Posted by: kookkhu | March 20, 2010

What Obama’s Visit to Indonesia Means for Asia. 1/5

The bronze statue of a 10-year-old Barack Obama, shod in sneakers and holding aloft a butterfly, quickly turned into a tourist attraction. Foreigners flocked to the public park in Jakarta to honor the U.S. President, who lived four years of his childhood in the Indonesian capital. Locals visited, too, but they weren’t as pleased. “Indonesians mostly came to protest,” says park groundskeeper Yunus. “They didn’t want the statue here.” Less than three months after a local Obama fan club raised $10,000 for the monument, it was quietly moved in February to a nearby school where Obama had studied. “I’m not against Obama,” says Protus Tanuhandaru, one of the Indonesian founders of a Facebook page that collected nearly 60,000 fans calling for the figure’s removal. “But it’s wrong to have a statue in a public park of someone who has contributed nothing to Indonesia.” For a man who calls himself “America’s first Pacific President,” Obama’s planned visit to Indonesia is being heralded as a homecoming. Millions of Indonesians consider Barry Soetoro, as he was once known by his Indonesian stepfather’s surname, an honorary citizen. But even as Obama takes a trip down memory lane (followed by a visit to Australia), the fate of his boyhood likeness underscores his, and America’s, growing image problem across Asia. Soon after Jakarta city workers used the cover of darkness to relocate the young Barry’s statue, top U.S. diplomatic envoys were in Beijing to repair foundering relations with the world’s third largest economy. Meanwhile, Japan, the world’s No. 2 economy, has been calling for a more “equal” (read: less submissive) relationship with the U.S. That’s because the Democratic Party of Japan, which came to power last year for only the second time in half a century, won votes by pledging to break with past governments that hewed too closely to American foreign policy.


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