Malaysia drops Indonesian dances from tourism campaign following protests


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (eTN) – Malaysia will drop two dances that originated in Indonesia from its overseas tourism campaigns following protests from the neighboring country, officials and a report said Tuesday.

Activists demonstrated outside the Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta last week, slamming Kuala Lumpur for promoting Indonesia’s traditional Barongan masked dance as part of Malaysian culture in its tourism campaigns, the national Bernama news agency said.

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It quoted Tourism Minister Adnan Mansor as saying that the Indonesian government also sent him letters pointing out that the Endang dance performed recently by a Malaysian group in Japan originated in Indonesia.

“We will stop using the two dances in our tourism promotion program,” a Tourism Ministry official said.

The two dances are popular in parts of Malaysia which have close cultural links with Indonesia.

The official, who declined to be named because of ministry policy, said cultural officers from the two countries will meet to resolve the issue to prevent it from sparking a diplomatic row.

The two countries share Islam as their main religion and have similar national languages. But they also have a history of testy relations.

In October, Indonesia accused Malaysia of stealing a Malay folk song — “Rasa Sayang” or “Feeling of Love” — as the theme song for its overseas tourism promotions. Jakarta said it may sue Kuala Lumpur for breach of copyright.

Malaysia rejected the allegation, saying the song has origins in both countries and doesn’t belong solely to Indonesia.

Indonesian lawmakers have also accused Malaysia of taking credit for other traditional Indonesian arts such as batik fabrics and the shadow puppet theater.