By Ahmad Cholis Hamzah*
Wherever I was in foreign countries in 1980’s if I introduced myself that I am from Indonesia, people that I met quickly replied “oh Bali” as they thought that Bali Island is not part of Indonesia; or some people replied “oh Indonesia, Soekarno”. Even when I performed my Haj (pilgrimage) in Mecca in 1998 an old Arab man that I met also replied by whispering to my ears “Indonesia, Soekarno”. Indeed, Soekarno the first President of Indonesia was popular in the world especially during Indonesian Independence and global Cold War period.
I do not want to enter into debate about the strengths and weaknesses of former President Soekarno; However it would be wise to say that people in ASEAN countries if they want to be a good ASEAN community they should know and understand key respective leaders and hero in each member countries. By doing this, there would be stronger ties between member countries to understand more about each other not only in term of international trade and investment but also in term of cultural understanding.
What Madame Tussauds in Bangkok does in presenting the wax figure of former President Soekarno is a good example on providing cultural and historical information to public in an ASEAN member country. Madame Tussauds Bangkok in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Indonesia office unveiled the historically important wax work of the founding father of Indonesia President Soekarno on 24th September last year (2012). The event was witnessed by daughter of President Soekarno – Megawati Soekarnoputri who was also the fifth President of Indonesia. Madame Megawati donated her father’s traditional songkok cap to outfit the life-size figure, helping to create a sense of authenticity.
President Soekarno, who was born in 1901 in Surabaya, Indonesia, proclaimed his country’s independence on August 17, 1945, and served as its first president until 1966. He died in 1970.
Madame Tussauds Bangkok is a good example of a media that shows the magnificent wax works of prominent world figures, and provides more understanding about world history to public. However, it would be better for the purpose of ASEAN solidarity Madame Tussauds Bangkok should not only show world popular figures such as David Backham, Bruce Lee, Justin Bieber and Cristiano Ronaldo; but it should also show prominent leaders of each member country of ASEAN. We do believe that ASEAN countries are rich with respective, well-known figures that had noble contribution to the world order and prosperity.
Providing more information about respective leaders of ASEAN countries to public would strengthen the solidarity of people among ASEAN.*) Alumni of University of London, U.K; Airlangga University and a lecturer at PERBANAS (Banking College) Surabaya-Indonesia.