Silenced voices: If I were Gayus Tambunan

The Jakarta Post | Sun, 01/23/2011 12:01 PM | Discover

The Greek philosopher Plato said that the arts reflect the society. He said artists are, by nature, influenced by the people around them and that the best artwork serves as a voice of its source society. Plato’s centuries-old argument about the creation of art rings familiar to us today.
It is a badly kept secret that those with money can buy justice. A blatant example is Gayus H. Tambunan, a tax officer suspected for corruption. While he was in police detention, he traveled not only to Bali to watch a tennis game but also overseas: Singapore, Macau and Kuala Lumpur.
Worse still, there is no action from the government. The number-one person in Indonesia did order officials to work on the case swiftly, and they have, but there is still no progress. People believe that the mafia rules Indonesia and nobody can stop it.
When justice is for sale and there is no law and order, artwork becomes the voice of the people. During the authoritarian regime of Soeharto, songwriter/singer Iwan Fals was the people’s hero. His ballads articulated social problems when everyone else was silenced by their fear of the regime’s muscle.
The latest YouTube phenomenon is Bona Paputungan with his song Andai Aku Gayus Tambunan (If I were Gayus Tambunan). The video clip shows an inmate bribing his way out of jail for a break and some leisure time.
A former convict himself, Bona’s song tells the public there is differing treatment in prison between inmates with money and the rest. He questioned how Gayus could go on a vacation while the majority of others couldn’t even imagine such a thing. In short, Bona’s song asks for equal treatment in jail. It says that no one above the law. Bona is a voice of the commoners seeking justice, of those with common sense who think that corrupt police, prosecutors, judges and immigration officers should be punished.
Just as Plato explained to his disciples, arts are the mirror of the society. When Indonesia’s legal viability is defeated and the mafia rules the country, the people turn to the arts to magnify their voices. The need of a channel to voice their protests made Andai Aku Gayus Tambunan a hit on the Internet.
The effect has not gone unnoticed, as Bona received a death threat from a person claiming to be a member of police special forces who wanted the song taken off from the Internet. People mustn’t let their voices be silenced again.

Ferril Irham Muzaki
Faculty of Letters
State University of Malang

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