Subject: George Junus Aditjondro : Of Watchdogs and Octopi

The Jakarta Post December 3, 2009

George Junus Aditjondro : Of Watchdogs and Octopi

Tifa Asrianti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

His controversial book may have been taken off the shelves in major bookstores, but George Junus Aditjondro is now enjoying the kind of media coverage sure to pique people's curiosity.

Titled Membongkar Gurita Cikeas: Di Balik Skandal Bank Century (Unmasking the Cikeas Octopus: Behind the Bank Century Scandal), the book looks into President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and how four foundations allegedly helped raise money for his 2009 election campaign.

The President expressed concerns about the contents of the book shortly after it was published. It has since disappeared from the shelves. Rumor has it that the bookstores pulled the book out of fear. Yet despite the President's stated concerns, the government has not banned the book.

"The whole controversy makes major bookstores like Gramedia and Toko Gunung Agung become more cautious," George says. "We should think of other ways to distribute books, ways that are not based on capitalism."

The book has, naturally, sparked controversies. However, the controversies relate not to the content of the book - which deals with financial scandals allegedly involving the President - but rather to the method in which the data were gathered. Critics question the validity of George's conclusions, the secondary data he uses and the methodology employed.

For George, using secondary sources, such as articles published on the Internet and in the media and books, is no issue because his book is a popular scientific work. He also says that he conducted a survey to complete the book.

"I have four sources. I have to protect them because all of them testified about funds flowing from Bank Century to Sampoerna [holding company]," says George, who has published several books on corruption allegedly involving state leaders.

"Any attempt to criticize this book is simply character assassination."

Born on May 27, 1946, in Pekalongan, Central Java, to a Javanese father and a Dutch mother, George moved between cities during his childhood. His father, who studied in Holland for nine years, was a student activist who at one time served as a secretary to Mohammad Hatta, later the first vice president of Indonesia.

After spending his early childhood in Holland, George returned to Indonesia with his parents. He moved from one elementary school to another in different cities as his father was assigned to various posts.

George went on to enroll in technology and engineering in Semarang and Salatiga in Central Java, but he did not finish either course, finding himself more a socially oriented person than a mathematical man.

His conservation work earned him a Kalpataru award in 1987 and he later won a scholarship to study for a Master of Science degree at Cornell University in the United States. He became prominent around 1994-1995 after he wrote some books about corruption and East Timor.

The Soeharto regime banned him from entering the country and he ended up in Australia between 1995 and 2002, where he taught sociology at Newcastle University. Following the collapse of the New Order government, George returned to Indonesia and is now a staff lecturer at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta.

As an intellectual, George has been undeterred by the harsh criticism of his latest book. Indeed, he says that he has prepared materials for a revised edition, scheduled for publication in April 2010.

"It is a common thing to revise books, because you get more information and input along the way," he says. "I will put in more evidence about how the Democrat Party got their victory through illegal ways. Another new thing I will put in the revised edition is about foreign funds [used during the election campaign]."

The revised edition will also include denials from certain people. George is encouraging relevant parties to send in denials, which he says he will sort before putting them into the revised edition. However, he adds, he will not make apologies.

As well as attracting harsh criticism, the book has made him the target of legal demands, including one by Antara news agency. According to George, Antara demanded that he make a correction and publish an apology through major media outlets within two days.

"I will not apologize for what I've written in the book," he insists. "I have yet to receive any threats, only slurs."

He says he has heard about fake books that bear his name and have a similar cover but with completely different content. He does not take such books seriously, he says, seeing it rather as a way to help the poor to get money.

"If the content is changed, I believe the public will know which book is the real one. I'm not responsible for the content of the fake books," he says.

When it comes to his motivation for writing books that deal with corruption, George says he has intellectual and patriotic motivations. The intellectual motivation, as he puts it, is his concern that although corruption is always such a huge issue in Indonesia, nobody has specialized in presidential corruption.

As for the patriotic motivation, George says that many Indonesians consider presidential corruption a taboo subject and that he wants to change the perception.

"Through my books, I hope that we can elect our president carefully in the future," he says.

"For me, writing is a hobby because I don't have any other hobbies. I don't smoke, drink or go to the movies. If it is difficult to get the book, people can photocopy it. I don't mind."

Bibliography

2009: Membongkar Gurita Cikeas: Di Balik Skandal Bank Century (Unmasking Cikeas Octopus: Behind the Bank Century Scandal). Yogyakarta: Galangpress.

2006: Korupsi Kepresidenan, Reproduksi Oligarki Berkaki Tiga: Istana, Tangsi dan Partai Penguasa (Presidential Corruption, Three-legged Oligarchy Reproduction: Palace, Military Barracks and Ruling Party). Yogyakarta: LKiS.

2003: Korban-korban Pembangunan: Tilikan terhadap Beberapa Kasus Perusakan Lingkungan di Tanah Air (Victims of Development: Study on Several Cases of Environmental Destruction). Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar.

2003: Pola-pola Gerakan Lingkungan: Refleksi untuk Menyelamatkan Lingkungan dari Ekspansi Modal (Environmental Movement Patterns: A Reflection to Save the Environment from Capital Expansion). Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar.

2003: Kebohongan-kebohongan Negara: Perihal Kondisi Obyektif Lingkungan Hidup di Nusantara (The Lies of The State: On the Objective Condition of the Environment). Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar.

2002: Membedah Kembar Siam Penguasa Politik dan Ekonomi Indonesia (Splitting Open The Siamese Twin of Indonesia's Political and Economic Rulers). Jakarta: LSPP.

2001: Ketika Semerbak Cengkih Tergusur Asap Mesiu (When The Scent of Cloves Is Swept Away By Gunpowder Smoke). Jakarta: Tapak Ambon.

2000: Menyongsong Matahari Terbit di Puncak Ramelau : Dampak Pendudukan Timor Lorosa'e dan Munculnya Gerakan Pro-Timor Lorosa'e di Indonesia (Welcoming Sunrise on Ramelau Summit: Impact of the Timor Lorosae Occupation and the Rise of Pro-Timor Lorosae in Indonesia). Jakarta: Yayasan HAK and FORTILOS.

1999: Tangan-tangan berlumuran minyak : Politik minyak di balik tragedi Timor Lorosae (Oil-Smeared Hands: The Oil Politics Behind the Timor Lorosae Tragedy). Jakarta: Solidamor.

1998: Guru Kencing Berdiri, Murid kencing Berlari: Kedua Puncak Korupsi, Kolusi, dan Nepotisme Rezim Orde Baru dari Soeharto ke Habibie (Corruption in the Soeharto Regime) Jakarta: Pijar Indonesia.


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