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Rabu, 30 Desember 2009

‘Octopus’ beginning to grate as ban claim checked

Jakarta ; George Junus Aditjondro’s controversial Cikeas Octopus book, which suggests a link between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Bank Century bailout, has been buffeted by protests and buoyed by support

The National Commission on Human Rights visited several bookstores in Jakarta on Tuesday to check whether they had been pressured to not carry the title, following widespread speculation of high-level intervention.

Commission member Yosep Adi Prasetyo said although he could not find a single copy of the book, Membongkar Gurita Cikeas: Di Balik Skandal Bank Century (Unmasking the Cikeas Octopus: Behind the Bank Century Scandal), it was unlikely there had been any order to muzzle it.

“There’s no pressure. The withdrawing and returning of the book to the publisher was done by officials at the individual bookstores,” he said.

“They’re still looking through the book to see just how controversial it could be.”

Yosep added he had also sent letters to the bookstores to reassure them there would be no backlash against them if they did decide to start selling the book, saying it would be in the interests of the public’s right to freedom of information.

House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso concurred, saying no action should be taken to ban the selling of the book.

“Whether what it alleges is true or not, only time will tell,” said the Golkar Party legislator.

He added George, a university lecturer and former rights activist, would have put his reputation and career on the line if the book was intended merely to generate a buzz.

George claims to have ample evidence to back up the claims he makes in the book.

The book draws on various media reports, including several that name former tobacco mogul Boedi Sampoerna as one of the biggest depositors at the troubled Bank Century.

“Boedi invested Rp 150 billion [US$16 million] in the Jurnal Nasional group of publications,” George said earlier in a TV interview.

He added the publications had effectively served as the mouthpiece for Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party ahead of the legislative and presidential elections earlier this year.

George’s naming of several organizations in the book has not gone down well with them.

State-owned news agency Antara has sent him a warning letter to demand he apologize and revise a section in the book in which he alleges Antara channeled some of its public service obligation (PSO) funds to the Bravo Media Center, part of Yudhoyono’s election campaign team.

Meanwhile, Puri Cikeas Foundation chairman Suratto Siswodihardjo has accused George of attempting to increase sales of the book by claiming it had been banned.

“That’s their marketing strategy; sensationalism,” he told news portal

“Nobody’s banned the book.”

Suratto, who headed up the Pro-SBY Movement to get the President re-elected, also denied George’s allegations that his foundation had helped raise funds for Yudhoyono’s campaigns.

George has refused to apologize or revise his book.

“They have the right to defend themselves,” he said.

“And if they want to send me a warning or publish books to counter my claims, that’s up to them.”

He suggested Yudhoyono’s camp publish such a book if they were so upset with the Cikeas Octopus.

Yudhoyono made a veiled allusion to the book Monday at an awards ceremony.

“Indonesians seem stingy when it comes to thanking or appreciating others, but very generous when blaming people

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