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Play 'Marsinah Menggugat' banned again

Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information (ISAI), Jakarta - December 9, 1997

Despite protests at the previous banning of "Marsinah Menggugat" (Marsinah Accuses) on 26 November 1997, the performance scheduled for 6 December at the Centre Culturel Francais (CCF) in Bandung was once again banned by authorities. The ban was reportedly carried out by the West Java police, the Bandung police and the Central Bandung police. More than a hundred police were deployed with a number of large trucks, as well as one tank. They blocked the road towards Purnawarman road, closed the gate to the CCF and would not allow anyone to enter the building. Police also took down banners that had been placed by the organising committee for the performance at the CCF.

The police, who reportedly carried out the action without appropriate documentation, accused the organisers of not having obtained appropriate permission for the performances. According to current regulations as passed by the government, such as Juklap/02/XII/1995 which was authorised by the Indonesian Chief of Police on 29 December 1995, Section C, article 1 paragraph f states that, "Cultural performances in the form of music, dance, drama, poetry reading, opera, pantomime, regional performances and other similar genres, are regarded as public meetings which do not require permission or notification."

The director of the CCF, Jean-Michel Phelline, who is also the French Consul in Bandung, demanded that the police withdraw the ban, open the gates to the CCF building and allow the prospective audience to enter so that the performance could go ahead. Phelline also reminded the police on several occasions that, since the CCF building is also the French Consulate, their actions were considered to be in violation of diplomatic norms. He informed them that the French Ambassador would make a formal protest about the incident to the Indonesian Foreign Office.


"Marsinah Menggugat", by Ratna Sarumpaet, deals with the unresolved murder of Indonesian labour activist Marsinah. The planned 26 November performance was stopped by police only three hours before the performance was due to begin at the Cak Durasim Building in Surabaya. The play had previously been performed without problem in several different cities.

[Marsinah was a women activist who led a strike at the PT Catur Putra Surya watch factory in Surabaya, East Java. On May 8, 1993, three days after the strike, her body was found in a remote hut. The medical examination found that she had died as a result of injuries inflicted during torture. Although there was considerable circumstantial evidence that she had been kidnapped and killed by the military, in 1994 nine managerial personel and security guards from the factory were tried and convicted of the murder. All of the defendants claimed that they had been tortured in order to extract confessions. On May 5, 1995, all nine were released - James Balowski.]