The Jakarta Post
In the latest of several such incidents in the past three months, the Jakarta Police have failed to uphold their impartiality by refusing to protect a small group of people who planned to organize a festival of leftist thinking in Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), Cikini, Central Jakarta.
The festival themed the Belok Kiri (Turn Left) Festival, was initially set to be held in the TIM cultural center from Feb. 27 to March 5 to accommodate history enthusiasts, who wanted to share thoughts about leftist history in Indonesia.
However, on Friday TIM management, the Jakarta Arts Center (PKJ), had a change of heart and decided to withdraw its permission for the event following opposition from various mass organizations, such as Jakarta's Indonesia Islam Youth Movement, the Jakarta Activist Front and Duta Legal Aid Institute.
On Saturday, the police deployed around 200 personnel to disperse the festival's committee members, who were about to hold a press conference to deliver their response to the on-going opposition, following a demonstration staged by around 50 members of the mass organizations.
As a result, the committee eventually held the press conference using a loud hailer in the parking lot of the cultural center, as well as canceling a discussion and a book launch, which had been scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
'We will fight back against the opposition by using an intellectual approach, instead of the physical approach that these mass organizations use,' said one of the committee members, Dytha Caturani on Saturday.
Dytha further denied allegations by the mass organizations, who claimed that the festival was held to 'hail left-wing ideology in Indonesia'.
'We, instead, want to raise critical thinking among the people regarding our history, which has been manipulated by the New Order regime for its political interests,' Dytha said.
The committee insisted on proceeding with their plans as they went on to open the event at the office of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute in Central Jakarta.
They also continued with the series of events by means of several improvisations to the schedule, which can be found on their Twitter account @BelokKiri_Fest.
Separately, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Mohammad Iqbal said the police had to stop the event because the committee had not informed the police.
Moreover, he added, a brawl could potentially break out between the organizers and the mass organizations if the committee insisted on proceeding without permission from the police. Therefore, the police had to step in.
The Belok Kiri Festival is not the first gathering to have been dispersed by the police as a result of pressure from hard-line organizations.
Earlier this month, the police bowed to the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) by shutting down a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group's closed workshop at the Cemara Hotel in Menteng, Central Jakarta.
In December, the police canceled a discussion and the reading of a drama script about the 1965 communist purge after the FPI blocked the events, which they said 'harmed nationalism'.
In November, the police decided not to give the go-ahead for a discussion on terrorism set to be held by the Association of Journalists for Diversity (Sejuk) after the FPI expressed its objection to the event's poster depicting the Islamic State movement's flag next to the FPI's official logo.
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