JAKARTA — A statue of US President Barack Obama as a boy will be removed from a park in the Indonesian capital due to public opposition, officials said Friday, just weeks before Obama visits his old hometown.
The Jakarta governor’s office confirmed that the two-metre (six-foot) bronze would be removed from Menteng Park and placed at the nearby Menteng One primary school where Obama spent part of his childhood in the late 1960s. The decision comes after 56,500 people joined a page on social networking website Facebook calling for the statue to be removed and replaced by a memorial to an Indonesian identity.
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The Obama statue will be relocated from Menteng Park to the US president’s former elementary school. (JG Photo/ Afriadi Hikmal)
Jakarta’s Bronzed Obama to Make A Move After Fauzi Bows
Bowing to public protests, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo on Friday said a statue of Barack Obama as a child would be relocated from Menteng Park to a nearby elementary school where the American president once studied.
The almost life-size statue of the young Obama was unveiled in Central Jakarta in December, but immediately drew criticism from people who said there were more appropriate national figures to be celebrated in bronze.
A Facebook group, which has attracted tens of thousands of members, has been demanding the statue’s removal.
“I approve the people’s initiative to move the statue,” Fauzi said, adding that the city would relocate the statue as soon as possible to the school on Jalan Besuki in Menteng.
Obama, who spent four years in Jakarta as a child with his mother and Indonesian stepfather, is expected to visit his old school during his trip to the country next month.
“It will be ready,” Fauzi said of the school and the statue.
The work of sculptor Edi Chaniago, the statue depicts a 10-year-old Obama smiling and holding a butterfly in his outstretched hand. Obama went to the Besuki public elementary school in Menteng before he returned to the United States in 1971.
Jakarta-based US businessman Ron Mullers, chairman of the nonprofit Friends of Obama Foundation, which had the statue built at a cost of Rp 100 million ($10,700), told the Jakarta Globe that he was not upset by the decision.
“If the city administration said so, then we are up for it. They were the ones who approved the location in the first place,” he said.
The Facebook group Turunkan Patung Barack Obama di Taman Menteng (Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Menteng Park), which currently has 56,541 members, filed a legal action against the city administration on Jan. 22 after they received no response to their request for a formal hearing with the governor and the City Council.
Abdul Hadi Lubis, the group’s legal counsel, told the Globe that the group wanted action more than words.
“We will follow through with the lawsuit because it has been filed,” Abdul said, adding that the group may yet decide to withdraw the suit once the statue had actually been relocated.
Heru Nugroho, the founder of the Facebook campaign to remove the statue, praised the decision, according to The Associated Press.
“It’s good — a little too late,” he said. “But I appreciate it.”