Sun, 06 Sep 1998

Guess What? Amien Rais

Amien Rais, a leading figure in the reform movement, did something different at Purna Budaya Building in Yogyakarta on Wednesday night. He did not make a speech or preach on the values of Islam as usual. Instead, he read out poems.

Wearing a casual long-sleeved shirt and dark-colored trousers, he read out the poems in a flat, clear voice, as though he was orating or preaching.

"I'm sorry if the way I read poems is not as dramatic as Butet," Amien said in apology before beginning his recital. He was referring to Butet Kertarejasa, a noted actor in contemporary theater who was present that night.

The event was entitled "They're Not Orating This Time" and it lived up to its name despite the fact that many noted orators were among those performing. Among voices more commonly associated with scholarly and political rhetoric which could be heard that night were those belonging to T.H. Sumartana, who is studying for a doctorate in theology at the Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, and Darmanto Jatman, a psychology lecturer at Diponegoro University in Semarang.

Amien read two poems that night, both of which were by noted poet Taufik Ismail. One was entitled 12 Mei 1998 and another Bayi Lahir Bulan Mei 1998 (A Baby Born in May 1998). The first was a poem written in memory of four Trisakti University students who died in an incident in May this year.

"I chose the two poems because both are short and the message is clear. The poems remind me of the students' fight to make Soeharto step down from the presidency. It was a very tense time," Amien said. (swa)