Buddha Bar Not to Buddhists Liking

by Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Jakarta Globe City, March 2, 2009

Jakarta, Indonesia -- The exclusive Buddha Bar in Central Jakarta, part-owned by the daughter of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, has been labelled sacrilegious by the Indonesian Buddhist Student

Association chairman Eko Nugroho told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday that the new bar and restaurant in Menteng violated laws related to insulting religions and should be shut down.

Eko said that a number of Buddhist organizations in Indonesia had filed official complaints about the name with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Tourism.

He said the Jakarta administration should have considered the law regarding the misuse of religious symbols before issuing permits for the restaurant.

“We urge local governments in Jakarta to take strong action against the new bar to avoid angering Buddhists,” he said.

He said the bar was owned by Megawati’s daughter, Puan Maharani, the heir apparent to the Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, and Renny Sutiyoso, the daughter of presidential aspirant and former Jakarta governor, Sutiyoso.

Eko said that other student religious groups would support their association and it would file a class-action lawsuit against the city administration.

“We are also considering filing a class-action suit against the central government for its failure to follow the Constitution, under which Buddhism is protected,” he said.

He said that all parties related to the Buddha Bar establishment should have understood that Buddha was the highest-rank spiritual teacher for Buddhists.

“A Buddhist would never permit anyone to take Buddha’s name for commercial use,” he said.

He said that the bar owners should respect Buddhism and its universal values and as a religion that is protected by Indonesian’s Constitution.

“We are still arranging and collecting sufficient documents necessary to sue the owners, which we will soon do with the East Jakarta District Court,” Eko said.

According to bar’s official Web site, Jakarta was the first city in Asia to host the Buddha Bar, which was originally established in Paris in 1996. Other franchises are based in London, New York, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Kiev, Cairo and Beirut.

However, Eko said that that fact could not be used as justification to open a new Buddha Bar in Jakarta, saying that the governments of Singapore and Thailand had refused to issue licenses for Buddha Bars in their countries.