Sat, 08 Oct 1994

Govt launches month of language and literature

JAKARTA (JP): Prominent man of letters and former student activist during the late 1960's Taufiq Ismail yesterday received the 1994 South East Asia Write Award and the annual Literature Award from the Center for Language Training and Development for the poems compiled in his book Tirani dan Benteng (Tyranny and Barricade, 1993).

The awards were presented by Minister of Education and Culture Wardiman Djojonegoro yesterday at the opening ceremony of the "1994 Month of Language and Literature" which was held at the Center for Language Training and Development in Rawamangun, East Jakarta.

Other men of letters who received the first and second runner- up prizes for the literature award were Kuntowijoyo, for Dilarang Mencintai Bunga-bunga (Forbidden to Love Flowers, 1994) and N. Riantiarno for Konglomerat Burisrawa (The Burisrawa Conglomerate, 1990). Representatives of both men received the awards on their behalf.

Wardiman and his wife Atie were welcomed upon their arrival by a group of young singers dressed in Moslem attire from the SMA 110 senior high school.

During the ceremony, controversial poet Emha Ainun Nadjib presented several poems from his published collection.

Although in the beginning he said he would read religious poems which would be "devoid of politics and criticism," he nonetheless touched on sensitive issues from time to time.

Long known as a "rebel" of the government's mainstream maneuvers, Emha has found himself in trouble several times for reading poems which were often considered to be critical of the government and its instruments.

In February he failed to obtain permission from Surabaya officials to read a number of his more controversial poems. In June, at Semarang's Diponegoro University, he was allowed to perform only after the provincial governor softened his stance on the ban.

His most recent performances in public were in August at Jakarta's Taman Ismail Marzuki and last week, when he was surprisingly invited to read his poems by Chief of the Diponegoro Military Command Maj. Gen. Soeyono.

"I specifically asked the military to guarantee my safety and insisted that we should try to accept each other despite our differences," he told reporters.


Soeyono, Emha said, also asserted that his staff would "learn to keep their ears from burning." "He also told his staff to appreciate literature which in fact reflected the reality of the country," Emha added.

Hasan Alwi, Head of the Center for Language Training and Development said the "Month of Language" has been held each year since 1980. In 1989, the activities were expanded to include compiling literature as well.

The activities for this year will include seminars for junior and senior high school teachers of Bahasa Indonesia, competitions, language simulations, writing competitions for teachers and students,Bahasa Indonesia courses and student discussions.

The Indonesian archipelago consists of some 400 ethnic languages and dialects and Bahasa Indonesia, the official language which is used throughout the country, is mastered by 83 percent of the population.

The remaining 17 percent are officially considered "Bahasa Indonesia illiterate."

Hasan explained that the Center aside from promoting the Indonesian language also is responsible for promoting and preserving the local dialects.

He said most of the Center's activities are currently carried out on a cooperative basis with the local governments of 14 provinces of the country.(pwn)