TRUE STORY PIECE: The Sawangan Incident, 2001 by Max Lane


I never liked sitting in the room at seminars and conferences where I was the organiser. I had organised some very big conferences, with speakers who were not just boring academics, but national liberation leaders from East Timor, communist radicals from India, trade union militants from the United States, men and women who had been in and out of jail and torture houses in Indonesia, poets and dramatists. But even so, I still hated being inside listening. Nervous tension. Would things go wrong – but then if I was sitting outside I had to be nearby in case something did go wrong.

So it was in Sawangan, West Java, Indonesia in 2001. I was not an organiser actually, but had been helping out. I shared the stress.

One drop and then two drops of sweat splashed on the table top, and I wiped them away and then my forehead. It…

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