Rivals Of The East
Author: By Kathy Marks
Batik was just lately recognised by the UN’s cultural physique, Unesco, as part of Indonesia’s distinctive heritage. The country’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who’s frequently seen in elegant silk batik shirts, has urged all his compatriots to put on batik this Friday, in celebration. However Malaysia still claims the approach as its personal.
And because of this and different disputes, relations between the two Asia-Pacific rivals are at their lowest ebb since the pair fought an undeclared struggle over the island of Borneo within the 1960s.
This month, there have been ugly scenes in Jakarta, where gangs of youths armed with bamboo spears stopped automobiles and demanded motorists’ identification cards, in a hunt for Malaysians. Indonesian protesters additionally pelted the Malaysian embassy with rocks and rotten eggs, and burnt their neighbour’s nationwide flag.
Malaysia expressed concern about the safety of its residents working and residing in Indonesia, prompting emergency talks in between the Indonesian Overseas Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, and his Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman.
Malaysia’s alleged theft of cultural traditions to which Indonesians declare possession has wounded the latter’s nationwide satisfaction. The 2 peoples have much in common, together with the same language and ethnic roots; but, like over-familiar siblings, they are sometimes at odds. Indonesians recently claimed, as an illustration, that the Malaysian national anthem is a rip-off of a tune written in their country within the 1950s.
The plagiarism prices had 1999 t shirts been repeated when Malaysia used an Indonesian people track, “Rasa Sayang”, or “Feelings of Love”, in its “Malaysia, Actually Asia” overseas tourism marketing campaign. And Indonesian anger was compounded by an commercial on the invention Channel for a documentary sequence about Malaysia featured a Balinese ritual temple dance recognized because the pendet.
Indonesians rejoiced, then, when Unesco announced that it was recognising batik as theirs, Aburizal Bakrie, the co-ordinating minister for the people’s welfare, gave a speech stressing how important batik was to Indonesians. It contained “symbols and a deep philosophy of the human life cycle”, he said, describing it as “a cultural icon with its personal uniqueness”.
Malaysia begs to disagree, declaring that it, too, has vibrant batik centres, producing shirts and sarongs decorated with patterns created in the traditional method, using wax-resistant dyes. To that, Indonesia retorts that Malaysia is poaching its artisans.
The Indonesian information journal Tempo reported final week that many batik craftsmen had moved to Malaysia, tempted by gives of excellent wages and a safe future for their households in a country with significantly greater dwelling standards. There are also claims that Malaysian businessmen are buying half-finished batik from markets in Indonesia, then adding the ultimate touches back house before marketing the objects as “Made in Malaysia”. Such points might sound trivial, however they’re helping to whip up an aggressive nationalism not seen the so-known as “Konfrontasi”, when Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno, declared a coverage of confrontation aimed toward destabilising the newly created Federation of Malaysia. A guerrilla war against Malaysia’s territories in Borneo, launched in 1963, was unsuccessful and led to Sukarno’s downfall three years later.
Forty years on, the two international locations are still sparring, over territorial and diplomatic issues as well as cultural matters. This year, the Indonesian Navy chased a Malaysian warship out of disputed waters in the oil-wealthy area of Ambalat. Not far off, lie several long-contested islands which a world court docket decreed in 2002 belong to Malaysia, much to Indonesia’s chagrin. Tempers have additionally flared over the treatment of migrant employees in Malaysia, following a number of nicely-publicised cases of Indonesian maids being badly abused by their employers. The Indonesian authorities imposed a ban on ladies travelling to Malaysia to undertake such work, which has yet to be lifted.
Then there’s the sensational case of an Indonesian teenage mannequin, Manohara Odelia Pinot, who has accused her husband, a Malaysian prince, of kidnapping, raping and torturing her. The story lengthy dominated the headlines in Indonesia, with Ms Pinot ? who made a midnight dash for freedom during a visit to Singapore ? claiming that Tengku Temenggong Mohammad Fakry handled her as a sex slave, one thing 1999 t shirts he has denied.
Some commentators say the nationalistic rivalries are absurd, pointing out that borders were fluid in pre-colonial occasions and folks moved around the region, forsaking their languages, religions and cultures.
But relations between Malaysia and Indonesia deteriorated so badly this yr that the former’s Defence Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, felt obliged to deny publicly that they were on the brink of warfare. Now tensions have soared again, thanks to batik.
Muchtar Bonaventura, leader of the Bendera vigilante group, which mounted the roadblocks and protests in the Indonesian capital, advised the Jakarta Globe: “Malaysia has stolen from us and insulted Indonesia. We really feel 1999 t shirts offended and indignant.”
The most recent row, in keeping with Indonesia, follows a collection of claims by Malaysia to Indonesian creative and gastronomic traditions. They embrace gamelan, the standard Balinese percussion instrument, and rendang, a dish of meat simmered in spices and coconut milk. Some Indonesians call their neighbour Maling-sia. In Indonesian, maling means thief.
After the international ministers’ meeting in Jakarta, Mr Wirajuda said that he and Mr Anifah had agreed to avoid “sensitive issues” resembling staking claims to every other’s cultures.
But Indonesia is already gearing up for the following battle. Just a few years ago, it persuaded Unesco to acknowledge wayang (conventional shadow puppetry) and keris (a ceremonial dagger) as distinctly Indonesian. Both had been claimed by Malaysia. Now the 2 nations are exchanging vitriol about angklung, a bamboo percussion pipe which Indonesia says originated in West Java.
“We will keep combating for our heritage one tradition at a time,” declared Jero Wacik, Indonesia’s Tradition and Tourism Minister.
Indonesia: Bigger but poorer
*Inhabitants: Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation with 234.3 million people. Malaysia is practically ten occasions much less populated, with just 27 million
*Dimension: Indonesia is made up of more than 17,500 islands, overlaying a complete of three-quarters of 1,000,000 miles; Malaysia’s territory spans a 3rd of this space.
*Malaysians are generally anticipated to outlive their neighbours. The average life expectancy is 72 years for men, compared to Indonesia’s sixty eight, and 77 for ladies, in comparison with Indonesia’s 73.
*Malaysia is also a richer nation. Its GDP per capita is $6,956, the third-largest within the region and almost seven times that of Indonesia, which is simply $1,025.