Great Novelist joins PRD - Speech by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Great Novelist joins PRD

Speech by Pramoedya Ananta Toer1

on the occasion of his swearing in as a member of the
Peoples Democratic Party (PRD)

Salam Demokrasi! 

At this moment, in the midst of this spirited and enthusiastic Young Generation2, I truly feel happy. This is the most important event in my life, what I have dreamed of since I was young: to witness for myself the birth of a Young Generation not burdened by bombasticism, and which is rational, corrective, critical, and all of this bound by firmness of commitment. There are PRD members lost in who knows what jungle, those kidnapped, and those whose jungle we know, those in gaol. They are all victims of the staged trials that are the fashion today. Now I am in the midst of the PRD, among whom are some who escaped from kidnapping. In fact I was one of the first victims of kidnapping, in 19593, although then it was not news.
     I assess the Young Generation, I mean the PRD, as being of higher quality than the generations that have gone before. Lets go straight to the core: since you were children you have been educated with the political lies of the New Order4, painting the New Order as angels and depicting all those layers of society who refuse to defend it as devils. From primary school to university. And you all have seen through those lies.
     You are of the Left, that is you side with people, the lower levels of society. Exactly, because for so long the people have just been the playthings of the elite, except during the Old Order5, because in that period there were political forces that stood beside the people. The fall of the Old Order meant that the people and the country became loot for multinational capitalism working together with the national elite as their guard dogs.
     Let us make a comparison with the Young Generation of the years before 1920.
     They, university students who received scholarships from the colonial government in the Netherlands as well as the exiles of the Indische Party, discovered a homeland and nation and they called it Indonesia. This was a glorious and great discovery. Its a pity, but the flaws of this discovery were as great as its glory. There was no socio-political concept and it was imbued with antipathy to history. For example, the name Indonesia means Indian islands. The name itself was invented by an Englishman and then popularised by the German ethnologist, Adolf Bastian (1826-1905). The name “India” for Indonesia originates from the Western nation’s hunt for spices in the Moluccas starting in the early 15th century, a hunt that led to the whole of the non-Western world being dominated by the West. These spices came from what is known today as Indonesia, but always traded as “made in India”. While under Portuguese domination, it was known as Portuguese India.
     Under Dutch colonialism it was called Dutch India. And to disguise this association with India from the native people, this name was written Hindia. The politics of manipulating words.
     Some people speculate that the young generation of that period adopted this ethnologists name to avoid the domination of Java. History had given birth to two names for what is Indonesia now, namely “Nusantara” during the period of the kingdom of Majapahit6, which means “islands in between (two continents), and even older is “Dipantara” from the time of the Singasari kingdom, which means “fortress between (two continents)’. This older name is pregnant with political meaning because the King of Singasari, Kertanegara, built military alliances with other Southeast Asian coastal kingdoms against the expansion of Kublai Khan from the north. And even till today, there are still no voices, not a single voice, calling for correction of all this.
     If we make a comparison with the Young Generation with their Youth Pledge7, also a genuinely glorious event, the PRD exhibits more ideas with greater depth. We can understand this when we remember than in the 20s only 3.5% of the population could read and write. The increase in the number of literate people began only with national independence. Taking into account this statistic we can understand the deficiencies of the Young Generation of this period.
     The 45 Generation8 was also glorious. With no self-interest, without reserve, they devoted all their body and soul, ready to die, in order to defend national independence on every inch of the homeland. Because the main problem they faced were the armed attacks of the colonialists, most of their activities were made up of shooting, the rifle ruled. They did not yet get to developing socio-political and economic concepts, like you are developing now, such as peoples democracy, popular democracy. And you must never forget that no matter how glorious was the 45 revolution that succeeded in seizing and defending national independence, it was begun by the gangsters of the Senen Markets in Jakarta.
     The 66 Generation9? Wow! there is nothing more to evaluate on them. And then came the Malari Generation10 who wanted reform under the slogan “military back to the barracks”, in line with the reform outlook of General Sumitro11. Both of them, [the students and General Sumitro], were defeated by the New Order, with tactics which are becoming classic features of our history.
     This is why I am proud to be among you all today, you who have prepared your ideas, have started to put them into practice in the field, and smiles maturely ready to accept the consequences, never mind how bitter. There is no cry more appropriate for all this than: Long live the PRD!
     I am convinced that you are prepared than those who have gone before you and will succeed more than those who have gone before you. I know that you will not denigrate the value of t he Indonesian human being through the use of massacre, and the theft of their fundamental rights. Because as was taught by Multatuli12: the duty of all humans is to become human.
     I believe that tomorrow or the next day, you will not speak in the name of the nation in defence of your own interests, or of your group’s interests or for the sake of power. It is only ever valid to speak in the name of the nation if there is democracy. Its almost like people have been struck with senility so that they can’t remember that the nation comprises three elements: its inhabitants or citizens, the homeland itself or the inhabited territory and the government. To speak on behalf of the nation requires the representation of all three elements. To denigrate any one element is corruption. And corruption in thinking inevitably spreads into actions.
     I say all this not in order to praise you who have not yet had the chance to succeed, but only to locate you in these comparisons. You have what it takes to succeed better in lifting up our homeland and nation to the level of which we all dream.
     In our modern history, the Young Generation, has always been – except the 66 Generation – the motor driving things forward. Even though, yes, even though with all its flaws and limitations. And the limitation which sticks out most of all: the lack or absence of courage for correction.
     Courage! Again: courage! For the youth in particular courage is the greatest of all capital. Without courage, as I have often said, you will be treated like cattle: deceived, herded from here to there and back again or even herded ready for massacre. It is only courage that can make a firm character.
     Before ending I would like to appeal to everybody here today at this meeting, here inside or outside this room, wherever you are, to donate money to the PRD for routine as well as non-routine expenses.
    Once again: Long live the PRD!
Jakarta, March 21, 1999

