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Riot book banned

Associated Press - February 13, 1997

Jakarta – The Indonesian military has banned a book by two dissident groups about the July 27 riot in Jakarta that killed five people, the official news agency Antara said Thursday.

"The July 27 Incident," released in January, accused President Suharto's government of fueling a power struggle within an opposition party that led to the violence.

The riot erupted after security forces broke up a sit-in by demonstrators opposed to efforts to remove pro-democracy leader Megawati Sukarnoputri as leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party.

"The book is banned because it was published by institutions that the government does not recognize," Maj. Gen. Subagyo, military commander of Central Java, was quoted as saying Wednesday.

The book was released by the Agency for the Study of Information Flow and the Alliance of Independent Journalists, made up of former reporters for magazines and newspapers that were closed for criticizing the government.

Both groups are banned. Some copies of the book had been distributed, but it wasn't clear how many.

"If the institutions are banned, so are their products," Subagyo said.

Megawati, daughter of the late President Sukarno, was leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party, one of two small, powerless parties permitted in addition to the ruling Golkar party.

Indonesians are sensitive about threats to the autonomy of the non-government parties because they provide the only outlet for dissent in a tightly restricted political arena.

Megawati was voted out as party leader at a meeting organized by the military last June.

The banned book said Suharto's government supported her rival as party chief, which many Indonesians would regard as illegitimate interference in the party's affairs.

Opposition figures say the military wanted to block Megawati's political rise because her growing popularity threatened Suharto, a former army general who took power from her father in 1966.

[According to a February 12 article in Suara Merdeka, the 257 page book was being sold in Gramedia Bookshops for 15,000 Rupiah. Its popularity was such that within a few days (before it was banned) the book was already out of stock. The paper quoted a spokesperson from the intelligence body Bakorstanas as saying "if something is forbidden, there is no need to wait for a request and reminder from the Court or the related authorities to withdraw the publication. As good citizens, it is hoped that people will avoid buying it, furthermore it they own it, hand it over to the related authorities". This quote makes it clear that the it was a military initiative to ban the book and it has yet to go through the Supreme Court as required under Indonesian law - JB]