October 3, 2007 / 12:45 PM / 11 years ago

Folk song sparks row between Indonesia and Malaysia

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A folk song used in Malaysia’s “Truly Asia” tourism campaign has struck a discordant note among many Indonesians who believe the tune belongs to their country, threatening to turn into a diplomatic spat between the countries.

State news agency Antara quoted Indonesian Tourism Minister Jero Wacik as saying he and several experts were trying to gather proof that the song belonged to Indonesia, and would protest if there was evidence.

“Our task is now to prove that the song is our work,” Wacik was quoted as saying. “If there’s evidence, I will be the first to protest.”

Malaysian Tourism Minister Adnan Mansor has dismissed the claims that the song, Rasa Sayang (Feeling of Love), belonged solely to Indonesia, the New Straits Times reported.

“It (Rasa Sayang) is a folk song from the Nusantara (Malay archipelago) and we are part of the Nusantara,” he was quoted as saying.

“As far as I know, we have been singing the song for ages.”

Indonesians discussing the issue on Internet chatrooms accused Malaysia of stealing the country’s heritage. Indonesians believe the song originated from the eastern islands of Muluku, as the lyrics of the Indonesian version suggest.

The row over the folk song is the latest bone of contention between Malaysia and Indonesia, which share religious and cultural ties.

Indonesian legislator Hakam Naja said in Tuesday’s edition of the Jakarta Post that Malaysia had previously claimed ownership of traditional Indonesian heritage such as batik, an art of fabric dyeing, and wayang shadow puppets.

“Such claims occurred because of a lack of action by the Indonesian government to copyright or patent the nation’s heritage,” he was quoted as saying.

Resentment against Malaysia sometimes spills over, often tied to reports of abuse of Indonesian maids or the treatment of the many other Indonesian workers in the country.

“I thought they only stole our small islands, they also stole our song. What a neighbour!” said a participant in a forum hosted by the Detik.com online news service, referring to occasional territorial disputes between the two countries.

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