Tue, 18 Apr 2000

TMII celebrates silver jubilee with series of events

JAKARTA (JP): A series of educative, scientific and cultural events are scheduled to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII).

The events, which began on April 16 and end on April 23, involve hundreds of school students, artists, small-scale entrepreneurs and young scientists all over Indonesia.

A special music concert called Merah-Putih by famous composer and choreographer Guruh Soekarnoputra will be held on Thursday.

Other programs include traditional wayang (puppet) performances, a scientific exhibition, drawing and singing contests for school students and displays of traditional herbal medicines.

Taman Mini spokesman Dandoel Hardoyono said no new buildings would be inaugurated for this year's anniversary.

"We will only reopen the newly refurbished Komodo museum and open a reptile park next to the museum," said Dandoel.

A commemorative book 25 Tahun Taman Mini (25 years of Taman Mini) will be launched on April 20.

Established on April 20, 1975, by then first lady Tien Soeharto, Taman Mini has weathered its initial controversy to become a cultural landmark for Jakarta and Indonesia in general.

The project was carried out by Harapan Kita Foundation and touted as a venue to showcase the riches and diversity of Indonesia's diverse ethnic groups and cultures.

The initial proposal was met by opposition from students and local residents, especially as the country was still enduring economic hardships in the early 1970s.

The huge funding required for the project, which was originally set to occupy about 400 hectares, was a source of much of the opposition because Indonesians were still dealing with economic woes left over from the 1960s. The acquisition of more than 150 hectares in the Pondok Gede area of East Jakarta provoked protests by residents.

The objections fell on deaf ears. The New Order government of Soeharto was already tightening the screws on political freedom and a project anointed by one of its members, particularly one headed by Soeharto's family, could not be denied.

The construction of the first stage of the project, started in 1971, comprised 26 pavilions featuring the traditional and cultural life of Indonesians from all the country's provinces.

An additional pavilion was added in 1976 to house East Timor after it integrated into Indonesia. The province seceded from the country in August last year and the East Timor pavilion is now empty.

Additional facilities include places of worships and buildings housing exhibitions on sports, zoology, science, telecommunications and transportation. There are also military museums, bird park, swimming pool, art gallery, youth hostel, restaurants, an Imax theater and other buildings.

Taman Mini's management has customarily inaugurated a new facility in conjunction with anniversaries. The most recent additions were the Purna Bhakti Museum, the international standard theater building Teater Tanah Airku and Bayt Al-Quran Museum.

With its varied facilities and affordable tickets, Taman Mini has become a favorite place for recreation for millions of Indonesians, especially low to middle income groups.

It has been part of the itineraries of visiting foreign dignitaries. Among the distinguished visitors were late Princess Diana, former U.S. president George Bush, Pope John Paul and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

"We want to maintain and upgrade some run-down equipment and buildings and we are committed to giving our best services to visitors," said Dandoel.

Taman Mini, which employs about 680 people, is managed by the Harapan Kita Foundation under the supervision of the Office of State Secretary.

The city government was reportedly willing to take over the ownership and management of Taman Mini, but there has been no progress in the plan.

Many continue to identify Taman Mini with the family of Soeharto, which is a liability as his reputation has sunk amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power during his 32 years in power.

The Purna Bhakti Museum is dedicated to Soeharto, while the newly opened At-Tin grand mosque was built in honor of Tien Soeharto, who died in 1996.

Dandoel acknowledged that many assumed Taman Mini was owned by the Soehartos.

"It's a misperception. Taman Mini is a national asset."

After 25 years, Taman Mini's management still has its work cut out for it in changing its negative public image. (raw)