Saturday 22 July 2017

Outcry forces Obama statue removal

Opponents of the Obama statue said an Indonesian hero should be honoured instead
Opponents of the Obama statue said an Indonesian hero should be honoured instead

A statue of Barack Obama as a boy has been unveiled at a children's school in Jakarta - just one week after a backlash forced its removal from a public park in the Indonesia capital.

Many Indonesians are proud of Obama's connections to the country, but detractors of the statue's park display argued a national hero should be honoured instead. A Facebook campaign to have it removed attracted more than 50,000 supporters, and court action to move the likeness was initiated.

Ron Muller, the main fundraiser for the statue hit out at the opponents, accusing them of politicising an item meant to inspire Indonesian children to follow their dreams.

"This is a statue of boy named Little Barry who went to this school - it's not President Obama," Mullers said.

The likeness, based on a childhood photograph, shows a 10-year-old Obama smiling at a butterfly perched on his outstretched thumb.

The relocation was a low-key event attended by the school's principal and three local education officials. Scores of proud students had been among the crowd of 500 watching when Jakarta's mayor unveiled the likeness in the nearby park in December.

Opponents had mixed feelings about the statue's new position at Menteng 1 Elementary School where it remains clearly visible from the street through a front gate.

Heru Nugroho, leader of the Facebook campaign to remove the likeness, said he was "not happy," but declined to comment further. Another opponent involved in the court action, Yenni Rosa Damayanti, said she was satisfied that the statue was no longer in a public park.

The item's original cost was $10,000 but the relocation increased it to $50,000, according to Mullers, an American living in Jakarta. Sponsors provided the additional money, he said.

Obama, whose American mother married an Indonesian after divorcing his Kenyan father, went to school in the capital from 1967 to 1971.

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