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May 2007

Further to my earlier mention of the wonderfully-named Forum to Safeguard Pancasila and the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesian against the Threat of Neo-Communism, I've had a chance to look at a couple of the publications of the leading historian in the group, Dr Aminuddin Kasdi. He did his PhD at Gadjah Mada University, later published as a book on land-reform in East Java called Kaum Merah Menjarah, The Reds' Looting, no guesses what his position might be. Together with G. Ambar Wulan, listed as a PhD candidate at the University of Indonesia (and author of books published with military sponsorship, one of which is called The Latent Danger of Communism in Indonesia), Kasdi published G.30.S PKI/1965 Bedah Ceasar Dewan Revolusi Indonesia, The 30th September Communist Party Movement/1965, The Indonesian Revolutionary Council's Caesarian (and yes, Caesar is consistently misspelt as Ceasar throughout the book, not just on the cover). I'm not sure where the metaphor of this book is going, but it is a rehash of the New Order's account of the 1965 Coup.

1 comments |

Dear friends of Javanese culture,

the plan for the Panji Festival in East Java is still alive. Recently I had contact with Pak Suryo Prawiroatmojo who confirmed it.

It is planned for the days from Tuesday 4th of September until incl. Sunday 9th of September 2007.

The venue is not clear yet. There are different options in and around Malang.

To go on with the planning and organizing, please let me know by the 30th of June if you want to
(a) - attend and present something, or
(b) - only attend.

In case (a) please tell the title and kind of presentation (lecture, performance).

Thank you for your cooperation. Looking forward to the event!

Kind regards,
Lydia Kieven

Please reply through the 'comments' and I will pass the information onto Lydia

I was excited to receive the new book by Michael Hitchcock and I Nyoman Darma Putra, Tourism, Development and Terrorism in Bali (Ashgate 200&). This is more than a great overview of Bali in the last two decades, it includes some really good new material on internal conflicts and the tension between Balinese self-perceptions and the way Bali is viewed within Indonesia. Although there is some unevenness in the chapters—probably the product of having two writers working at a distance—overall it provides a comprehensive account of the perils of Bali's development processes. Most importantly, we are finally seeing more works come out with Balinese authors or co-authors, reversing the earlier trend of us Westerners speaking on behalf of Balinese.

For a long time it has seemed like academics are the only ones drawing attention to the decline of Indonesian studies in Australia, and after a certain point governments tune out because this seems too self-serving. So it is a relief to see that the media are finally turning their attention to the issue. There have been a number of articles in all the newspapers about the state of language studies, and on the study of Asian languages (including a very good piece in the Australian Financial Review a couple of weeks ago), and I was particularly heartened by broadcaster Mike Carlton's pieces in recent columns in the Sydney Morning Herald, especially last Saturday's (12-13 May 2007) where he talked about visiting the ACICIS (Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies) students in Yogyakarta, and finding them all to be enjoying themselves. No horror stories of terrorists or other dangers, but rather a pleasant picture of the normality of life of Java. I await Carlton's documentary on Australian-Indonesian relations with great interest.

In the article he also draws attention to opposition leader Kevin Rudd's promise to restore the National Asian Languages Program, cut by the Howard Government. Apparently Rudd was the original architect of this program. Its restoration will be a great boost, but given the decline in students at University studying subjects such as Indonesian, where will the teachers come from? Let's hope that a restored Program is not done on the cheap, with untrained teachers being thrust into situations for which they are not prepared.

One of the projects I've been involved with over the last 15 years is the research and documentation of gambuh, the dance-drama form in which Panji narratives (and other stories) are depicted in Bali. A nice write-up with photos can be found at


Tuttle (Periplus/ Java Books) has recently published Father Norbert Shadeg's Balinese-English Dictionary. The dictionary has some quirks (notably the use of initial 'h-' for words, a product of Balinese spelling systems rather than of the way Balinese is spoken), but it is a valuable addition to the field, and the first really comprehensive Balinese-English dictionary (since Kersten's dictionary was narrower in its selection of words).

Also involved in the editing process was Professor Sutjaja, whose only contemporary dictionary is due for publication with the same publisher. The scholarly community owes Eric Oey of Periplus/Tuttle a great debt for publishing the Shadeg dictionary, following the publication of Stuart Robson's Javanese dictionary a few years ago. Few commercial publishers would be prepared to make such a contribution.

The Jakarta Post today shows that the book bannings issue continues. At the same time as a new anti-communist front has been formed in Tuban (the Friendship Forum to Safeguard Pancasila and the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia Against the Threat of Neo-Communism!), comes the following piece of silliness. The idea of banning illustrations of the Holocaust is particularly sinister:

Books on 'communism' seized

National News - Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

The East Nusa Tenggara Prosecutor's Office on Monday confiscated hundreds of elementary and high school textbooks from bookstores in Kupang, as their contents were believed to have deviated from historical material on communist teachings.

There is concern that the books have been used as a guide for school history lessons.

Carlos de Fatima, acting intelligence assistant to the East Nusa Tenggara Prosecutors' Office, said the confiscation was executed under orders from the Attorney General's Office.

"Certain contents in the books are not in line with historical facts and others are in direct contradiction with (state ideology) Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution," Carlos said.

He explained that sections of the books cover the teachings of Karl Marx as well as the teachings of Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and others.

"The books contain teachings which are not in line with Pancasila. Moreover, communism/Marxism-Leninism is linked to the G30S/PKI coup attempt," he said.

G30S/PKI refers to a failed coup attempt on Sept. 30, 1965, blamed on the now-banned Indonesian Communist Party.

Hundreds of the books confiscated by the prosecutor's office bore photos of former Soviet Union president Michael Gorbachev. Others contained articles or photos of the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany.

"We are concerned that the books will psychologically affect the students," Carlos said.

"The confiscated books will be burned, while those already in public circulation will be withdrawn," he said, urging the public to voluntarily hand over the banned books.