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ALF proceeds with controversial events despite protests

The ASEAN Literary Festival ( ALF ) 2016 entered its second day on Friday without major disruption, despite earlier protest from Muslim groups over controversial event programming that included discussions on homosexuality and the 1965 tragedy.

Police officers were sent to guard the festival location, the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center in Central Jakarta, in anticipation of a possible security breach after the festival organizer received complaints over fringe events discussing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) issues and Indonesia’s 1965 tragedy, an aborted coup blamed on the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party ( PKI ).

The festival hosted various programs, including “Ingat 65” — a showcase of how young people have used digital storytelling to remember the tragedy that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the country, mostly alleged PKI supporters.

The program featured young journalists and writers, including Puri Lestari, whose grandfather, Gen. Sutoyo Siswomiharjo was killed during the initial Sept. 30 attack in 1965.

Puri’s father, Lt. Gen ( ret ) Agus Widjojo, also attended the “Ingat 65” discussion. Agus was an initiator of the first-ever government-sanctioned national symposium regarding the 1965 tragedy, held two weeks ago. 

A high level of audience enthusiasm was also shown for a panel discussion on Indonesia’s literacy rate and the quality of Indonesian literature.

Titled “Nation Which Doesn’t Read”, panel members discussed the impact of the nation’s limited reading habit, said to be reflected in the lack of critical thinking and analytical argument within society. Panel members for the event for John H. McGlynn of Lontar Foundation, The Jakarta Post chief editor Endy M. Bayuni, Finnish Ambassador Päivi Hiltunen-Toivio and Shin Young-duk of The Association of Korean Studies Education in Indonesia at the Bandung-based Indonesia Education University.

McGlynn pointed out that streets were named after heroes and military officers but none had been named after the nation’s authors, arguing that it was a way to familiarize the people with the nation’s literary works. “It’s something the government should consider,” he said.

Endy said that although the literacy rate stood at 93 percent, there was still room for improvement.

“What’s left is to have more people not only to read, but also to write. There are many things in Indonesia to write about”.

Ramos Horta, Nobel Prize winner and former president of Timor Leste, opened the festival on Thursday evening. “I do not want to call this a public lecture,” Horta said to the audience. “This is a conversation. So, if you have some questions or want to challenge what I say, please do”. 

The program schedule on Saturday includes a discussion titled “On LGBT, Sexuality and Freedom of Expression” that promises to look at the ways ASEAN youth view and deal with LGBT and sexuality issues. 

ALF Program Director Okky Madasari said the festival chose to feature young writers from all over ASEAN so as to provide an alternative voice from the literature world regarding current topics, including LGBT.

Jakarta Police spokesperson, Sr. Comr. Awi Setiyono told the Post on Friday that police had granted a permit to the festival organizers for the four-day event, from May 5 to 8.

“The Jakarta Police intelligence and security head, Sr. Comr. Merdisyam issued the permit last week to the organizers for the four-day event,” Awi told the Post over phone on Friday.( rez )



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