See the performances of plays in my country called Bloodbath in Jember Attack the Country of the White Ghost in Solo Klaten, Semarang, Surabaya and Medan The Terrorising of the Neighbourhood Security Post in Bandung Woyla. Ah, remember in the past the performance of the folk drama that was called Jihad Command. Remember Malari. Remember the hundreds of plays performed whose scripts we did not known and our naked eyes so easily fooled and hoodwinked. Ah, complete dramas not played on a stage but rather played out over the heads of the sea of onlookers. Blood flowing, flowers of death. The foul stench of the saliva of the cunning directors who hide in the hearts of the people. Dramas of a civilisation that plays with lives toys with humanity tells dirty jokes to God. We are very simple people and do not know our Minds are steered bit through the nose and doused in perfume Backsides prodded and we bellow meaninglessly We who are too simple and forgiving chattering amongst ourselves like small children running around with crackers then falling sound asleep after being fed sponge cake and chewing gum. Ah, who owns this land. Who owns the forests being cut down. Tin ore and timber that are officially smuggled Who owns the mines decisions about the future Who owns nature’s wealth now being wasted completely Who owns the changes in the interests of official decisions We ourselves here who owns us. Have we ever owned even a small amount more than just being owned, and owned. Have we ever determined even a small amount more than just being determined, and determined.
Dar farewells me with a firm grip. Then he turns and walks away saying he wants to go home to Jakarta and return to editing a famous periodical. But a moment later, he looks back, before approaching me once more.
“One more time. Are you still sure that what I did was my fate?” Dar asks with a solemn face.
I smile and shake my head. He has asked me the question many times, every time we meet. I just answered the question two minutes ago.
“You mean what you did when you shot seven people dead at the same time? How many times do I have to answer? The event happened fifty-four years ago. Whatever happens is called fate,” I answer, also serious.
“So you’re still sure?”
Dar looks at me but his face is still worried. Then he turns his large tall frame. Unfortunately, he walks away with steps that are not nearly as bold as the figure he cuts. I think Dar is overweight. And like me, he too is greying. What’s certain is that fifty-four years ago Dar and I were both in the final year of secondary school.
Today we’re taking our leave in the yard of a small food shop. Dar ordered rawon beef and rice soup, the oil floating on coconut-cream sauce glistening with fat.
The volleyball is fed in and Dar smashes it with a movement at least two seconds faster than the team on the other side of the net are expecting. The ball fires unobstructed into the other team’s court. A roar explodes, especially from the female students watching. Virtually all the girls in our school always go for Dar on the volleyball court, and maybe off it too. Dar again becomes the center of attention as he prepares to serve. But this time, we have to wait as someone calls him off the court. A cry of disappointment goes up from a group of female students. The person calling Dar off is someone we all know well. Along with two of his friends, this person often takes us for marching practice. And he uses tough discipline. He also teaches us how to raise and lower the flag. In fact, this trainer also teaches a special group of students, including Dar who is tall, how to crawl. Not any ordinary crawling, but how to crawl while you’re carrying a rifle, and gripping a commando knife between your teeth. So brave. That’s the way to storm enemy territory. And also how to disassemble and assemble a weapon. This activity makes the smaller, shorter ones among us feel jealous and insignificant compared to Dar.
Still at the side of the volleyball court, the trainer hands Dar a rifle that doesn’t have a magazine. Then with a tough-looking face, the trainer salutes bravely. This helps create an air full of heroism. We grow even more jealous of Dar, and I know the female students are going to admire the tall guy even more. Finally Dar goes back onto the court, now wearing the rifle, even though it doesn’t have a magazine.
From what Dar tells us, we learn that the weapon is an automatic rifle. It is called a Kalashnikov, or AK-47, and it is made in Russia. Gunfire from the weapon sprayed horizontally, says Dar, can bring down a banana tree trunk by making a gash like a machete slash. And one magazine full of bullets fired vertically can split the trunk from top to the bottom, making a cut like a machete slice too. Yes, Dar’s story about the fantastic rifle always manages to make us seem even more insignificant. Although Dar is still a high school child like us, we really believe he has actually done everything he tells us about.
Once the volleyball court is vacated by the hero, it is as if all our enthusiasm has evaporated. All the more so as the female students also move away. I still remember him. And of course Dar receives more, and more exciting, training. Dar relates that the person training us has asked him to enroll in the military academy later. So he will have to do heaps of physical training. Dar just says yes to the trainer to make sure there are no bad feelings. But in fact Dar has told me he really wants to become a painter.
