It’s 2019, but paranoia about communism — caused by the 1965 coup attempt of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) as well as decades of government propaganda — still runs strong among many Indonesians. The government’s attorney general recently called for a massive raid on bookstores across the country in search of illegal leftist tomes and the country’s defense minister agrees it’s a good idea to reduce the potential of communist “revenge”.
Yesterday, Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo mentioned that authorities in Kediri, East Java, had recently found hundreds books containing communist ideology in some bookstores, and suggested a large scale operation was needed to ensure that such books could no longer be found on store shelves.
Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, an old school general from the New Order era, agreed that such raids had to be done to ensure that the PKI did not somehow now take revenge for their total eradication some 54 years ago.
“If they do nothing, there is no problem. But [these days] they meet here, meet there. We don’t know what they are meeting for. Is that what you want (for the Communists to still have power)? It’s a matter of revenge. The PKI want revenge. (These raids are needed) for us to reduce the risk, if it becomes big it’ll be difficult to stop later. Not to mention radicalism. It’s the same. I understand the danger to this country,” Ryamizard said at the Presidential Palace complex on Thursday as quoted by KBR.
There is no credible evidence that the PKI exists in any shape or form in modern Indonesia. But decades of anti-communist propaganda under Suharto’s New Order regime has allowed conspiracy theories about secret PKI plots to flourish even today and fights have broken out over attempts to declare that the PKI no longer exist and that rumors of their existence are primarily politicized.
Indonesia still maintains strict laws banning the propagation of communism and related ideologies in any form. People have been arrested for everything from wearing t-shirts to selling toys that authorities claim contained banned communist imagery.
This latest crackdown on bookstores was protested by the Institute for Community Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), an NGO that advocates on freedom of expression issues. ELSAM executive director Wahyu Wagiman argued that the book store raids did not follow the rule of law as the way they are carried out is subjectively left up to law enforcement officials who can arbitrarily use them to confiscate private property without due process. The Human Rights Working Group and LBH Pers have also spoken up in protest against the book raids.