Friday, February 5, 2010

Who will rid me of this turbulent beast, asks SBY

Even the idle utterances of great men can carry considerable force, particularly among their closest confidants.

Hence, when, according to British folklore, Henry II wondered aloud "who will rid me of this turbulent priest?", four royal knights interpreted his comments as a subtle instruction to strike down Thomas Beckett and dutiful obliged their king.

840 years later and 7000 miles away, when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia, complained about a group of protesters who had brought a buffalo to a demonstration and suggested that the beast symbolised the president as being "big, stupid and lazy", SBY's advisers sprung into action.

On Wednesday, the police stopped a truck carrying the infamous beast - called "Si Lebay" - from coming into Jakarta. On Thursday, State Secretary Sudi Silalhi claimed there was an existing law preventing people from bringing animals to demonstrations and that they should refrain from doing so in future.

And then on Friday, the President's faithful spokesman, Julian Aldrin Pasha, called for a new law to ban the "humiliation" of "state symbols" (i.e. his boss).

Indonesia abolished the Suharto-era laws that made mocking the president a criminal offence in 2006.

That SBY apparently wants to bring them back is just the latest in a number of growing encroachments into free speech since he was re-elected with a large personal mandate in July. For a good review of the book and film bans and other restrictions, check out this piece in The Economist.

Is it just me, or does SBY need to grow a thicker skin?

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