Controversy over withdrawal from play

June 22, 1994

Controversy over withdrawal from play

By S. O'Dowd

DARWIN — A controversy has erupted here over the withdrawal of two Indonesian women from performing in Salt, Fire, Water, a play which includes material and actors from diverse cultural backgrounds, including East Timor, South Africa, New Guinea and Larrakia (the indigenous people of Darwin).

The controversy began with the depiction, by East Timorese, of some of the experiences women have had at the hands of the Indonesian military. On the opening night, June 11, the audience was told that a dance segment which involved the two Indonesian women would not be performed.

A spokesperson for the Indonesian Consulate, Rachmat Murni, said that the women had withdrawn of their own accord. "[They] cancelled their performance because other members criticised Indonesian policy and [they] did not like that."

However, others say that the consulate put pressure on the Indonesian women not to perform. According to some, the women, whose families still live in Indonesia, met with consulate officials days before the play's premiere. Others insist that the women were uncomfortable with the play's political nature.

While debate continues over why the women withdrew at the last minute, the fact remains that many Indonesians living here have to watch their step: criticising the Suharto regime could be fatal for them whether they are living in Jakarta or in Darwin.

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