The Puteri Cina or Chinese Princess is a personality known in Javanese history as the spouse of a Javanese ruler. Honoured, but sometimes also discriminated. According to the Chronicle of Java the 16th century ruler of Majapahit, King Brawijaya V, had a Chinese princess as a junior wife and mother of their son Raden Patah (Fatah). She was later given to the king’s son, Arya Damar in Palembang, to appease the jealousy of the queen consort, and with him she had a second son, Raden Kusen (Husen). These two historical figures played a role in the great changes that came in Java with the waning of the Hindu-Javanese kingdoms and the advent of the first Islamic rulers. The Chinese princess reflects on the events of her time, and their impact on her family, then in the person of the Putri Cina she travels through time, observing the tragic vulnerabilty of her people in times of social disorder, right up to events in the very recent past.
The Jesuit priest Sindhunata was until 1998 mostly known for his writings that mix Catholic and javanese ideas and symbols. Only after the events which surrounded the fall of President Soeharto and caused the death of some 1000 Chinese-indonesian citizens of Jakarta he turned more to his partly Chinese roots and wrote a novel Putri Cina, where the story of Chinese in Indonesia is put in a romantic garb, accompanied with philosophical thinking about René Girard and his theory of the need of a scapegoat in society.
The novel of 2007 was translated by Dr. Simon Rae of Dunedin, New Zealand and his daughter Catherine and published in 2015. It is sold for Rp 110.000 in Indonesia and for US$ 31.75 abroad: these differences remain!
I had to think about the Chinese Princess again when reading the story of the Ahok trial and condemnation. The latest step in this tragic history is that Ahok initially wanted to appeal for the verdict of two years of prison, but now says that he has accepted thedecision of the court. What should we think of it. Simon Rae, the translator of the Chinese Princess wrote me: "
I think Ahok's move shows both a generous spirit and a careful
calculation. He is saying 'I do not want to cause more dissention' but
also 'I do not trust the judiciary to deal with my case on its merits'.
He is denying FPI any further opportunity to demonstrate against him
and he will have earned some sympathy and respect, internationally and
at home. But it is all moving in an ominous direction. How much
influence and power do these popular extra-constitutional groups
(premen, FPI etc) have over police, courts..."
Is Ahok making himself a martyr/scapegoat?