Fri, 04 May 2001

Gramedia bookstores remove 'leftist' titles from shelves

JAKARTA (JP): Gramedia, the country's largest bookstore chain, is removing books on communism from its shelves in response to threats from anticommunist groups who threatened to raid the stores and burn the books.

The books to be removed from the stores include titles by renowned author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, political thinker Franz Magnis Suseno and political analyst Hermawan Sulistyo.

The sales supervisor of the Gramedia bookstore in Matraman, East Jakarta, Edi Haryadi, said on Thursday his store was notified last week by Gramedia's central office to temporarily remove "leftist" books due to "security concerns".

However, Edi said there was no detailed order from the central office on which books had to be removed from the shelves.

"There are about 30 titles which have been temporarily removed from our shelves," he said.

The head of the Gramedia bookstore in Lampung, Sujana, said he had not received any official notification from the central office, but his store had also removed some titles as a precaution.

"Anyway, the sale of those types of books are not really that good here compared to lighter books like Chicken Soup for the Soul," he said in a telephone interview.

Gramedia owns 42 bookstores throughout the country, some 16 of them located in Greater Jakarta.

Another major bookstore chain, Gunung Agung, has yet to decide whether it will remove leftist books from its stores.

The controversy surrounding the sale of books on communism, Marxism and Leninism was sparked by a recent rally by the Islam Youth Movement (GPI), during which the demonstrators burned books on Karl Marx.

The group, a member of the Anti-Communist Coalition, has said it will raid major bookstores in the capital on May 20 to commemorate National Awakening Day.

"All of our people, around 36,000 in Greater Jakarta, will move on that day to show our commitment to fight against communism," GPI chairman H.M. Suaib Didu said.

When asked if his group would raid the bookstores even if the titles they objected to had already been removed from the shelves, Suaib said: "We'll go to the publishers and demand they stop the production (of these books)."

Gramedia's nonfiction editorial and production manager, Wandi S. Brata, lashed out at this terror campaign by anticommunist groups. "It's really a step backward," he said.

Wandi said his company had not decided how it would respond to the rumors of raids on Gramedia stores by anticommunist groups searching for leftist books.

"As far as I know we will republish our Karl Marx book. In several stores, we heard it was sold out."

An executive of the Indonesian Publishers Association, Arianto T., said he understood the decision by a number of publishers, including Gramedia, to remove books from their shelves in response to the threats.

"I think we should check whether these books really cause social unrest. What if people just want to know what communism is and what Marx thinks about society.

"It's funny that in this era we still receive threats for publishing such books," Arianto said.

Franz Magnis, whose Pemikiran Karl Marx (Karl Marx's Thoughts) was among those books burned by GPI activists in Menteng, Central Jakarta, deplored the burning of his books and their removal from the shelves of bookstores.

A lecturer at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy, Franz Magnis would only say: "I feel that it is not proper. I am just too sad." (emf)