But the protest that took place on Friday certainly went too far. The group calling itself Pancasila Youth had marched to the embassy in Kuningan after Friday prayers. They then headed for Malaysia Hall and began acting more violently, causing damage to the building. Their grievances were over Malaysia’s purported decision to declare the Tor-tor dance and Gordang Sambilan music as part of our national heritage.
It seems to be just another excuse for this bunch of jobless youths, who are probably too lazy to be construction workers in Malaysia, to stage another demonstration.
Various groups in Indonesia have staged protests against Malaysia on practically every issue, which includes even the arrests of certain Malaysian politicians. The only thing they have never protested about is the perennial haze problem in Malaysia, which is the result of forest fires in Sumatra.
In 2009, a nationalist group calling itself Bendera claimed to have signed up 486 volunteers who were ready to wage war against Malaysia. Its spokesman Mustar Bonaventura claimed the group had stockpiled medicine, food and “samurai swords and ninja-throwing stars” for the fight.
The dispute started after word spread that Malaysia had promoted the traditional pendet dance of Indonesia’s Hindu-majority Bali in its tourism drive. It turned out that the advertisement was part of a Discovery Channel programme on Malaysia, and the Malaysian authorities had nothing to do with it at all.
But of course, the Indonesian rabble-rousers were not going to let the facts spoil the story or they might risk not getting paid for another outing. We are not sure if the 486 are now illegal workers in Malaysia.
We have also been accused of plagiarising the Rasa Sayang song, which is widely used in our tourism promotions, because it purportedly originated from Indonesia’s Maluku Islands.
Last week’s protest, however, seems to have taken a different twist. First, they hurled eggs and stones into the embassy’s compound. Then they torched the Jalur Gemilang, which were all part of the script. But this time, they became more aggressive and violent by attacking a security personnel who, fortunately, only sustained slight injuries.
Malaysians must be left wondering where the Indonesian policemen were during the fiasco. Surely it is their responsibility to dispatch a team of anti-riot police there to protect our embassy and its staff. But from the violence carried out by these Indonesians, it would appear the police did a lousy job.
The temperature had already gone up a few notches when the Indonesian government demanded a written explanation from Malaysia. Deputy Education and Culture Minister Windu Nuryati was quoted by Antara, its national news agency, as saying that “Indonesia’s stance is clear, we demand a written explanation.”
The Indonesian media seem to be also enjoying themselves and have aggravated the issue by giving space to those bent on bashing Malaysia. For example, there have been pretty hilarious remarks from a certain Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law professor at the University of Indonesia, in his response to our Consul-General in Medan. Juwana, too, wants a written explanation from our government.
But seriously, we know the reasons for such purported pent-up frustration from the Indonesian side. Indonesia has done well on many fronts but the poverty level has not been fully addressed. They may complain about a lot of things but Malaysia remains the land of opportunity for many of its citizens.
We cannot deny that there have been stories of mistreatment of Indonesian migrant workers by their Malaysian bosses. But really, if we are that inhumane and cruel, we wouldn’t be seeing the influx of Indonesians into Malaysia.
In fact, many Malaysians are terrified of the many Indonesians who come not only to make a living but also to indulge in crime. And when they are arrested, our police would diplomatically refer to these criminals as coming from “a neighbouring country”. Not only are we diplomatic, we also do not want to embarrass our neighbour.
We have been too nice for too long, preferring to be the submissive little brother to the abang (big brother) across the Straits of Malacca in this saudara charade.
The brouhaha over such issues is pretty ludicrous. Such flag-waving exercises are sometimes good in bringing the nation together, for both sides, but let’s not get entangled in narrow-minded nationalism that is nothing but a façade to justify violence or juvenile delinquency