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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Indonesian Govt bans, confiscates book on Papuan political struggle by Angela Maria Flassy

State prosecutors seized Friday 60 copies of a book they say could
divide Papua politically, while critics have accused them of robbing
local people of their freedom of expression. The 244-page book, titled
Tenggelamnya Rumpun Melanesia, Pertarungan Politik di Papua Barat (The
Sinking of the Melanesian Race: The Political Struggle in West Papua)
was written by a local academic, Sendius Wonda. "The book is
misleading, it could spark unrest and divide the Papuan community,"
said Rudi Hartono, the intelligence chief at the provincial
prosecutors' office. The 60 copies of the book printed by local
publishing house Deiyai were confiscated from a Gramedia bookstore in
Jayapura. "We will continue raiding bookstores in other places for the
book," Rudi added. Rudi said the management of Deiyai would be
summoned to the prosecutors' office for questioning on Saturday.

The prosecutors said their legal basis for banning the book was a 2007
attorney general's circular about banning printed materials that could
"mislead the public" and "disturb public order". They said they would
start looking for other copies of the book in towns throughout Papua
next week, but stopped short of demanding people surrender their
copies to the authorities. Muridan S. Widodo, researcher with the
Center for the Indonesian Political Institute of Sciences, described
the sweep as a "threat to the freedom of expression".

"The book reflects the typical thoughts of Papuan activists about the
'culture of terror' in the territory," Muridan said. He added that the
author bemoaned the Papuan's loss of their long-standing struggle for
economic and political leverage. Papua, formerly called Irian Barat,
or West Irian, has been in the international spotlight due to a
simmering secession movement triggered by widely perceived injustices.
The military has been waging a low-level armed uprising. Muridan said
that instead of banning the book, the government should have countered
the intellectual work with a book of its own. "Then invite those who
support Sendius Wonda's ideas to an open debate. This would have been
better," he said. He said the government should nurture the budding
intellectual tradition in Papua rather than try to suppress it.

The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

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