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Manoa 12.1 (2000) 155-166

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Marsinah Accuses

Ratna Sarumpaet

A young activist who was murdered, presumably for demanding higher wages for her fellow workers, Marsinah has decided, against the objections of her graveyard companions, to return to Earth. At a performance to be held in conjunction with the launching of a book about her, she intends to remind the audience that, although a number of years have passed since her murder, the case has yet to be solved. As the play opens, she can be seen on a platform in a cemetery, curled in a fetal position. Anxious about her decision to return to Earth, she moans softly.

If only, in this profound and spirit-filled silence, I could find true silence . . .
If only, in this silence, I could shut out the moans of hunger, the frightening screams, and unending pain . . .
If only, for a moment, I could feel that my body was still my own . . .

In the background, the whispered sounds of people reading from the Koran can be heard. As the voices grow louder, Marsinah rises. She looks troubled and speaks as if partly moaning, partly complaining.

What would my father say about this--cruelly isolated, smothered by anger and hatred, suffocating in a shroud of fear, helpless to defend myself?

And then the voices that come again and again, like the pounding feet of a thousand jackals, coming to destroy my peace, following me even to this cemetery plot.

If death is a place of peace, then why am I surrounded by past struggles?
Why does the searing pain of old wounds still consume my heart?
Why do anger and disappointment still burn inside me?

A traditional Javanese song plays and seems to ease Marsinah's anxiety.

My grandmother, Nek Poeirah, taught me to be accepting, to be a child who yields . . .
And the ability to yield became my strength, allowed me to smile at bitterness, no matter how strong--despite my family's poverty, despite not being able to go to school. [End Page 155]

She taught me that to live requires determination, but what kind of determination do I have now? All that remains of me is my soul, and yet they continue to pursue me.

Poverty had a stranglehold on my family. Each morning and evening, I had to wander through the town, peddling my grandma's cakes for pennies.
I almost never played with children my own age.
I never experienced the happiness of childhood, but I accepted my lot because with the money I made I could rent books and read to my heart's content.

To want an education and a better life . . .
Was that too much?
To have hopes and aspirations . . .
Was that too much?

Then why did my aspirations reveal to me the true meaning of poverty?
Why did my hopes drag me to a knowledge of my inevitable impotence?

The sound of footsteps. Marsinah again becomes tense.

The last time I visited Nganjuk, my grandma tried to stop me from leaving . . . How unlike her that was.
She spoke about a premonition she'd had.
I knew she was responding to my own anxiety, but I was in too much of a hurry to listen to her.
In the end, I left without telling her why the factory in Sidoarjo had taken on such importance for me.

Marsinah suddenly seems terribly sad.

But then, what could I say?
What did my old grandma know about freedom of speech or defending one's rights?
The only thing life had taught her was to be in the rice field before sunrise and to stay there till sundown, because food was needed to fill the stomachs of her three grandchildren.

Marsinah grows anxious. She hears voices from the past ringing in her ears.

You might think that what I'm doing doesn't make sense, that it's crazy. But I must go.
With or without you, I must go.

Dead for five years now, I feel like I died in vain.
They're trying to cover up the causes of my death:
"Marsinah's murder...


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pp. 155-166
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