After ’98: Censorship, Compromises, and Resistance

(This article was published in Inside Indonesia issue 123: Jan-Mar 2016.)


October 2015 was a busy and controversial month for Indonesian literature dealing with the history of the 1965–66 mass killings in Indonesia. First, there was the Frankfurt Book Fair where Indonesia was the focus country then, two weeks after that, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) was held in Bali. In Frankfurt, the Indonesian delegation, sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Culture, held discussions with writers who have written about the mass killings; in Ubud, UWRF planned to feature events on the same topic but cancelled them after receiving warnings from the local police.

Two sessions unrelated to 1965 were also cancelled at UWRF: a panel called ‘For Bali’ about large-scale water and mangrove reclamation plans, big businesses, and the environmental movement, Bali Tolak Reklamasi (Bali Says No to Reclamation); and the launch of my novel From Now On Everything Will Be Different. The novel tells the story of two young people coming of age in the beginning of reformasi in 1998 and searching for the freedom to be who they are.

When the organisers informed me of the cancellation, I thought there had been a mistake or the police warnings had been extended to issues related to the 1998 student protests, anti-Chinese riots and rapes, which I talked about in my novel. I asked for an explanation from the festival organisers, who told me they had unsuccessfully argued that my novel was a work of fiction and should remain in the program.


(Please read the full article here.)



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