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Police Ban Play About Poor People

November 30, 1990

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Police have banned a play about poor people, saying the performance could cause social unrest. Some leading intellectuals say the police action highlights increasing government sensitivity to criticism.

Actress Ratna Riantiarno said the comedy ″Cockroach Opera″ had been scheduled to open Wednesday for a 10-day run at the Jakarta Art Center.

″The police suddenly came and told us the play was banned without giving any clear reason,″ she said Thursday.

″Cockroach Opera″ already had been presented three times in 1985 in Jakarta and the West Java capital of Bandung, she said.

″After reading the manuscript, we found that the message of the play was sensitive and that it could create social unrest,″ said Maj. T.M. Siahaan, the district police chief.

Lt. Col. Latief Rabar, a spokesman, said police ″and other authorities″ were still studying the ban order. He declined to say why the play was not banned during its earlier performances in 1985.

The play deals with poor people whose lives are full of suffering, said Nano Riantiarno, Mrs. Riantiarno’s husband and the director of Theater Koma, which was staging the play.

″Good fortune never comes their way and their place in life seems to have been destined, in sewers, ditches and in dark filthy and stinking corners, where only cockroaches live,″ he said.

Several intellectuals and art critics say the government was showing signs of increasing sensitivity.

The government earlier this month banned a New York Times reporter who wrote an article saying President Suharto’s decision on whether to run for reelection appeared to hinge on whether his children’s lucrative businesses would be affected.

Suharto was named president in 1968 and was reelected in 1973, 1978 and 1988.

Farida Feisol, director of the Jakarta Art Center, noted that ″Succession,″ a satirical play by Theater Koma on the issue of succession to power, was banned in October, on the 12th day of a scheduled 14-day run.

Early this month, police stopped well-known poet W.S. Rendra from reading two of his poems just 30 minutes before his performance was to have begun.Police said the poems, dealing with corruption and injustice, could cause instability if read in public.

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