EX-IMMIGRATION OFFICE IN JAKARTA
In December 2008 the building was launched as a venue for the French lounge chain Buddha Bar, following its predecessors in New York, London, Dubai and Kiev. So it is the first Buddha Bar in Asia. With cathedral-high ceilings, a restaurant upstairs has a six-metre (18ft) Buddha overseeing seating for 240. A cocktail club downstairs throbs with lounge music. It has quickly turned into a hotspot for the young and wealthy.
But this new life didn't last long. Opposition to Jakarta's Buddha Bar escalated this March when the Indonesian religious affairs minister, Maftuh Basyuni, asked the French operator, Paris-based George V Hotels and Resorts, to consider closing down or changing the name. Jakarta's legislative council repeated requests to close the club, saying it would be the best way to ensure Buddhists are not offended. Protesters say it is wrong to associate Buddha with a bar because the faith prohibits alcohol. And then Corruption Watch will investigate the ownership of the heritage site by the daughter of the Jakarta Governor whose administration approved the building's restoration, and the daughter of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.
My opinion? I don't want to get involved with the issue of the name and ownership. Simply too complicated as an outsider although I am familiar with the situation since I was involved in similar complications before. But talking about the re-use of the building itself is a big dillema in Indonesia; it bumps always to the unavoidable situation that the new function go to the direction of elites and the have's. Or re-use as a museum and almost empty without sufficent income for maintenance. So far no example of re-used historical building which makes everybody happy. It seems (because I could only observe) difficult to find compromise in between. From perspective of finance and conservation standard are complicated enough, plus added by social, religious and political dimensions. No wonder that heritage conservation efforts in Indonesia challenge the best of the best experts if they exist at all, although I am afraid this doesn't help either since no conservation theory teaches someone how to solve power conflict and social tension in a building re-use function. The unspoken situation is much more challenging than the physical conservation side.