1.    Pramoedya Ananta Toer is Indonesia’s greatest novelist and author of several works of revolutionary historical literature. He was a guerrilla fighter against the Dutch in 1945, eventually being captured. In the late 1950s, he became a prominent literary figure and polemicist in the broad
    Indonesian anti-imperialist movement. He was kidnapped and imprisoned by the military in 1959 for his defence of the Indonesian Chinese community. In 1965, he was again arrested during Suharto’s purges and massacres of the Indonesian left. He was beaten, kept in prison in Jakarta until 1969 and then shifted to the infamous Buru Island prison camp until 1979. He was released in 1979 but placed under city arrest. Despite bannings and harassment, he has continued to publish novels that he wrote in prison. He has been a consistent critic and opponent of the Suharto regime.
2.     “Young Generation” is a term that emerged in the early 20th century to refer to youth activists against colonialism and which later became fixed in Indonesian political vocabulary to refer to each generation or wave of activists
3.     Pramoedya was kidnapped on orders of the Army high command as a result of his writings defending the Indonesian Chinese community. He spent a year in gaol without trial.
4.     The “New Order” refers to the period of the rule of General Suharto, which began in October, 1965.
5.     The “Old Order” refers to the period 1959-65, especially the years 1962-65, when the Indonesian Communist Party and the Sukarnoist Left wing increased in size and political influence. During this period, Sukarno was President.
6.     The kingdoms of Majapahit and Singosari were major maritime powers in the region during the Hindu-Budhist period.
7.     The “Youth Pledge” was a pledge or oath that came out of a congress of anti-colonial youth activists in 1928. It  was the first time that a substantial body of anti-colonial activists committed themselves to an independent united nation with the bahasa Indonesia as the national language.

8.     The 45 Generation was the generation of youth activists that fought the Dutch colonialists between 1945-1949. Pramoedya himself was a guerrilla fighter against the Dutch. He was eventually captured and imprisoned by the Dutch.
9.     The 66 Generation refers to the student activists who sided with the military in 1965-7 during the purges and massacres of leftists during this period. More than one million people were killed and tens of thousands were imprisoned, including Pramoedya himself.
10. The MALARI generation refers to the student leaders who campaigned against corruption and military abuse during 1973-74. The movement was crushed in January, 1974 with more than 200 students arrested.
11.     General Sumitro was the most powerful figure in the Indonesian regime after Suharto in 1973. He flirted with limited political liberalisation as well as with the student opposition and also liberalised conditions in the prison camps. He was forced to resign after the 1978 student protests were crushed.
12.     Multatuli was a lower Dutch official in the early colonial administration who exposed the corruption and abused of colonialism in a famous Dutch novel and was himself punished as a result.
Subowo bin Sukaris
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