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Malaysia, Truly Bali

Malaysian Tourism Accused of Hijacking Bali's Culture.

(8/24/2009) Television commercial used to promote Malaysian tourism have instead promoted discord between Indonesia and Malaysia. The advertisement, part of the well-know "Malaysia, Truly Asia" campaign, featured a well-known Balinese traditional pendet dance, reportedly performed by two recent graduates of the Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI) and filmed in Bali.

The broadcast commercials are seen in some Indonesian art circles as the latest slap in Indonesia's face by Malaysia, who regularly draw on Indonesian music and cultural icons to promote their national tourism.

Underlining local displeasure with these cultural borrowings, tens of Balinese artists staged a protest on Saturday, August 22, 2009, at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park in Bali. At the protest rally, Professor Wayan Dibia of the ISI presented a written statement against Malaysia's theft of Bali's cultural heritage to a representative of the local House of Representatives.

Quoted by the national news agency Antara, Dibia said: "Based upon our observation, the dancers shown in the Malaysian ad were in fact two graduates from the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Denpasar, named Lusia and Wiwik. The picture was taken by Bali Record two or three years ago."

In response, Ida Ayu Agung Mas of the House of Representatives said: "As a people's representative, I support the protest and will immediately notify the Malaysian government about the case."

The incident has reignited calls for the government to secure copyrights and patents on the icons of Indonesia's rich cultural heritage. In the past, Malaysian has been accused of arrogating Indonesian songs, dances and handicrafts - claiming them as part of the cultural heritage of their country.