(Translation) Warning – Wiji Thukul

This is one of the most frequently recited poems in Indonesia–mostly during peaceful protests, albeit only the last line. There are a number of English translations out there (such as this one, or this one by Max Lane[?]), but let me take part in celebrating this poem. The poet, Wiji Thukul, went missing in 1998, most-probably abducted, and was “abducted into” KONTRAS’s list of missing persons in 2000. So, here’s my translation with a few modifications.


If people leave
when ruler speaks
we must be aware
they might’ve lost hope

If people hide out
and whisper their ills
ruler, beware
and learn to hear

If people fear to even moan
and ruler’s words are not to doubt
that’s a bad news
truth is periled

If ideas are dissed, not given a thought
voices silenced, critiques censored
charged subversive, agitative
one word remains: resist

Solo, 1986

To warn people about the original poem by Wiji Thukul (in Indonesian), carefully click here. By the way, the name Wiji Thukul itself is a Javanese phrase that literally means “A sprouting seed” or “sprouting seeds” (the Javanese language doesn’t make a big deal of plural or singular; a word can for all we know mean plural or singular until the context shows us how it’s supposed to be interpreted)

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