Dar is picked up. And as their journey takes them into the teak forest, he asks the person who met him, “Where are we going?” Dar receives the reply. “A great task lies ahead of you over there. Only a great youth could gain the opportunity to carry out such a great task. Not even me in fact.”
Although he isn’t satisfied with the answer, Dar is actually reluctant to push for an explanation.
The jeep travels slowly, crawling through the shadows cast by the trees. It stops where the narrow road runs along the edge of a steep embankment. There are several unarmed men standing together down there. Below the edge, only a few meters away, a river flows swiftly. As the sun is already low in the west, Dar and the others are frequently struck by the glare of the bright sunlight reflecting from the water’s surface.
The trainer hands Dar a full magazine loaded with bullets. Dar accepts it with a show of boldness. Without hesitation, he skillfully mounts the magazine. From the open end, the bullets are visible. They’re pointed, copper-headed, reddish in color. The size of fingers. Dar tells me that the bullets burst as soon as they hit their target. If they’re targeted at somebody’s back, the wound is a gaping hole as large as the hole in the back of a kuntilanak vampire. That’s what Dar tells all of his high school friends. Fifty-four years ago.
The trainer smiles as he gives Dar the thumbs up. Dar returns the smile. When the trainer snaps a dashing salute to Dar, he responds with the same enthusiasm. Then Dar and the trainer take a few steps descending the embankment. About five meters in front of them, a woven bamboo panel is visible being held upright by stakes at both ends. Along the center of the woven panel is a thick white horizontal line about two meters long.
Dar senses that he is confronting something and a situation which he does not comprehend. “What is all of this?” he asks.
And the man answers flatly, “I am going to test your accuracy. Please fire at the white line until you’re out of bullets. Let’s go, champ!”
Dar’s face warms because he feels that he has been presented with a challenge. He takes a deep breath, moves his left leg forward, and leans to the front slightly. He raises the AK-47. His palms are moist. He consciously assumes a brave firing pose. Right index finger tightens on the trigger. Rat-a, tat, tat, tat, tat. Instantly the thick white line on the woven bamboo panel is erased by the spray of bullets.
There follows a second of perfect quiet. In that moment, Dar almost screams for joy because he feels that he has become a great marksman. But a moment later, complete confusion descends. Words fail him as he notices a blotch of blood seeping through the tear in the woven bamboo there before him. He also hears something collapse. He throws down the AK-47 and runs to see what is behind the wall. Several bodies are slumped over, covered in blood. Two are rolling down toward the river. Then two splashes sound out and the river instantly becomes red. Dar suddenly feels dizzy. He sways, then faints.
Dar and I meet again a few months later at the small food stall, Dar once again about to return to Jakarta. His stomach is fat and I chide him, “You should eat less. If you don’t, you won’t have a long life.”
Dar defends himself. “Actually I’ve suffered from memory loss all my life because I once shot seven people dead. When I eat, I can forget I have memory problems. That’s all. I won’t ever stop liking food. And I’m also going to keep asking you if you’re still sure that what I did then was fate.”
“Yes. It was fate! It’s a deep scar! It’s our curse!” I answer rather loudly. But the words make my flesh crawl and I can’t hold back the tears.
Maybe Dar’s excuse is right, that by eating all the time he can forget the deep emotional injury. But why does he have to eat another rawon beef and rice soup, and then another? Finishing the large bowl of soup, he stands up as if he wants to assume a comfortable position to belch. I stand up too, but not to burp. Instead, I stroke his belly. “You have to take care of your stomach so it doesn’t get any bigger. That’s if you don’t want to die early.”
The fact is it’s just a joke. And Dar and I laugh together. But maybe it’s bad luck or something, because later it turns out that my words are definitely no joke at all. A few days later, I hear the news that Dar has suffered a stroke. Of course I want to go and visit him in Jakarta right away. But before I can leave, more news arrives. Dar has passed away.
Oh Lord, fifty-four years ago, Dar shot seven people dead. And today he passed away. Well, what can I say? There definitely isn’t any need for me to ask for forgiveness for Dar because You are All Knowing.
Ahmad Tohari was born in Banyumas on 13 June 1948. He now lives in the village of Tinggarjaya, Jatilawang, Purwokerto in Central Java province. His most popular work is the novel trilogy Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk [The Ronggeng Dancer of Paruk Hamlet]. His collections of short stories include Karyamin’s Smile (Senyum Karyamin), Nyanyian Malam, dan Mata yang Enak Dipandang. Other works include the novels Kubah (1982), Di Kaki Bakit Cibalak (1977), Bekisar Merah (1993), Lingkar Tanah Lingkar Air (1995), Belantik (2001), and Orang-orang Proyek (2002). The short story They Spelt The Begging Ban (Mereka Mengeja Larangan Mengemis) was published in Kompas daily on 15 September 2019.
