Indonesia: Ties with Malaysia Soured over Cultural Dispute

Updated On: Sep 14, 2009

The Malaysian foreign minister has requested a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart to discuss recent incidents that could damage bilateral relations, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The ministry's spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah, said that Anifah Aman, Malaysia's foreign minister, had summoned Indonesia's Ambassador to Malaysia, Da'i Bachtiar, on Wednesday following reports that radical groups harassed Malaysian citizens in Jakarta.

"We are treating this particular trip to Indonesia as a regular visit by the Malaysian foreign minister to foster bilateral relations, though we do get the impression the visit may have been triggered by the recent flag-burning and ‘sweeping' incidents," Faizasyah said.

Recent hysteria surrounding Malaysia's "theft" of Indonesia's cultural icons was triggered after an infomercial screened by the Discovery Channel for a documentary on Malaysia depicted a traditional Balinese dance known as the Pendet.

An video clip promoting the series, Enigmatic Malaysia, had incorrectly featured the Balinese pendet dance, sparking an uproar from Indonesians who said Malaysians 'stole' their cultural heritage.

Discovery South-east Asia senior vice-president and general manager Kevin Dickie reiterated that Malaysia was not responsible for the clip. 'It was a human error by an independent producer that Discovery Network takes responsibility for,' he said in a statement.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged the public to refrain from taking any action against Malaysia after a group known as the Benteng Demokrasi Rakyat (the People's Democracy Fortress), or Bendera, began targeting Malaysian nationals and demanding ID in the affluent Menteng area on Tuesday.

Last week, Indonesian protesters armed with sharpened bamboo sticks
stopped traffic to look for Malaysian passers-by or drivers in Jakarta,
raising fears among Malaysians living there.

The Indonesian police have arrested six people for taking part in these street 'sweeps'.


Asia One, Discovery: It's not Malaysia's fault, 12th September 2009, http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Malaysia/Story/A1Story200909...

The Jakarta Post, Malaysian FM to visit Indonesia to ease bilateral tensions after mob intimides public, 14th September 2009,http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/09/12/malaysian-fm-visit-indones...

The Straits Times, Arrested for 'Malaysian sweeps', 13th September 2009, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_429...

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