May I have this Dance? Semantics Continue Over Cultural Claims

By webadmin on 02:51 pm Jun 21, 2012
Category Archive

An Indonesian law professor advised the Indonesian government and people on Thursday to be cautious of the words used in Malaysia’s explanation regarding the Tor-Tor dance and Gordang Sambilan music.

“The Government and Indonesian people should not be deceived by the statement of the Malaysian consulate general in Medan, Norlin Binti Othman, who said controversy over the Tor-Tor Dance and Gordang Sambilan music was only a misunderstanding,” Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law professor at the University of Indonesia, said Thursday.

Norlin previously said that the Malaysian term “diperakui” or “memperakui” means approved or legalized, and did not translate as a possessive phrase that claimed Indonesian culture.

But professor Hikhahanto said that it was not clear which article of the Malaysian Cultural Heritage Law the Malaysian spokeswoman was referring to. Hikhahanto said article 67 used the word “declare” instead of “diperakui,” while article 69 of the law used the word “ownership” of National heritage.

Hikhahanto was quoting the “National Heritage Act 2005, Malaysia” which outlines tangible and intangible cultural heritage that the
government listed for preservation. The Tor-Tor dance and the Gordang Sambilan (Nine Great Drums) were recently incorporated into
section 67 of the act, which says that a government minister may “declare any heritage site, heritage object . . . or any living person as a National Heritage” according to Malaysian history. 

(Regarding “ownership,” section 69 reads: “Any National Heritage which is owned or possessed by a person other than the Federal Government or the State Government may remain in the possession of its owner, custodian or trustee.”)

The Mandailing People’s Union in Malaysia told Suryana Sastradiredja, spokesman of the Indonesian embassy in Malaysia, that adding the Tor-Tor and Gordang Sambilan to the 2005 National Heritage Law was only meant to record the heritage of Maindailing people from North Sumatra that have lived in Malaysia for many years.

But the professor said that the government’s decision to ask for written explanation from Malaysia was correct.

Deputy Minister of Education and Culture Windu Nuryanti said the Malaysian government had promised to provide the Indonesian government with such a clarification.

“Indonesia’s stance is clear: We demand written [explanation]. After that, we will follow up,” Windu said. “Indonesian culture can be developed anywhere, but the origin should be clear.”