Tags: Barack Obama | Indonesia | Obama | Statue

Obama Statue Returns to Public View in Jakarta

Sunday, 21 Feb 2010 01:00 PM

A statue of Barack Obama as a boy was placed late Sunday night at the Jakarta elementary school the U.S. president once attended, after its display in a public park prompted backlash in the Indonesia capital.

The re-placement of the bronze statue a week after it disappeared from public view was a low-key event officiated by the school's principal and three local education officials. Scores of students had been among the 500 watching when Jakarta's mayor unveiled the statue in the park in December.

The likeness of a 10-year-old Obama smiling at a butterfly perched on an outstretched thumb was returned to its pedestal at 11:30 p.m. local time.

The late night schedule was aimed at finishing before almost 500 students arrive for school Monday, not an attempt to keep a low profile, said the main fundraiser for the statue, American Ron Mullers. The statue's removal from the park also was done on a Sunday night.

Detractors had argued an Indonesia hero should be honored instead. A Facebook campaign attracted more than 50,000 supporters of the statue's removal, and court action was initiated to force it.

Mullers accused them of politicizing a statue 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.

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 statue, 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.

"We should not erect statues of other countries' presidents in public parks when so many of Indonesia's heroes are not immortalized," she said. She added that she didn't mind the new location because the school had history with Obama.

Central Jakarta Education Office head Zainal Soleman, who looked on as laborers were placing the statue a second time, said the school welcomed it.

"It will inspire and motivate the children every day," Soleman said.

Obama, whose American mother married an Indonesian after divorcing his Kenyan father, went to school in the capital from 1967 to 1971 and is regarded fondly by most Indonesians.

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