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Opening Speech by Founder/Director

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen

Good evening

Welcome to the third ASEAN Literary Festival 2016. We thank you for attending this opening ceremony where we will be presenting Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Jose Ramos Horta as our keynote speaker. This festival is about the celebration of literature and intellectual discourse made possible only by the belief in freedom of expression, the most fundamental building block of a democratic society. Without freedom of expression which is guaranteed by our legal system, democracy will perish. 

Yesterday the police ordered us to drop discussions of LGBT and 1965 massacres, and then  withdrew the permit which they had previously   given us. They ordered the venue officials to lock all the  rooms forcing us to relocate some workshops on the opening day. Why? Because they got a few phone calls from some groups threatening to stage protests against the festival. But we won't drop any of our sessions just because  some uninformed people want them removed. We won't back down. We won't compromise the very principles of democracy we believe in because once we compromise, we sacrifice the true meaning of the festival.

We strongly believe that issues such as the 1965 massacre and LGBT self expression must be openly discussed. Performance and discussions relating to the 1965 massacre in the festival have nothing to do with communism. The experimentation of communism has failed almost every where in the world, including in Indonesia. We have neither relationships nor provide benefits to support or spread this dying ideology.  What we care about is for the nation to acknowledge the massacre and provide justice for the victims. That is the reason why we hold such discussions.

On LGBT, we believe that we should  engage in open discussions so that more people can become familiar with the issues for the LGBT community. If it is swept under the carpet then we will be left with stigmatization, misconception and misunderstanding. The discussions are not meant to encourage homosexiality but assert the argument that those who are members of the LGBT community  need protection provided by the state simply because they are human beings and citizens, the same as any others.

What this festival has exposed is the threat against freedom of expression in Indonesia and the region. A series of shut downs and bans against discussions and book launches illustrate that we can't take freedom for granted. We must fight for it. 

The Asean Literary Festival is an ideal medium for critical intellectual discourse including literary review. We will continue to question and find solutions to pressing humanitarian issues within our region.  We will always stand against any  form of censorship or ban that threatens our democratic freedom.

Thank you and have a great festival.

Posted : 2016-05-16
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