AGO bans book on violence against ethnic Melanesians in West Papua

Koran Tempo – August 9, 2008
Reverend Socrates Sofyan Yoman (tabloid-wani)
Reverend Socrates Sofyan Yoman (tabloid-wani)

Muh Syaifullah, Yogyakarta – The Yogyakarta District Attorney General’s Office has seized 213 books titled The Annihilation of Ethnic Melanesians: Breaking the Silence on the History of Violence in West Papua, published by PT Galang Press. The AGO seized the books because they were deemed to touch upon the issues of SARA (race, religion and tribalism).

“Currently we are holding the books at the chief public prosecutor’s office”, said Asep Syaiful Bahli, the Deputy Assistant for Intelligence and Socio-political Affairs at the Yogyakarta AGO, yesterday.

According to Bahli, the move was a continuation of an earlier seizure when 154 copies of a book titled The Disappearance of the Melanesians were seized last month. Bahli also said that the seizure of the two book titles followed a decision by the AGO to declare the books banned. “We carried out the seizure, following which they were destroyed, in accordance with prevailing legislation”, said Bahli.

The director of PT Galang Press Julius Felicianus said that his company complied with the order issued by the AGO, which was based on the stipulations under Article 1 Paragraph 3 of Law Number 4/PNPS/1963 dated April 23, 1963, on the securing of printed materials whose contents could disturb public order.

“We handed the books over (which according to the AGO were seized) that resulted from our withdrawal from book stores”, said Felicianus after surrendering the books to the Yogyakarta District AGO’s office yesterday.

The book of essays by [Fellowship of Baptist Churches in Papua Chairperson Reverend] Socrates Sofyan Yoman was published in November 2007. Three thousand copies of the 500 page book were printed in all. According to Felicianus, the order banning the books was signed by Attorney General Hendarman Supandji on June 20, 2008. The reason for the banning was that the book allegedly disturbs public order and could give rise to sensitivities, particularly with regard to maintaining national unity.

Felicianus said that he regretted the banning of the book, which he said as an intellectual work, if it contains imprecise information should be re-examined, not banned like this. A re-examination could be carried out by publishing a new book, the contents of which could correct the materials that are deemed to be erroneous. “What’s more, the book was written by a native Papuan, and native Papuan authors are very rare”, said Felicianus.

[Translated by James Balowski.]