Bangun Santoso – The seizure of books allegedly containing communist ideas belonging to the Vespa Literacy community by the Kraksaan sectoral police and Probolinggo regency TNI (Indonesian Military) on July 27 was an abuse of power and violated the law.
This is because the seizure of books alleged to violate the law must be done through a court order as stipulated by Constitutional Court Decision Number 20/PUU-VIII/2010.
Meaning the seizure of books without a court order is an extrajudicial act which prohibited under a constitutional state.
In addition to this, the involvement of the TNI in the book seizures is an abuse of power because based on Law Number 34/2004 on the TNI the military are not allowed to be involved in civilian law enforcement.
Aside from this, the arbitrary seizure of literary products restricts freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 28E of the 1945 Constitution which states that freedom of expression embodied in academic products must be protected and guaranteed.
The Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) has slammed the book seizures saying that it was an arbitrary action on the part of the Kraksaan sectoral police and the Probolinggo TNI.
The group is calling on the Kraksaan sectoral police to immediately return the books to the Vespa Literacy, for the East Java Police Chief to severely reprimand and punish the officers concerned and for the TNI to stop interfering in civilian law enforcement.
As reported earlier, two students in Probolinggo, East Java, were arrested by police for having biographical books by former Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) leader Dipa Nusantara Aidit.
The two students – Vespa Literacy activists Muntasir Billah (24) and Saiful Anwar (25) – were arrested on the evening of Saturday July 27 when they were holding a free book reading stall at the Kraksaan Square.
Sectoral police Chief Police Commander Joko Yuwono has confirmed the arrests saying the two students were arrested after they received a report.
"Based on their testimonies, the two students routinely hold book stall activities in the vicinity of the Kraksaan Square every Saturday evening and at another location in front of the Kraksaan Inzah campus offices, every Saturday afternoon", said Yuwono as quoted by the Indonesia Times on Sunday July 28.
Aside from arresting the two students, Yuwono revealed that the seized books were titled "The Two Faces of Dipa Nusantara" (Dua Wajah Dipa Nusantara), "Embarking on the People's Road" (Menempuh Djalan Rakjat), "DN Aidit a Short Biography" (DN Aidit Sebuah Biografi Ringkas) and "Sukarno, Marxism & Leninism" (Sukarno, Marxisme & Leninisme) by renowned Indonesian historian Peter Kasenda.
The books were deemed to be about the PKI which has been banned in Indonesia and it was on these grounds that the books were confiscated. Yuwono added that they are still questioning the two students and are looking into where they obtained the books.
[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "LBH Surabaya Kecam Aksi Penyitaan Buku Aidit Oleh Polisi dan TNI".]