Tue, 09 Aug 1994

Soeharto okays construction of huge monument in Bali

JAKARTA (JP): President Soeharto yesterday gave the go ahead for the construction of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana, a monument in Bali which will be taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York, and stressed that no government money will be used.

The Rp 80 billion (US$38 million) needed for the project must be raised entirely from the public, probably from entrepreneurs, Soeharto said yesterday when meeting with the officials responsible for the construction, including Bali Governor Ida Bagus Oka, Minister of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications Joop Ave, architect Aribustaman and creator Nyoman Nuarta.

The statue, planned to take the form of the legendary Garuda bird, will be built on 100 hectares of land, located some eight kilometers southeast of Denpasar's Ngurah Rai airport.

The monument, including the bird and its supporting structure, will be 135 meters high.

Joop said the Garuda's body will be gold-plated. Amphitheaters, bird parks and amusement centers will be built around the monument, he said.

The project, conceived almost four years ago by Joop himself, has triggered heated debate among the local Balinese community, government officials and non-Balinese.

Those opposed to the project, including students of Udayana University in Denpasar, call the project a waste of money.

Those who supported the project said Bali's younger generation needs a new means to express their creativity, which, according to them, can be achieved by building such a statue.

The culture and art which Bali currently possesses, they argued, are mere remnants of those during the lives of their ancestors.

President Soeharto's instructions yesterday, however, may be a signal that the disputes will end.

Bagus Oka said the statue is no longer the main issue. "What is more important is the effort to transform the unproductive, destroyed areas into a lush green site."

The project, after three long years of research and feasibility studies, will begin in the near future and is expected to be completed in three years, he said.

"President Soeharto asked whether the project could be finished earlier in time for the 50th anniversary of Indonesia's independence next year," Bagus Oka said.

This will unfortunately be impossible because the builders have to move cautiously given that Indonesia has limited experience with this kind of work,

The governor said the disputes ceased after those who were originally against the plan were informed that the monument would not disturb the environment.

Minister of Mines and Energy I.B. Sudjana, the most prominent Balinese in the government and also the patron of the foundation managing the project, said a company will be established under the foundation to manage tourism at the statue.

Many sources have volunteered to contribute to the project, such as the state companies under the Ministries of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications and of Mines and Energy, as well as the Krakatau Steel company, he said.

"A tourist entrepreneur from West Java has volunteered to contribute one kilogram of gold to this project," Joop added. (pwn)