Indonesian Lawmaker Accuses Malaysia Of Heritage Theft

By Mohd Nasir Yusoff
JAKARTA, Oct 2 (Bernama) — An Indonesian lawmaker has called for an immediate response from the government to Malaysia’s use of the traditional Indonesian song “Rasa Sayange” in its “Truly Asia” tourism campaign.

House of Representatives member Hakam Naja of the National Mandate Party said if the government could prove the song belonged to Indonesia, it should sue the Malaysian government.

“The government needs to check on its origin, whether it is from Indonesia or not,” the deputy chairman of House Commission X overseeing education and tourism was quoted in a front-page report of the popular “Jakarta Post” daily, today.

Rasa Sayange is believed to have originated in Maluku where it has been sung for generations by people to express their love for the environment.

Hakam said Malaysia has in the past claimed ownership of traditional Indonesian handicrafts such as batik and wayang puppets.

“Such claims are made because of lack of action by the Indonesian government to copyright or patent the nation’s heritage. In order to avoid one-sided claims, the government should patent the song immediately,” he said.

He also called for an immediate inventory of the country’s culture to help protect Indonesia’s heritage through patents or copyrights.

“So if someone wants to use cultural elements of Indonesia, there should be compensation for the government, otherwise, other countries will keep trying to undermine us,” he said.

Chairman of the Golkar Party faction at the House, Priyo Budi Santoso, as quoted in the report, said the government needed to determine whether Malaysia was using the song without Indonesia’s permission.

“If they want to use Indonesia’s traditional music, Malaysia should first ask for our permission because that’s our country’s heritage,” he said.

Chairman of Indonesia’s Copyright Council, Enteng Tanamal, said suing Malaysia was unlikely to succeed because the song’s author was unknown.

“How can we sue Malaysia if nobody knows who wrote the song?” he said, adding that: “Therefore, it’s fine if Malaysia uses the song as their tourism theme song.”

However, he said, the government could check with the Directorate-General for Patents or the Tourism and Culture Ministry to find the song’s writer.

He said Malaysia was not the only party to claim the song.

Ambon in Maluku and Manado in North Sulawesi have been arguing over ownership of the song for generations.

— BERNAMA

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