Pramoedya Ananta Toer = PAT: Of course I am pleased, because there are people who appreciate what I have done. Especially considering all of the slander, vilification and so forth, through 30 years of the New Order. So, it is like a sort of refreshing tonic.
Radio Nederland = RN: It seems there are also people who are perhaps disappointed, because now you have been placed on a par with Soedjatmoko, Mochtar Lubis, Ibu Nasution and Pak Ali Sadikin, if I am not mistaken, who have also received the Magsaysay prize. What is your feeling on this issue?
PAT: That is an individual problem for each of them. If there are some who are displeased, I will not disturb their displeasure, it's up to them.
RN: But what do you thing the influence of this will be internationally? Since some also say that actually, this can also spur other countries to present you with similar prizes or awards?
PAT: Well, that is up to the evaluation of the international world. The only thing I see in the appreciation I have received is the expansion of democratization of existence under the totalitarian states in Asia. And that trend is now visible. That is, first the reconciliation between Vietnam and America, followed by the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Well, I hope the expansion of the democratization of existence gets ever livelier.
RN: It appears that in the next few months Vietnam will join ASEAN, and that Burma hopes to do likewise. What is your opinion about the coalition of states in Southeast Asia, most of which are undemocratic states to begin with?
PAT: Well, I welcome the progress of democratization. Because, humans are not born to be oppressed or muzzled. Let humanity live with its dignity as huanity. Surely that is better than being cattle that have to carr out orders without their own consent.
RN: But of course if the states of Southeast Asia can be united from the angle of endurance [unclear: "defense" or even "detention" may have been intended. --agb], from the angle of their economic development it would be better if they could all work together. But in the framework of working together people to people, what would you think about all the former political prisoners from all over Southeast Asia getting together for a seminar, for example?
PAT: I would welcome it if, say, all the Tapol [political prisoners], ex-Tapol, were to meet and look for the best path, could give their best advice for the common existence of humanity. Those who have been through suffering, perhaps without trial, without charge, can figure it out.
RN: Speaking of Tapol, sir, the Minister of Justice, Oetojo Usman said that he did not agree with the term Tapol. He prefers the term convicts who oppose the authority of the government, [something] like that?
PAT: So, convicts that oppose the authority of the government, meaning that oppose the authority of Sukarno's government?
RN: Meaning political prisoners at the moment, for the time being he said, he did not agree with the use of the term Tapol.
PAT: Well, that is a political problem, meaning a political detainee problem. And if they are really at fault, well, try them. Don't detain them just however until death, 94 years old, all that. If that does happen, well then there's no need for Pancasila. Other states without Pancasila can free [people]. [They] can grant amnesty, can give grace. So why can't this one that has Pancasila? Is this one, our homeland here, located on some other planet?
RN: Recently there has been a lot of discussion of the problem of detainees who are old and worn-out and sick, who are still in prison. In the past year alone there were three who died, among them Haji Kamba in Unjung Pandang, who was 94 years old. What is your perception of this matter?
PAT: That's just it, the ones who reject their release, this old, old man, like he had no family, like he had no neighbors, like he had no parents, [but was] born from stone. It's extraordinary. And each day they glorify Pancasila. I do not understand it. The more time passes the less I understand the situation.
RN: But don't the officials still say they [the prisoners] are dangerous cadres, so-called. So even if they are already 80 years old like Subandrio, they are still considered dangerous cadres. What about that?
PAT: I think it's just empty talk. These people have suffered long enough, it's not clear what their fault was, and we have yet to make a thorough study of what they call G30S/PKI. All there is is political declarations, not scientific statements. So, I propose there be scientific research into the G30S/PKI. Not political expressions of authority by just a few people, the source of which is nothing but family prosperity. On top of that the government always says the situatios stable, then right away there are these powerless old fellows, that they say are still dangerous. How is that? That's contradictory.
RN: How about the old one who have already died, but their grandchildren are still listed in the category that gets "special attention". What is your opinion?
PAT: Well, it is increasingly irrational, the developments here in Indonesia. I do not understand myself why Indonesia has become like this. When I was young, in the revolution, it was unimaginable that the "freedom to be free" could turn into the "freedom to be unfree" of today. How can it be like this? And so what is the use of the revolution and of freedom, if conditions are worse than the colonial period.
RN: What about the issue of "ET" itself, the symbol f ex-political prisoner that is stuck on their KTP [residence identification card]. Can it be likened to the descendants of Diponogoro who used to have to report constantly to the Dutch [colonial] government?
PAT: Well, ET, ex-Tapol and all that, it's inhumane treatment. If these people are at fault, try them, not in a kangaroo court, but a court that is free and honest. Even learn how to be honest in one's own mind.
RN: One more thing. Gatra Magazine wrote yesterday that now you talk about democracy and human rights. But [that] if G30S/PKI won, surely you would talk differently. What is your response to Gatra?
PAT: That is supposition by someone at Gatra, and it is really ignorant. It is just small-town fantasizing. Supposing the PKI were in wer, then what about all this, because it would never have been. What does he want? Why not talk about himself, why me?
* * *RN: That was Pramoedya Ananta Toer, winner of the Ramon Magsaysay prize, whose comments revolved around recent events, and his fate as a former political prisoner....