Final Bow in Dance Controversy: Malaysia Clarifies Its Cultural Heritage Stance
Kuala Lumpur. The Indonesian embassy in Malaysia on Monday stated that Malaysia had clarified that it did not mean to claim the Tor-Tor Dance and Gordang Sambilan music as its cultural heritage.
“This is only a misunderstanding,” spokesman of the Indonesian embassy in Malaysia Suryana Sastradiredja said as quoted by Antara. “[Including the dances in] the cultural heritage law was to record the origin and not to claim that Mandailing culture [originates] from Malaysia.”
Earlier, Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s minister of communication and culture, was quoted by Malaysian state news agency Bernama as saying the Tor-Tor dance and Gordang Sambilan music would be added to the law.
Suryana said he had discussed the claim that caused controversy in Indonesia with the Malaysia Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture and also with the Mandailing People’s Union in Malaysia.
They told Suryana that adding the cultural heritage to the 2005 National Heritage Law was only to record the heritage of Maindailing people from North Sumatra that have lived in Malaysia for a long time. Malaysia did not meant to claim the dance and music as theirs.
Suryana said the Mandailing people who migrated from North Sumatra have been living in Malaysia for hundreds of years and they want to perform those dances in Malaysia.
“Mandailing culture is rarely performed in Malaysia, while many Malaysian citizens are Mandailing descendants,” he said.
At a recent gathering of Mandailing people at the Batu Caves, they requested the dance and music be included in the law.
“If it is recorded in the Cultural Heritage Law, the art and culture will be preserved and practiced and [they] get a budget allocation from the Malaysian government,” Suryana said.
Indonesian people were outraged after hearing about the plan to include the dance and music as part of Malaysia’s cultural heritage.
Head of the Democratic Party faction Nurhayati Ali Assegaf on Monday demanded a special caucus be established to solve the conflict. Another lawmaker from the same party, Ruhut Sitompul, whose family hails from North Sumatra, said Indonesia must use hard diplomacy to defend the country’s cultural heritage.
“Once in a while, I think it’s necessary that we bomb [Malaysia] as a form of shock therapy,” he said. “Otherwise they will keep oppressing us. There’s no need for diplomacy — they always find excuses.”
Malaysia and Indonesia have had disagreements over cultural heritage issues in the past including the traditional lion dance from Ponorogo, East Java and the song “Rasa Sayange” from Ambon.