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Bali Legislators Dish Vitriol on Minister Wacik

Page One Criticism of Culture and Tourism Minister's Perceived Failure to Protect Bali's Interest in the Ongoing Controversy Surrounding Anti-Pornography Legislation.

(12/13/2008) Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, came in for a scathing page-one attacks in Nusa Bali in response to his calls for easy acceptance of the controversial anti-pornography legislation signed into law by the President last week.

According to Nusa Bali, Bali's only representative in the presidential cabinet is being roundly attacked by local legislators and tourism professionals for failing, in the words of his critics, to fully understand his own root culture.

The Bali legislator from Badung, Ida Bagus Agastia, told the paper that he regretted statements made by Wacik indicating the new legislation would have no effect on the cultural, artistic and tourism life of Bali. Explained Agastia: "This shows (that Jero Wacik) does not understand Bali. It is his right to make such statements, because he is a spokesman for the government and that's his job."

Nonetheless, said Agastia, Wacik, as a Balinese, should understand and absorb the culture of Bali, and not only act as an outside observer of the island. Adding, "(the minister) needs to feel, understand and take into consideration the Balinese culture and the sense of propriety of the Balinese people."

Continuing his stinging front-page rebuke of the Minister, Agastia questioned the Minister's commitment to Balinese culture, pointing to Wacik's failure to personally participate in any of a series of ad hoc meetings held by Bali legislators to discuss local cultural issues surrounding the anti-pornography law.

Similar criticism was also sounded by another local legislator, I Gusti Agung Rai Wirajaya, who took issue with the Minister's accommodative statements regarding the new anti-pornography law. Wirajaya suggested that Wacik needs to carefully study the new law to full understand its impact on Bali.

Wirajaya said, "He (Jero Wacik) should not only look at (individual) elements of the pornography law, but should view then entire law." According to Wirajaya, art in Bali is extremely diverse and not limited to only statues, paintings and dance. Because of this, he feels the effect of the new law will have a great impact on Balinese culture.

To underline his concerns, Wirajaya, who is a legislator from the PDIP party, pointed to questions now being posed by German and Russian tourists who have asked if they will still be allowed to wear a bikini on a Balinese beach.

Echoing statements by Agastia, Wirajaya said Wacik should not only act as an official channel for communicating the statements of the central government but should also support the aspirations of the Balinese people who reject the new law.

Golkar party Bali legislator Ni Nyoman Trisnawati also condemned Minister Wacik, calling on the Minister to show support for the true interests of the Balinese and a better commitment for the national motto of “united in diversity."

Minister Wacik's Stance

Earlier, Minister Wacik sought to appease the sentiments of Balinese who widely oppose the anti-pornography law, asking the Balinese not to be concerned about the new regulations. Said Wacik: "There's no need to be frightened, do what you always do, such as dance or make statues." Insisting that many improvements had been incorporated in the final version of the law, Wacik ask his fellow Balinese to read the entire law. He went on the guarantee that there would be no injunctions against Balinese traditional culture.

Jero Wacik's assurances received a strong and rapid reply from a former Provincial officer in charge of public relations and protocol, Anak Agung Gde Bagus Netera, who characterized the Minister’s response as just "so much noise (asbun)." Netera question the failure of Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism to address the genuine concerns of foreign tourists, who may cancel their visit to Bali because of the passage of the new law.

Constitutional Review Awaited

Bali is now pinning its hope that the new anti-pornography law will be rejected by the Constitutional Court following a judicial review soon to be submitted by various parties in Bali.

Efforts by a group of four Udayana University students to stage a protest against the anti-pornography legislation during a visit by President Yudhoyono to Bali on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, were thwarted when police apprehended the four near Nusa Dua. Police released the four without charge the following day.