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Indonesian campaign targets Obama statue

The statue of a young Barack Obama was supposed to inspire Indonesian children to follow their dreams. The statue of a young Barack Obama was supposed to inspire Indonesian children to follow their dreams. (Achmad Ibrahim/Associated Press)
Associated Press / December 16, 2009

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JAKARTA, Indonesia - A statue in a Jakarta park depicting President Obama as a boy has been targeted in a Facebook campaign by thousands who say it should be removed.

The Indonesian-language Facebook group named “Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Taman Menteng Park’’ had attracted more than 15,000 members by yesterday since the 43-inch statue of 10-year-old Obama dressed in shorts and a T-shirt was unveiled in the downtown park last Thursday.

Heru Nugroho, the group’s creator, said he would use the support on the popular social networking website to demand that Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo remove the statue.

“Everybody knows that Obama is a world leader, but he is not our national hero who deserves to be awarded a statue,’’ Nugroho said.

“This has hurt our national pride because there are many Indonesian figures who gave worthy service to this nation but no statue has been built for them,’’ he added.

A separate English-language Facebook site with the same name was created by a California man and has attracted about 100 members.

Many Indonesians are proud of the fact that Obama lived in Jakarta from 1967 to 1971 with his American mother, his Indonesian stepfather, and his half-sister.

He went by the name “Barry,’’ attended the local elementary school near where his statue now stands, and owned a pet monkey.

Ron Mullers, a Jakarta resident who came up with the idea for the statue and raised money for it, said it was supposed to inspire local children to follow their dreams.

“It’s ridiculous. I’m shocked,’’ said Mullers, calling the move against the statue political.

Mullers likened the backlash to the controversy over whether Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama accepted that accolade in Oslo the same day as his statue was unveiled by Jakarta Mayor Sylviana Murni.

Murni ruled out moving the statue, saying that it has been erected with the correct approvals and without political motive.