Indonesia and Malaysia clash over cultural ownership | Connect Asia

Indonesia and Malaysia clash over cultural ownership

Indonesia and Malaysia clash over cultural ownership

Updated 18 January 2012, 19:25 AEDT

Indonesia has accused Malaysia of stealing its cultural heritage after a Balinese dance was used in a promotional video for Malaysia and allegations that the countries national anthem was originally written by a Javanese music group.

Passions are running high over the controversies, with some even suggesting that the two countries should go to war to solve their differences.

Presenter: Katie Hamman

Musni Umar, Indonesian political scientist and member of the government-supported Indonesia-Malaysia Eminent Persons Group; Professor Khoo Khay Kim, historian at the University of Malaya; Harry Tjan Silalahai, political analyst

HAMANN: (SFX: Negaraku) Indonesia's latest showdown with its northern neighbour has focused upon the origins of Malaysia's national anthem Negaraku, which, according to a state owned record company in central Java is suspiciously like an Indonesian song called Terang Bulan, written by the Bandung Ensemble in 1956, one year before Malaysia's independence was declared.

SFX: Terung Bulan.

HAMANN: Musicologists say both tunes originally derived from a 19th-century French song, but ardent Indonesian nationalists have seized upon the likeness, accusing Malaysia of looting Indonesia's cultural archive, yet again.

Last month a video clip of a Balinese Pendet dancer, was featured in a television advertisement for a program about Malaysia. The Malaysian government blamed an American production house for the misappropriation and demanded its cancellation.

But Indonesians protesters descended upon the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta last week, throwing eggs at its gate and attempting to raise an Indonesian flag. This as Indonesian computer hackers invaded a number of Malaysian websites; and blogs and social networking sites were ablaze with nationalist, anti-Malaysian sentiment.


PROTESTER; I think Malaysia is... not very, very creative. They just duplicate our country. I don't really like that.

PROTESTER 2: It's not about angry, it just may be between Malaysia and Indonesia have a similar culture, may be they just misunderstanding that's all.

HAMANN: How can we fix the problem? How do you make it better?

PROTESTER 3: Er war.

HAMANN: Indonesian political scientist Musni Umar is a member of the government supported Indonesia-Malaysia Eminent Persons Group. He says Indonesians often forget their shared history with Malaysia

UMAR: The people of Malaysia are the people of Indonesia. We have the same culture. From Java go to Malaysia and they're making culture there.

HAMANN: Disputes and misunderstandings between the two countries have percolated for more than four decades, beginning in an era known as Konfrontasi, when Indonesia's President Sukarno attempted to destabilise the new Federation of Malaysia.

Professor Khoo Khay Kim is an historian at Kuala Lumpur's University of Malaya. He says Malaysians once looked to Indonesia for leadership but this dynamic has shifted.

KHOO: In more recent years the Malays seem to have grown more and more independent because of the economic success of this country and the Indonesians I think are rather disappointed that the Malays no longer look up to them for leadership and they feel that the Malays have become arrogant.

HAMANN: The latest confrontation has also spilled into the political arena.

In response to the pendet dance controversy, one senior minister said Indonesia's ambassador to Malaysia should be recalled or Malaysia's in Indonesia sent home.

Harry Tjan Silalahi is an international politics analyst at the Jakarta based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. He says there are elements within the Indonesian government and military that believes Indonesia's new leadership is too conciliatory towards Malaysia.

SILALAHAI: This younger generation who are in the government are neglecting the nation building that use to be in promoted strongly by men like President Sukarno and President Suharto, and the military (words indistinct) instead of discussing this and with the other side the Indonesian military is now a very low profile -- not weak, but shortage of this equipment and means. So they are very angry that you are (going) too far, younger brother, in showing your cockiness.

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