AGO Targets Literature With a Leftist Message

AGO Targets Literature With a Leftist Message

The Jakarta Globe,
by Heru Andriyanto

Although mention of "the communist threat" has disappeared from government propaganda since the downfall of long-serving President Suharto in 1998, prosecutors are still keeping a close eye on leftist and sectarian writings they think have the potential to cause conflict.

According to a document from the Attorney General's Office, at least five such books are currently being examined and could be banned for reasons of security and stability.

The five, all written in Bahasa Indonesia, include two left-wing books, titled "The September 30 Mass Killing and Coup by Suharto" and "Lekra Doesn't Burn Books."

Three religious books are also being examined: "The Church Voice for the Suffering People: No More Blood and Tears in West Papua," "Six Ways to God" and "Uncover the Mystery of Religious Diversity."

Jasman Panjaitan, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, refused to provide any specific reasons why those books were being targeted.

"The question is too difficult to answer today," he said when contacted for comment. "Banning publications requires interagency work, it's not just the AGO."

The police can propose a ban on writings if they are considered harmful to public order, but the decision can only be made following a joint meeting involving prosecutors, police and the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.

During his 32-year grip on power, Suharto, who died in January last year, banned the publication and distribution of any left-wing books, based on a 1966 decree by the People's Consultative Assembly.

The decree states that the spread of all communist, Marxist and Leninist teachings, in all forms, is strictly banned in the country.

Suharto took the presidency in 1966 after a failed coup attempt blamed on the Indonesia Communist Party (PKI).

According to an AGO regulation issued in 1998, prosecutors may ban books that could "erode the government's authority or cause public disorder."

Despite the presence of this regulation, sectarian and extremist books continue to make their way into stores and enjoy healthy sales.

These have included a book written by Imam Samudra, who was executed last year for his leading role in the 2002 Bali bombings.

Samudra's book, "Me Against Terrorists," appeared in several bookstores in 2005 and quickly sold out.