The Lady Gaga cancellation is an embarrassment for the country
28 May 2012
Lady Gaga cancels Jakarta concert
Updated 28 May 2012, 22:28 AEST
Indonesian fans of Lady Gaga are reeling after the super-star singer decided to cancel her Jakarta concert due to safety concerns.
Lady Gaga cancels Jakarta concert (Credit: ABC)
Tensions over her appearance in the capital have been simmering for weeks after an Islamic extremist group threatened to stop her alighting from the plane.
Correspondent: Katie Hamann
Speakers: Wimar Witoelar, media commentator, former advisor to former President Abdurrahman Wahid; Bonar Tigor Naipospos, human rights campaigner
HAMANN: Indonesia's romance with Lady Gaga went from bad to worse over the weekend, after it was announced that the pop-star had cancelled a visit to the capital Jakarta. The provocative artist's problems began earlier this month when the Indonesian National Police refused to issue a permit for the concert scheduled for June the 3rd, citing safety concerns.
The concert's promoters attempted to negotiate with the police - offering to tone down her act - but the protests from Islamic organisations grew ever more fevered.
The most violent objections came from the notorious Islamic Defenders Front or FPI. According to them Lady Gaga, is a porn artist and an emissary of Satan. They threatened to dispatch 30,000 members to physically prevent her from entering the country. Wimar Witoelar is a media commentator and former advisor to one-time President Abdurrahman Wahid. He says the actions of the Islamic Defenders Front have nothing to do with faith.
WITOELAR: They're not a particularly religious group, they just carry the name to scare people. So I thought they were just rattling their sabres and I had relied on the police and safe-keeping law enforcement agencies to keep them in line. But of course, things became more and more confusing, there was talk of extortion by the FPI, to the organisers. I understand they were paid off, but this is hearsay, and then the police got into the game. Instead of putting a stop to this, some are suspected of letting the situation simmer.
HAMANN: The FPI is renowned for its thuggery. Over the year's its members have trashed the offices of Indonesia Playboy and attacked numerous bars and entertainment venues in the capital. Despite this or perhaps because of it Wimar Witoelar says the FPI have developed an increasingly cosy relationship with local authorities.
WITOELAR: The police have announced as much. They have announced that the FPI are their partners in keeping law and order on different occasions. And not only the police, the governor of Jakarta also celebrates holidays with the FPI. The people in power are playing games together with the FPI, with the increasing cartel of political and business interests, that's now keeping Indonesia captive.
HAMANN: Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world and the vast majority of these faithful are moderate.
Wimar Witoelar says the Islamic Defenders Front have little broad base support... but the Indonesian government appears increasingly unwilling to discipline the FPI or uphold the laws governing freedom of expression and religion.
And Mr Witoelar says the treatment of Lady Gaga points to larger more systemic failures within law enforcement agencies and the government.
WITOELAR: It sends a message that the government is becoming more impotent to enforce the law. It sends a message that a political order is being compromised by the lack of integrity and morality on the part of the political players. The parliament, the president and political parties and the president does not invoke his power to put a stop to this. That part I do not understand.
HAMANN: Indonesia is not the first Asian country to raise objections to Lady Gaga. Earlier this year South Korea placed an adults-only restriction on her concert after protests from Christian groups. She has been an outspoken advocate of free-speech and gay rights, which human rights campaigner, Bonar Tigor Naipospos says makes the cancellation over security concerns all the more damaging to Indonesia's reputation.
NAIPOSPOS: Lady Gaga is like an icon for the youth in Indonesia. The icon of freedom of expression, the woman who promotes equality, protects gays, lesbians. I think Lady Gaga is a symbol of the new movement also in Indonesia, I think.
HAMANN: On Sunday, Lady Gaga used a social media website to apologise for the cancellation, saying she was devastated.
In an apparent reference to her detractors she tweeted; 'There is nothing holy about hatred.' The concert's local promoters have offered a full refund to the 52,000 ticket holders.