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The Vice President on Vice

Editorial: Vice President Kalla's Comments on How to Attract a Middle Eastern Travel Market Leave Many in Tourism Industry Bewildered and Upset.

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There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you. - Will Rogers

The recently cancelled Republik BBM, a popular program on Indonesian TV featured humorous skits with look-alike and sound-alike actors doing something Will Rogers thought impossible; making politicians look sillier than they actually are.

No one's quite sure why Republik BBM or Republik Benar Benar Mabuk Ė The Truly Drunken Republic was cancelled, despite its enormous popularity on local TV. Some speculated that its biting humor became too much for our political leaders to bear or, perhaps, as we suspect, the writers found the competition from politicians to sound ridiculous week after week just too intense.

A Case in Point: Seeking Tourism from the Middle East

Sadly, this past week life imitated art once more when Indonesia's Vice President, Jusuf Kalla, spoke at a national seminar on how to increase tourism from the Middle East. Urging tourism marketers to base their promotions on "visitor's appetites," the Jakarta Post suggested the VP was urging that "tourism campaigns for the Middle East should highlight the availability of attractive women."

Also, as quoted in the Jakarta Post, Kalla said, "if there are a lot of Middle East tourists traveling to Puncak to seek janda, I think that it's OK," referring to the West Java mountain resort area and the Indonesian term for a widow or divorcee.

Ignoring national policies to develop and promote "cultural tourism," Indonesia's Number 2 told the audience that the women, their mixed-race offspring, and the Nation's entertainment industry would all benefit from using women to promote Arab inbound tourism. Discounting the possible negative outcome of short-term marriages of convenience, the VP added, "if the janda get modest homes even if the tourists later leave them, then it's OK. The children resulting from these relationships will have good genes. There will be more television actors and actresses from these pretty boys and girls.'"

Mr. Kalla, We Beg to Differ

While most people working in Indonesia's tourism industry enthusiastically welcome recent moves by the Government to increase Middle Eastern tourism by easing visa-on-arrival facilities, we think few will be found who share Mr. Kalla's view and are prepared to trade the virtue of our womenfolk for badly-needed oil dollars.

In fact, we are certain that many find the Vice President's suggestions fundamentally repugnant and demeaning to all concerned: demeaning to women; demeaning to the people who dedicate themselves to promoting Indonesian tourism; and demeaning to the potential Arab visitors being profiled as only interested in sex.

A Retraction, Please

Eager to retain our respect and admiration for the men who lead the Nation, we fervently hope that Vice President Kalla will take urgent steps to correct the impression given to the world via his recent comments.

Please, Mr. Kalla, tell us that your comments were an attempt to be humorous that badly misfired.

Please, Mr. Kalla, reassure the world that the goal of Indonesia's tourism remains the creation of jobs and opportunities for the people of the Nation; employments that are all, without exception, vertical and not horizontal positions.

And, while you're at it Mr. Vice President, we humbly suggest it's time to send your speech writer packing.

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