Barack Obama statue attacked by Facebook critics

By Niniek Karmini

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 15 2009 8:01 a.m. MST

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A statue of President Barack Obama as a boy erected in a Jakarta park has been targeted in a Facebook campaign by thousands who say it should be removed.

The Indonesian-language Facebook group named "Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Taman Menteng Park" had attracted more than 15,000 members by Tuesday since the 43-inch (110-centimeter) statue of 10-year-old Obama dressed in shorts and a T-shirt was unveiled in the downtown park on Thursday last week.

Heru Nugroho, the group's creator, said he would use the support on the popular social networking Web site to demand that Jakarta Gov. Fauzi Bowo remove the statue.

"Everybody knows that Obama is a world leader, but he is not our national hero who deserves to be awarded a statue," Nugroho said.

"This has hurt our national pride because there are many Indonesian figures who gave worthy service to this nation but no statue has been built for them," he added.

A separate, English-language Facebook site with the same name was created by a California man and has attracted about 100 members, mostly in the U.S.

Many Indonesians are proud of the fact that Obama lived in Jakarta from 1967 to 1971 with his American mother, his Indonesian stepfather and his half-sister.

He went by the name "Barry," attended the local elementary school near where his statue now stands and owned a pet monkey.

Ron Mullers, a Jakarta resident who came up with the idea of the statue and raised money for it, said it was supposed to inspire local children to follow their dreams.

"It's ridiculous. I'm shocked," Mullers, chairman of the local nonpolitical Friends of Obama Foundation, calling the move against the statue political.

Mullers likened the backlash to the controversy over whether Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama accepted that accolade in Oslo the same day as his statue was unveiled by Jakarta Mayor Sylviana Murni.

Murni ruled out moving the statue, saying that it has been erected the correct approvals and without political motive.

"Everyone in this country can express their opinions freely and give awards like statues to anyone freely," Murni said. The governor was overseas on business and was not available for comment Tuesday.

The statue cost more than $10,000. The money was donated by eight Indonesian patrons, a television station and a disaster relief charity.

Associated Press Writer Rod McGuirk in Jakarta contributed to this report

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