'Gaga cancellation reflects weak govt': Setara
The decision by Lady Gaga's management to cancel her planned June 3 concert reflects a government that is weak in the face of intolerant political groups, according to human rights watchdog group the Setara Institute.
Little monsters in action: Fans of U.S. pop star Lady Gaga perform a flash mob at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday. Lady Gaga canceled her sold-out show in Indonesia after Islamist hard-liners threatened violence, claiming her sexy clothes and provocative dance moves would corrupt the youth. (AP/Dita Alangkara)
"The authority of the state should have led to freedom of expression and guaranteed security. These are rights guaranteed in our constitution and in our laws," Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said on Sunday.
Local promoter Big Daddy Entertainment officially announced that Gaga's management had cancelled her performance in the capital due to "security concerns".
Hard-line groups such as the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have condemned the Grammy-award winning pop star for allegedly indulging in “pornography” and promoting “satanic values”.
The FPI even threatened to send its members to intercept Gaga at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to prevent her from setting foot in the country.
"It's clear that the promoter's decision to cancel the concert was a result of pressure and threats," Hendardi said.
"The tug of war from this [concert] permit acquisition demonstrates that this isn't just a technical matter about the law, but rather has become a political issue that will highly benefit the groups that are controlling it," he added.
Similarly, another critic says that the cancelation of Lady Gaga's concert could lead to negative international perceptions on Indonesia's ability to be a democratic country that guarantees freedom of expression and multiculturalism.
"The world community may still see that Indonesia is a democratic country despite the outcome of this Lady Gaga incident, but they will see the country as one where freedom of expression and different opinions are hampered," Otho Hernowo Hadi, a University of Indonesia social science and politics professor told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
"It may even be possible that the handling of this controversy could lower Indonesia's democracy index."
The public could also lose trust in the police, Otho said.
"I am certain that strong pressure from minority groups had an indirect influence on the police's decisions throughout this controversy, even if they won't admit it," he said.
Whatever the motive of the police, Otho said that the outcome of this controversy is "a defeat for security".
"The public will see that the state is bowing down to these little groups, and it will set a bad precedent on freedom of expression. It could be that people will be afraid to freely express themselves unless they do so according to the limitations set by these little groups," Otho said.
Separately, an official at the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry said that his office respected the decision of US diva Lady Gaga’s management to cancel her show in Jakarta, but denied that the cancellation would prompt other foreign performers to follow suit.
The ministry’s director general for cultural value, arts and film, Ukus Kuswara, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the ministry considered the decision made by Gaga’s management the best solution under the circumstances.
“I believe that Indonesia will remain an interesting destination for international musicians as well as a potential market for them. In the future, we will have to improve communication between relevant parties,” he added.
The ministry previously endorsed Gaga’s performance, citing that the Grammy-award singer would boost tourism in the country.
Ministry data show that around 12,000 foreign tourists from Australia, the Philippines and other ASEAN and Middle Eastern countries had bought tickets to the concert and had booked rooms in three- and four-star hotels in Jakarta.
The singer was scheduled to perform at Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta on June 3.
However, local promoter Big Daddy Entertainment said in a press conference on Sunday morning that Gaga's management had decided to cancel her gig in Jakarta, citing "security reasons" amid a hostile response from several hard-line groups in the country.
A total of 52,000 tickets, with prices ranging from Rp 465,000 (US$50.75) to Rp 2.25 million, have already been sold since tickets sales opened on March 10.