Semarang. Communication and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring said on Saturday that Malaysia did not intend to claim the Tor-Tor dance and Gordang Sambilan music in a recent update of its cultural heritage, but was instead only acknowledging the Mandailing community as part of the nation.
“Malaysia acknowledges the existence of the Mandailing community as well as its arts, which includes the Tor-Tor dance, which is considered equal with other arts [in Malaysia], such as the Barongsai [dragon dance] from China,” Tifatul said.
The Mandailing community, who originate from Northern Sumatra and have been living in Malaysia for hundreds of years, consists of more than 50,000 people.
“Malaysia consists of many of Indonesian’s ethnic groups,” Tifatul said. The minister added that Malaysia’s explanation represented important diplomatic headway that would hopefully lead to better relations.
“There’s always problems between neighbors,” Tifatul said. “We could not possibly have a problem with Nigeria, as it is located very far away. But as we’re neighboring with Malaysia, problems can appear any time.”
Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s minister of communication and culture, was quoted by Malaysian state news agency Bernama recently saying that the Tor-Tor dance and Gordang Sambilan music would be added to Malaysias 2005 National Cultural Heritage.
The statement sparked immediate and fierce reaction from Indonesia, who has long had tense relations with Malaysia over a variety of issues, including the treatment of migrant workers, border disputes and other disputed cultural claims.