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Jakarta Post

Indonesia'€™s repression of the arts uncivilized: activists

  • Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 9, 2015   /  10:26 am
Indonesia'€™s repression of the arts uncivilized: activists

Victims of the 1965 Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) purge sing a protest song inside the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in Jakarta in 2012. Victims of the purge have long urged Komnas HAM to reveal the results of its investigation regarding alleged human rights abuses in 1965. (Antara/Fanny Octavianus)

Indonesia has moved backward and is becoming an uncivilized nation in terms of its repression of freedom of expression, according to art and human rights activists following the Jakarta Police's recent banning of an art event scheduled to take place at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), Central Jakarta, on Tuesday.

The police said they issued the prohibition of the reading and discussion of a drama script titled "Family Album: #50years1965" as part of the Jakarta Theater Festival (FTJ), due to fears of trouble from people that opposed the event.

In the letter revoking permission for the event, the police said that a group calling itself the '€œJakarta Theater Family Who Cares for the Jakarta Theater Festival'€, had previously informed the police about its plans to hold a rally to protest the event.

According to the Jakarta Arts Council chairman Irawan Karseno, the letter was an arbitrary act by the state that could not be tolerated. The Jakarta Police's reason for prohibiting the discussion was not the event'€™s content, but the technical aspect of security, said Irawan

"It's the police's responsibility to ensure that a rally can run without sacrificing other people's interests. The police should not and cannot take sides," Irawan told reporters at TIM on Tuesday.

Irawan added that the arts council would continue the series of events at the FTJ, saying that they would not comply with any form of repression from the state. He further requested that the National Police revoke the Jakarta Police's right to limit or prohibit any artistic activities.

"If we give in to the arbitrary [actions of the state], history and the future [generations] will not look kindly on the Jakarta Arts Council," said Irawan.

Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) condemned the prohibition, saying it restricted art activists'€™ rights to express their creativity.

According to Komnas HAM chairman Nur Kholis, by prohibiting the discussion, the police had shown no commitment to defend people's freedom of expression, which he said was a very basic aspect of human rights that was also protected under the Constitution.

"The Indonesian police's mindset is still similar to that of the New Order. Now it's a paradox: there are certain groups whose rights are defended while others lose their rights, particularly in terms of freedom of expression," said Nur.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Art Coalition chairman Abduh Azis said that with the recent cases of prohibitions and limits of freedom of expression, such as the forced cancelation of a 1965-themed film screening, Indonesia was now moving backward toward conservatism.

According to Azis, people need to scrutinize themselves and reflect on the essence of art, on how people celebrate life, which is full of complexity and diversity.

"People should realize that they cannot impose their will on others," said Azis. (kes)(+)

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