Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik is not letting his Malaysian counterpart off the hook — despite an apology for something he didn’t do.
Tensions erupted this week over images of the iconic Balinese pendet dance that appeared in a Discovery TV ad widely misunderstood to be from a tourism promotion for Malaysia.
Many editorials and news stories continue to report — erroneously — that the offending clip appeared in a Malaysian government advertisement despite an apology from Discovery’s Singapore office, which immediately pulled the ad for its “Enigmatic Malaysia” documentary series.
Wacik said the Malaysian tourism minister sent an official letter to him responding to his “strong warning” over the pendet kerfuffle.
He said the minister responded by saying the Malaysian government was not responsible because the ad was created by a private production house.
“But I told him that the term ‘Enigmatic Malaysia’ in the ad means that the Malaysian government should take responsibility,” Wacik said during a press conference. He did not provide further clarification or justification for the comment.
Wacik said outrage over the pendet incident stemmed from a series of similar incidents in which Malaysia laid claims on cultural icons from Indonesia, including the use of a folk song from Maluku in a Malaysian tourism commercial in 2007.
Meanwhile, he said the government must rely on intellectual property rights to protect the nation’s culture from being claimed by other counties.
“We all love our culture and art and want to defend it. But, it is not enough just to be furious when our culture is stolen,” he said.
Minister of Law and Human Rights Andi Mattalatta said there were two kinds of intellectual property: individual and communal.
He said while individual rights had clear legal definitions, communal property rights, which include cultural heritage, still lacked regulation here.
Andi said such a law had already been proposed, but in the meantime the government was setting up a database to inventory the country’s unique traditional products.
He said the government was currently negotiating with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to enable the country to have indefinite rights over such registered properties.
“In the current regulation stipulated by Unesco, there is a limited period for how long a culture can be claimed by a country before it becomes international property and we don’t want that,” he said.
Andi said the pendet dance dispute could provide momentum for the country to step up efforts to clarify its stance on intellectual property rights.
“This is also teaching us that intellectual property rights will give us some benefits and privileges as long as they are officially registered,” he said.