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‘Buru Island – A Prison Memoir’: Watermelons drained of tears

Book Chronicles / Review

In this article:
Buru Island

Written by Duncan Graham, originally published in Jakarta Post

Feb 09, 2020

From above, Buru looks like a fairy tale isle washed by the Banda and Seram seas. At ground level, the third-largest island in the Maluku archipelago located 2,230 kilometers northeast of Jakarta supports the aerial image. Settlements are small, roads uncrowded, a lush landscape dominated by Mount Kapalatmada (2,428 meters).  Surely this should be on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s Ten New Bali’s list to lure resort developers?  Sadly no, for the wounds of a vile past still ooze pus, though much has been bandaged. What the government can’t cover are memories, like those of Hersri Setiawan, 83. The Yogyakarta writer spent seven years on Buru as a victim of the Soeharto regime. He and his 12,000 colleagues, known as tapol, short for tahanan politik (political prisoners), were never charged.  

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