What Jokowi Needs to Learn from Soeharto (Hint: Book Lovers will Agree)

‎As the honeymoon phase is slipping away, Jokowi has been getting bombarded with criticism (out of varying levels of disappointment) from some people around him.

And now it’s my time to do so.

It’s been almost 7 months since Jokowi started to reign. Overall, I approve of almost all his steps (with the KPK-Police tug war as an exception).

As a book lover (and a hopeful writer wanting so much to get published), however, I feel deeply concerned with Jokowi and his regime’s ignorance of the importance of publishing and book industry (one significant part of Indonesian creative industry which the president once promised to help flourish) . Not to mention authors’ welfare. Knowing Indonesian author N. H. Dini (and the majority of Indonesian authors) living in such a way makes me think a zillion times before plunging into the ocean of publishing industry full time. ‎

A fellow writer and publisher Bambang Trim today fretted on his blog about his concern, which we also have in common, saying that Jokowi and the related ministry seem to pass National Book Day on May 17th with nonchalant abandon.

For your information, the special day was set by President Soeharto, reasoning that Indonesian Republic National Library was founded on May 17, 1980. The day, Bambang wrote, is also commemorated as Indonesian Publishers Association (IKAPI), born 65 years ago.

Bambang compared Jokowi to Soeharto, commenting the current president ( and leaders after Soeharto, too) have done very little — if any — for the progress and betterment of the domestic book and publishing industry.

On May 2, 1973, Soeharto even invited IKAPI staffers to Bogor Presidential Palace after having declared 1972 as International Book Year. At the time, Ajip Rosidi chaired the organization. “I do hope all of you can come up with well-planned and neatly-conceptualized suggestions needed for the development of our nation,” the smiling general told them at the banquet in response to the meager number of books published in the country.

Soeharto walked his talk. He poured some funding which later was used up to found Yayasan Buku Utama. The foundation selected the best teenagers book on an annual basis, told Mr. Rosidi.

Of course, we may not overlook Soeharto’s censorship and book bans and most importantly, freedom of expression and press markedly lower than freedom of it during the subsequent regimes.

Another milestone was Kongres Perbukuan Nasional in 1995 but sadly soon after the monetary crisis hit Indonesia, the future of book and publishing industry turned hazy.

Aside from that, we should see whether Anis Baswedan can be as daring and innovative as Fuad Hasan when it comes to this issue.

And this explains very well why there is much disappointment arising after Indonesia came out as the guest of Frankfurt Book Fair recently. Some said it was quite pathetic because it wasn’t well prepared.

(image source: ayojokowiaja.blogspot.com)


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