August 30, 2023
JAKARTA – Resistance has been growing against a plan to erect a 100-meter-tall statue of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno in a new economic hub in West Java, as some observers have questioned the urgency and purpose of the costly project.
The Sukarno statue, which is going to be the country’s tallest statue, is part of an ongoing project to turn a 1,270-hectare area in West Bandung regency’s Walini region, previously used for tea cultivation, into a green city that could act as a new economic hub for the province.
The green city project, led by property development giant Ciputra and state plantation firm PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) VIII, reportedly would cost up to Rp 10 trillion (US$655 million), around Rp 15 billion of which would be directed into building the statue itself.
Construction for the statue will begin next year, and renowned Balinese sculptor Nyoman Nuarta, whose portfolio include the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue in Bali and the soon-to-be-built state palace in the country’s new capital of Nusantara, is going to spearhead the project.
Local residents and segments of the Muslim community, however, have put up stiff opposition against the construction of Sukarno statue, saying that the Rp 15 billion budget for the statue would be better spent elsewhere.
Last week, a group calling themselves the West Java Cleric and Advocate Forum (FUTA) held a demonstration in front of Bandung city’s Gedung Sate, which houses the office of West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, demanding Ridwan revoke plans for the statue, local media reported.
A similar protest was also staged by the West Java chapter of another group called the Islamic Movement Alliance (API) earlier this month.
Aside from misplaced economic priorities, both groups have also accused the construction plan of the statue as being in violation of one of the hadith in Islam, which prohibits making full-figured statues or images of living creatures, either human or animal.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country’s top Muslim clerical body, said it had no problem with the construction of the Sukarno statue, but that the statue did not need to be so big.
“I see no problem with the making of statues as works of art that commemorate history. But, the scale [of the Sukarno statue] and the budget needed to realize it can surely be considered a waste [of money],” the MUI’s head of Islamic preaching Muhammad Cholil Nafis tweeted on Friday.
The statue, he went on to say, is also fringing on deifying Sukarno. “Meanwhile, [other national heroes] tend to be forgotten. This is unfair,” Cholil said.
Sukarno’s influence in Indonesian politics today is still present through the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI–P).
Defending the project, West Bandung Regent Hengky Kurniawan took to social media to clarify that the budget going into the project would be sourced from investors looking to develop the Walini area.
“[The West Bandung] administration has not spared any budget for the construction of the statue using the regional budget [APBD],” Hengky said on Instagram on Aug.16.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the statue was held in June, and the event was attended by Ridwan and members of the PDI-P. Ridwan, a Golkar Party politician, will see his gubernatorial tenure expire next month.