Thursday, June 21, 2012

Indonesia and Malaysia's latest TK spat

Indonesia and Malaysia routinely fight over IPR. See here for an earlier report mentioning previous problems over IP ownership claims for fish.

Now Malaysia has claimed two Indonesian North Sumatran dances as part of the country’s cultural heritage. The North Sumatran Indonesian Batak community and the Indonesian government are complaining. The two dances the Tor-Tor and Gordang Sambilan, are proposed to be added to Malaysia's 2005 National Heritage Law of 2005 which protects cultural IPR by setting out tangible and intangible cultural heritage that the government lists or claims for preservation. But both dances are part of the Batak Mandailing culture of North Sumatra and performed in honor of their ancestors, making the dances part of Indonesian heritage too.

The Indonesian Batak Mandailing Customary Institute explained that migrants from Mandailing settled in Malaysia, bringing their culture with them. Parts of Indonesia and Malaysia from 600 - 1200 AD comprised  the state of Sriwijaya, later called Melayu, so have long had a close connection culturally.

“The culture has been around in Mandailing for 500 years,” Indonesian Batak Mandailing Customary Institute Mr Saleh said on Sunday. “There are two Mandailing customary communities in Malaysia — I know both of their leaders. There’s no way the Mandailing leaders in Perak and Kuala Lumpur will keep quiet about this.”

Malaysia tried something similar in 2007 by using the Indonesian traditional lion dance from Ponorogo, East Java in its tourism promotion, then in 2009 the same with the Balinese Pendet dance in one of its “Visit Malaysia” commercials.

In fact this may be easily resolved as long as Malaysia claims only that the dances must be protected but not if it tries to claim ownership.

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