Wiji Thukul and the angry generals

Detik.com – May 13, 2013
The Generals are Angry (Detik)
The Generals are Angry (Detik)

Is Mujiarso, Jakarta – Even when he was a political fugitive, Wiji Thukul could still joke. When it was raining, he once wrote in a poem: The rain falls tonight/to protect me/the secret police with such small wages/must be really annoyed...

There is of course a note of bitterness behind these seemly humorous lyrics. Wiji continued: This dark night is for me/this dark night is my blanket/good night my homeland/good night my child and wife/a time will come/for freedom/for all.

This is from one of the poem that has been compiled into a bonus booklet titled The Angry Generals, which has been published in a special edition of Tempo Magazine to commemorate 15 years of reformasi [the reform process that began in 1998] with the cover title, The Puzzle of Wiji Thukul. The compilation includes 49 poems, including poems by Wiji in Javanese.

Most of the poems in the 37-page booklet were written by Wiji while he was on the run, a political fugitive from the New Order government of former President Suharto. Wiji was a poet who threw himself into practical politics through the People’s Cultural Network (JAKER), which was affiliated with the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) that emerged in 1996. His poems articulate the suffering of the ordinary people, and contain slogans of struggle that made the generals in Jakarta at that time tremble with fear.

The title of the booklet was taken from one of Wiji’s poems of the same name. Like many of Wiji’s works, although the poem contains much poignancy it is still written in a relaxed style, wrapped in the routine affairs of daily life in a household of the common people. The following is an excerpt from the poem The Angry Generals:

That morning their anger was broadcast
by the television. But I was asleep. It was my wife
who watched it. My wife was shocked. Because
a lieutenant general implicated
me by name. My blanket
was hastily pulled off. With
eyes still sickly from sleep I asked:
why? Only a few broken words
came from her mouth: “Your name was on

Wiji’s poems were never long-winded in their use of metaphor. Yet one of the poems included in the compilation clearly reveals that he did not need metaphors to expresses his thoughts and what was in his heart. As is apparent from the poem titled, Do we Still Need Imagery?.

When I was a political fugitive
because I joined the People’s Democratic Party
my name was published in the newspapers
my house was searched – my wife terrorised
summoned by the local military interrogated and intimidated
(my child –4 th– saw it all!)
do you still need imagery
to say: I AM NOT FREE.


To read more poems from Wiji Thukul, visit There is only one word – RESIST! Poems by Wiji Thukul, from the Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) booklet The People’s Democratic Party: The struggle for democracy in Indonesia.

[Wiji Thukul dan Para Jenderal yang Marah – Detikhot. Senin, 13/05/2013.Translated by James Balowski.]