The sun rose this morning
Sniffed the smell of baby piss on the horizon,
Looked at the brown river snaking its way to the sea,
And listened to the hum of the bees in the forest.
And now it starts to climb into the sky
And it presides to bear witness, that we are gathered here
To investigate the current situation.
Why are good intentions sometimes no use?
Why can good intentions clash with good intentions?
People say: “We have good intentions.”
And we ask: “Good intentions for who?”
Yes, some are mighty and some are humble.
Some are armed and some are injured.
Some have positions and some are occupied.
Some have plenty and some are emptied.
And we here ask:
“Your good intentions are for who?
You stand on the side of who?”
Why are good intentions put into practice
But more and more farmers lose their land?
Farms in the mountains are bought up by people from the city.
Only benefit just one small group.
Advanced equipment that is imported
Doesn’t suit farmers with tiny pieces of land.
Well we ask:
“So your good intentions are for who?”
Now the sun is rising high in the sky.
And will indeed be enthroned above the palm trees.
And here in the hot air we will also ask:
All of us are educated to stand on the side of who?
Will the knowledge taught here
Be an instrument of liberation,
Or of oppression?
The sun shall soon go down.
Night will arrive,
The geckos chatter on the wall
And the moon sails forth.
But our questions shall not abate.
They shall live in the people’s dreams,
Grow in the fields that recede into the distance.
And on the morrow,
The sun shall rise once more.
Evermore the new day shall incarnate,
Our questions shall become a forest,
Transform into rivers,
And become the waves of an ocean.
Under this hot sun, we ask:
There are those who scream and those who beat,
There are some with nothing and some who scratch for something.
And our good intentions,
Stand on the side of who?
1 December 1977
This poem was presented to students at the University of Indonesia and performed in the film “Yang Muda Yang Bercinta” directed by Syumanjaya.
Poem for a Student Meeting (Sajak Pertemuan Mahasiswa), State of Emergency, W.S. Rendra, Wild & Woolley, Glebe, 1978, p. 38.
Aliansi Badan Eksekutif Mahasiswa (BEM) Seluruh Indonesia yang di dalamnya beranggotakan 150 lebih perguruan tinggi menyatakan penolakan menghadiri undangan terbuka Presiden Jokowi ke Istana Negara …. https://t.co/hAJZV5ax3H
Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia
By Andreas Harsono
(Jakarta) – Political changes in post-Suharto Indonesia have triggered ethnic and religious violence across the country, says a book by Andreas Harsono, a veteran Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, that was published today.
The 280-page book, Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia, was published by Monash University Publishing a week before Indonesia’s general elections on April 17, 2019. Harsono spent five years travelling around Indonesia, from the westernmost island of Sabang to its easternmost city of Merauke in West Papua, from Miangas Island in the north, near the Philippines border, to Ndana Island, near the coast of Australia. Harsono’s journey took him to more than 90 locations, including 41 small towns and 11 remote islands. Many of those locations were the sites of either state or communal violence. (Read more here or here.)
Kompas Daily Op-Ed: The Armed Forces, Capital, and Politics
By Danang Widoyoko, October 11, 2017
KOMPAS – Many observers believe Indonesian National Armed Forces Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo has started campaigning for election. Some believe specifically that Gatot has started mobilizing support from political parties and Islamic organizations. Some think that flaming fears of a revival of the Indonesian Communist Party, and mobilizing the public to watch the film “G30S/PKI”, are part of efforts to build support for boosting his popularity and electability. There have even been many calls for him to resign as commander of the armed forces. Gatot’s maneuvering has been seen by many observers as in reality representing not just his own ambition. Gatot’s action is viewed as representing the disappointment and frustration of the Indonesian Armed Forces and, in particular, the Indonesian Army which has lost both its role and access to material resources. In the context of an understanding of the history of capital formation in Indonesia it is very important to develop a policy for creating a professional armed force and its financial implications.
