Statue of young Gus Dur unveiled in park

Statue of young Gus Dur unveiled in park

A statue of the esteemed cleric of pluralism and former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid as a boy was unveiled in Amir Hamzah Park in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Saturday.

The 400-kilogram, 1.2-meter bronze statue was created by artist Yani Mariani Sastranegara and initiated by the Komodo Dragon Foundation. Gus Dur is depicted standing while reading a book, supposedly to inspire children who play in the park.

"Gus Dur was a kid with big dream, who was always eager to learn. We want to inspire children to always learn, to be successful. It's purely our initiative, it's not political at all," Ron Muller from the foundation said on Saturday.

The foundation previously built the statue of US President Barack Obama as a boy and placed it in Menteng Park. Amid controversy sparked over granting a foreign figure such prominence, they moved the statue to SDN 01 Menteng (Besuki) state elementary school, where Obama went to school for four years.

Also present at the statue's unveiling were, among others, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, Gus Dur's widow, Sinta Nuriyah, and daughter, Yenny Wahid, and Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

"He was like a god for Chinese people," Ahok said, referring to Gus Dur's fight for the rights of Chinese citizens in Indonesia, including on religious and cultural freedom.

Wimar Witoelar, the former president's spokesman, was also present at the event.

"I think the statue represents his greatest motive in life, which was as a humanist. He had been a humanist since he was a boy," he said.

He also thought that the statue showed that people had begun appreciate the true Gus Dur.

"I always wanted people to get a clear view on what he was. He wasn't driven by ambition, but a humanist spirit [...] I'm glad now his real self came to light, a pluralist, a humanist, and a democrat," he told the Post on the sidelines of the event.

Amir Hamzah Park was chosen as the site due to its proximity to Gus Dur's grandfather's home, which now houses the Wahid Institute.

Gus Dur was elected Indonesian president in October 1999. He championed a tolerant brand of Islam and was a former chairman of Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). He passed away on Dec. 30, 2009, at the age of 69.

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