Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Controversial Buddha Bar

On Thursday, 5 March, dozens of Buddhist students raided the Buddha Bar in Jakarta‘s elite area of Menteng, and forced the management of the French franchise bar to shut it down.

According to The Jakarta Post, those students belong to the Indonesian Buddhist Association (AMB). They protest the use of Buddha as the name of the bar and the use of Buddhist effigies as decoration of the bar where alcohol drinks are sold and people could get drunk there. According to a representative of AMB Widodo, the Jakarta government has sent a letter to the Principal of the Buddha Bar in France i.e. George V Hotels & Restaurant chain, to protest against the use of Buddha as name of their bar. And the management of the Buddha Bar, run by Renny Sutiyoso, daughter of former Governor of Jakarta Sutiyoso, has also requested its Principal for change of the bar's name.

Further, The Jakarta Globe reported that the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) has suspected irregularities in the use of a historic building as a venue for the Buddha bar. According ICW's Agus Suryanto the building, built in 1913, has been categorized in 1983 as a historic building. And according to the Cultural Preservation Law No 5 Year 1992, a historic building cannot be used merely for the benefit of an individual or group of individuals.

Meanwhile, Kompas has quoted the Speaker of Jakarta Regional Parliament (DPRD) Ade Surapriyatna as saying that he will talk to Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo about closing of the bar immediately. This opinion was supported by several members of the DPRD, who said that the use of the historic building is contradictory to the regulation.

The above students' action brings mixed feelings for me, on the one hand I was surprised that a students association representing Buddha, which I always thought peaceful, would take a violent action i.e. raiding and closing down the bar. But on the other hand I can understand how offended those students were by the usage of their religion as a name & effigies for a bar.


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