In his classic study Indonesia: The Rise of Capital (1986), Richard Robison demonstrated how the New Order regime generated domestic capital. He described four major sectors of domestic capital formation: Chinese conglomerates, indigenous conglomerates, state capital and state-owned enterprises (BUMN) and military businesses. With support, facilities, and protection, these four sectors of domestic capital grew large and produced conglomerates in various parts of the economy. However, the 1997 economic crisis and the subsequent topping from power of the New Order meant that domestic capital faced a difficult situation. Reforms by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut all the facilities and protection for domestic capital. Since then, policies of privatization and liberalization opened the door to international capital which has come to compete with domestic capital. In practice, that period represented a difficult time for domestic capital. In their book Reorganizing Power in Indonesia (2004), Robison and Vedi Hadiz described the rise of an oligarchy. Rather than being sidelined, political and economic elites in fact grew stronger in the wake of the reforms. Then, what about the development of domestic capital? According to Christian Chua in his book Chinese Big Business in Indonesia (2009), democracy and decentralization, in fact, facilitated the expansion of the Chinese conglomerates. With the large financial resources they possessed, the role of these conglomerates became important in the political system which has come to be characterized by the practice of money politics. The second sector of capital, indigenous capital, was also able to prosper, not only in the economy but also in politics. In 2007, Forbes magazine crowned Aburizal Bakrie the richest person in Indonesia. Having once led the Golkar Party, Bakrie is possibly presently having difficulty with the burden of debt in his business group. Even so, he continues to rank among Indonesia’s richest people and is an influential figure inside the Golkar Party. Another example is the businessman Jusuf Kalla, current Indonesia’s Vice President. The third sector of capital, state-owned enterprises, is presently rising to dominance again in a variety of sectors of the economy. President Joko Widodo’s focus on infrastructure development has positioned state-owned enterprises as important players. Capital injection and infrastructure development have made the state-owned enterprises increasingly large. Previously, the program of reform of state-owned enterprises that was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) succeeded in restructuring the state-owned enterprises. In semester I 2017, the total assets of state-owned enterprises reached Rp 6,694 trillion (US$498 mil) (Kompas.com 30/8/2017) or almost 50 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Then what about the fourth sector of domestic capital, military businesses? In contrast to the other three areas of domestic capital, military businesses are currently in a slump. Public Law 34/2004 concerning the Indonesian National Armed Forces strongly prohibited the military from operating businesses and instructed the Armed Forces to surrender business entities to the state. To date, it is not clear what progress has been made in the process of surrendering these military businesses. However, I suspect the majority of these businesses either operate at a loss or have been taken over by their business partners. Another factor that has caused the decline in military businesses is the firm separation of the function of defense from that of security. The military has not only withdrawn from business, but also in relation to security which has now become the task of the police. The withdrawal of the Armed Forces from the task of security has closed off access for the military to informal and illegal sources of funds connected to protection and security. Aside from the decline of the military businesses, the military has now also lost access to material resources through political positions. The generation of General Gatot Nurmantyo is the generation that prior to joining the Armed Forces expected that on retiring they would occupy important positions within the bureaucracy, parliament or regional government. In a democratic political landscape, these positions are only obtained through stiff competition among politicians. The military, of course, has had difficulty competing with these politicians who have been developing capabilities and networks developed in fact during their days as university students.
In relation to the maneuver of General Gatot currently under scrutiny, there are two important points for discussion. Firstly, with the withdrawal of the Armed Forces from parliament and the closing of military businesses, the military has generally returned to barracks. However, it is now, in fact, civilian politicians who have been “inviting” the Armed Forces to jump the fence out of the barracks and to back into politics. Secondly, returning to barracks and becoming a professional military requires funds. Without calculating this cost, the invitation from politicians who are inviting General Gatot, and later also other generals, will continue to be repeated. For this reason, the formulation of what kind of professional military is needed, and how much is needed to fund it, is a pressing issue. Making the Armed Forces into a professional military requires a significant amount of money, however, it is very important for the future of politics and democracy in Indonesia.
Banyaknya bos-bos BUMN yang terciduk oleh KPK menimbulkan banyak pertanyaan mengenai bagaimana sistem pengawasan Kementerian BUMN terhadap jajaran direksi. Ini penjelasan Rini: #BUMNhttps://t.co/3HyEjhr0XB
Rumah seorang kontraktor disita oleh bank karena pemerintah tak kunjung melunasi pembayarannya. Nasib kontraktor ini mewakili puluhan ribu pelaku usaha konstruksi lokal yang babak belur di tengah gencarnya pembangunan infrastruktur.https://t.co/K0JksdoHs0
Anggota Komisaris dan Direksi BUMN harus keluar dari Partai Politik untuk menghindari perbenturan kepentingan Partai dengan fungsinya dalam BUMN. Suatu logika yg seyogianya juga berlaku bagi anggota kabinet yg loyalitas kpd Negara harus diatas Partai.