Mon, 09 Oct 2000

Gus Dur's vulgar expressions queried

SURABAYA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid and some other political leaders tend to use vulgar, sarcastic and rude expressions, a professor of Bahasa Indonesia says.

Suparno, the head of Indonesian Language Center in Surabaya, told The Jakarta Post on the side lines of a one-day seminar on Bahasa Indonesia here that such language was not conducive to creating a civil society which emphasizes ethical communication.

The seminar, taking place at the Airlangga University in Surabaya was held to mark the Bahasa month in October.

Some 200 participants attended the seminar, which was organized by the Airlangga University.

He said that each figure had his or her own rhetoric style. "When speaking in front of the public he or she may be unaware that the sarcastic idioms or expressions he or she is using are not acceptable to the people.

"How often Gus Dur says biang kerok (mastermind or instigator) and maling (thieves) and other words of the sort which should not be spoken by a political figure in front of the public.

"It is very possible that the idioms and words are expressed in resentment. But what would happen if the words were spoken in an official forum like a House of Representatives' session," he said, adding that a political figure like the President should be able to restrain himself.

He warned that Indonesian people are paternalistic and perceive their leaders as centers of reference. He hoped that political leaders with a large number of supporters would mind their language and use ethical phrases in their speeches.

"I also see legislators at all levels of the administration using obscene language. The nature of their educational background may be the reason."

Suparno also criticized the press for tending toward the use of improper words and students for using unpolished language during demonstrations.

"I am one of the people who is worried that civil society is just a dream and violence will remain everywhere," he said.

Another speaker M. Jalal, teacher at the School of Literature at Airlangga University, said that euphemisms were the trade mark of the New Order leaders.

"There is nothing wrong with the use of euphemisms, but manipulating the meaning of the words is improper," he said, citing the use of diamankan (saved) for arrested and disesuaikan (adjusted) for hiked (for commodity prices).

The other speakers were Soeseno Kartomihardjo and Dede Oetomo. (nur/sur)