ village in the hills of Bali.

The cancellation was announced after organizers attended a meeting with officials, led by Gianyar Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Farman.

UWRF founder and director Janet DeNeefe said that she was extremely disappointed to announce the cancellations, which came among a series of actions by the Indonesian government in response to the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

'€œAs a festival, our mission is to create an open platform where people can come together to discuss the issues that affect us,'€ DeNeefe said in a statement.

'€œ1965 is an event that has and continues to influence many Indonesians and as such, we chose to dedicate a proportion of the program to enriching our understanding about this, through themes of reconciliation and remembrance,'€ she added.

DeNeefe said that the panel sessions were aimed at creating conversation on the tragedy in an effort toward healing, particularly for those whose lives were severely affected.

'€œUnfortunately, whilst we pride ourselves in bringing topical issues to the forefront of national and international dialogue, we had to consider the festival'€™s program in its entirety and the many other important issues which will be explored through it, including human rights, activism and censorship,'€ DeNeefe said.

The festival, the brainchild of Australian-born DeNeefe, began in 2004 to help Indonesia'€™s famous tourist island recover from the impact of deadly terrorist attacks two years earlier. The annual event has expanded over the years and gained international recognition. The Indonesian government has reportedly not been pleased with the way many Indonesians this month marked the 50 year anniversary of the communist massacre, an event that is not recognized in official history textbooks.

The massacres, with a suspected death toll of 500,000 people, were triggered by the kidnapping of seven Army officers by a unit of the presidential guard on the night of Sept. 30, 1965, a move the military blamed on the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

The party was subsequently banned and Gen. Soeharto, who led the military at the time, took over the presidency from Sukarno six months later.

Discussions of the massacre were banned during Soeharto'€™s three-decade rule, but they began to surface after he stepped down in 1998 and Indonesia embarked on democratization.

Books have been published and discussions held looking for answers about the national tragedy as Indonesians take advantage of the more open and free public space. Three novels that featured prominently at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany last week, at which Indonesia was the guest of honor, used the 1965 tragedy as their backdrop.

However, the government seems to have had a change of heart.

Last week, the Christian Satya Wacana University in Salatiga, Central Java, handed over copies of a magazine prepared by its students discussing the communist massacre after its editors were interrogated by the police.

Separately, a Swedish national of Indonesian descent was deported last week as he tried to pay homage at the site where he believed his father had been massacred for being part of the PKI. (emb)


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