Indonesia Mulls Tearing Down Obama Statue

AFP, January 25, 2010

Indonesian authorities said Monday they are considering a petition to tear down a statue of US President Barack Obama as a boy, only a month after the bronze was unveiled in Jakarta.

The statue of “Little Barry”–as Obama was known when he lived in the capital in the late 1960s–stands in central Jakarta’s Menteng Park, a short walk from the US president’s former elementary school.

Critics say the site should have been used to honour an Indonesian and 55,000 people have joined a page on social networking website Facebook calling for the statue to be removed.

“We’ve been discussing for the past two weeks what to do with the statue . . . whether to take it down, move it elsewhere or retain it. We’re finding the best solution,” Jakarta parks agency official Dwi Bintarto said.

Obama, who was born in Hawaii, lived for four years as a child in Jakarta from 1967 after his divorced mother married an Indonesian.

The bronze was designed by Indonesian artists and depicts the boy Obama dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with a butterfly perched on his hand.

“The statue is of Obama as a child, not as the US president. His relatives and friends who erected it said it’s meant to motivate children to study hard and dream big,” Bintarto said.

Members of the “Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Menteng Park” group on Facebook say Obama has done nothing for Indonesia.

“Barack Obama has yet to make a significant contribution to the Indonesian nation. We could say Obama only ate and s (expletive) in Menteng. He spent his subsequent days living as an American,” the web page says.

“For the dignity of a sovereign nation, Barack Obama’s monument in Menteng Park must be removed immediately.”

The childhood connection and his knowledge of a few words of Indonesian made Obama popular in the mainly Muslim country of 234 million people.

Obama said in November he would visit Indonesia this year along with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha.

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