Miss World organizer attacks government for venue change

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The billionaire media mogul who brought Miss World to Indonesia lashed out at the government Monday for bowing to Muslim hardline pressure by moving the entire beauty pageant to Bali.

But Hary Tanoesoedibjo, head of MNC media group, the local organizer of the event, conceded the whole contest would now be held on the Hindu-majority island as there was no other option but to follow the authorities' orders.

Organizers originally planned to hold only the early rounds in Bali and later rounds and the final in and around the capital Jakarta, where there is considerable hardline influence.

But days of Islamic radical protests across Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, prompted the government to order the whole 3-week pageant take place in Bali.

The authorities announced the decision on September 7 — just a day before the competition got under way.

MNC claimed last week it would be "impossible" to move the entire contest to Bali at such short notice and sought to lobby the government to change the decision.

But Tanoesoedibjo said Monday the decision was now final and they would find a way to do it — but he added he was "disappointed" at the move as it could further tarnish Indonesia's reputation.

"This will create the perception that we are not strong enough and that a decision can instantly be changed just because of some kind of pressure," said the mogul, who has a fortune of US$1.7-B, according to Forbes.

Authorities in Indonesia have changed or cancelled events in the past due to opposition from Islamic radicals — most notably in the case of pop star Lady Gaga who called off a show in Jakarta in 2012 following protests.

Tanoesoedibjo said the final, on September 28, and preceeding rounds would be held around Nusa Dua, in south Bali, but gave no further details.

The 47-year-old, whose empire includes TV stations and newspapers, also said the government's decision would cause "a significant loss" to MNC.

Budi Rustanto, a member of the organizing committee, added that it had been a desperate rush to secure hotel bookings in Bali for thousands of contestants and guests at the last minute.

While the vast majority of Indonesians practice a moderate form of Islam, a vocal hardline fringe has become increasingly influential in recent years. - Rappler.com


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