Is Our Ministry of Tourism Sleeping? (2)

Not long ago Rasa Sayange song has sparked a rift between Indonesia and Malaysia because the song is believed to be created by Indonesian (hence, belongs to Indonesia) but was used to promote Malaysian Tourism industry. Now Indonesians are upset again toward a new controversial issue.

This time, it’s the traditional dance from Ponorogo, a regency (kabupaten) in East Java, called Reog. The (similar) dance is featured in Malaysian Ministry of Cultural, Art & Heritage and is called Barongan Dance.

I am not going to write about how mad I am, as an Indonesian, about this issue. I am sure there has been many complains, officially and unofficially, to Malaysian government. I’m very sure a lot of Indonesian bloggers write about this on theirs which will have sparked a lot of debates (for example see Unspun‘s posting about the song Rasa Sayange which generated over 400 comments, some commentators suffered from verbal diarrhea and used very vicious, harsh words).

That’s not what I have in mind. Being 12,000 km away from my home country, the rift between Indonesia and Malaysia is non-existent. Somehow the constant tension between Indonesia and Malaysia is lost in Atlantic Ocean. People here in are more concern about Pakistan political issue, the troops being sent to Iraq and now are back with war wounds, the missing Madeleine McCann, the British teacher who is accused of blasphemy in Sudan after allowing a pupil’s teddy bear named Muhammad, etc. So when the first time I found about Reog Ponorogo being claimed to be Malaysian (I forget where I got the news), I went online and try to search the issue in two biggest search engines, Google and Yahoo!.

What did I find? All listings are in Indonesian. I managed to found one in English from Antara, but when I was directed to the site I couldn’t find the article. I went to Reuter but there is no single news about Reog Ponorogo. There is nothing in Embassy of Indonesia in UK’s Culture and Tourism website either. Even the official site of Ministry of Culture and Tourism doesn’t provide any information regarding this issue. If I’m as an Indonesian find it difficult to find the updates about the issue, how the rest of the people in the world know that Reog Ponorogo is Indonesian and not Malaysian, seeing how good our neighbor promoting their culture?

Which then leads me to wonder: Does our government (except the Reog regency leaders) really care about this? What I mean is not having them reacted towards Malaysia. I believe it’s more important for Indonesian government to let the world knows that all the culture which have been falsely claimed by other countries are indeed Indonesian. It seems our government is fast enough to grace each of their websites with ‘Visit Indonesia 2008’ logo but suffers from acute hyperopia and can’t see there is a giant pink elephant in the room.

I think we must stop wasting our energy to stomp our feet and cry like babies toward our neighbor. We have 6.4 billions people on earth who are not Indonesian, who need to be informed that Rasa Sayange, Angklung, Batik, Rendang, Reog Ponorogo etc. are Indonesian.

Why doesn’t Indonesian government do something about it? Promote the art & culture more intensely (rather than Borobudur Temple, Bali, and Wayang!), have each of the embassy actively featured about a region at a time, or work together with travel agencies to build up attractive, unique tourism packages (as I’ve stated before, if Australian can sell Blue Mountain which is basically is just a hill, and Scotland can sell Loch Ness, which is basically a big lake, we have many more interesting sites to promote.

One more thing: we should have a good, informative, culture and tourism official website. Just like what Malaysia (sadly) does.

Further reading:




  1. every time there’s news about indonesia, it’s either about natural disasters, plane crashes or this cultural banter between malaysia and indonesia. and like you’ve pointed out, the news about the last bit is usually found on blogs instead of on indonesian newspaper’s websites or other formal e-media. it’s sad, really, but (knowing that this will sound apathetic) that’s indonesia.

    btw, thx for dropping by on my blog :) hi back from west midlands! :)

  2. Jakarta Casual says:

    the real point about stories like this and amabala is that they seek to divert people s attention away from problems in indonesia and blame malaysia

    for a country like indonesia that doesn t give a shit about it s heritage to start getting upset about this stuff is cheap glag waving and nothing else.

    the ties that unite malaysia and indonesia, two very new and artificial countries created by the british and the dutch by the way, go back further than the colonials and the govt of today would have you believe.

    instead of being united by religion and language and shared heritage your govt seeks to divide you…that is the story here

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