One of the reasons why I’m happy I don’t own a Blackberry anymore is that I managed to avoid receiving annoying, misleading broadcast messages rallying people to vote for the Komodo Island in the New7Wonders of Nature contest.
I have been, first and foremost, skeptical of the whole contest, because I knew at the very beginning that the “movement” is no different than a popularity contest tricking people into using your money, invoking your sense of nationalism and making you believe that your votes will actually translate into doing something good for your country.
There’s already a good blog post (in Bahasa Indonesia) explaining why the New7Wonders contest is basically a vanity scam, but what I would like to question here: why is there a lack of coordination in the Indonesian government regarding the Komodo voting?
Tracking back from the current status, the Government is filing a law suit to the New7Wonders Foundation because the Foundation have removed the Ministry of Tourism (technically it is now called the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy though they haven’t changed it in their website) as an Official Supporting Committee (OSC)/Lead Agency from the contest.
The dispute started when the government refused to become the host for the winner announcement ceremony of the contest, because allegedly the foundation asked for US$10 million in license fee, in addition to the fee that the government already paid for entering the contest. As a result of the refusal, the Foundation still listed the Komodo Island as one of the 28 finalist in the contest, but the Ministry is not allowed to act as Komodo’s OSC anymore.
Based on the article, the Ministry is demanding its right to become the OSC again. However, previously on August 15 2011, the Ministry declared its withdrawal from the New7Wonders of Nature contest with their press release.
Apparently a group of environmental activists led by Emmy Hafild (known for her work in Walhi, Greenpeace, TI) established the Support Committee for Komodo Island (P2Komodo) to continue promoting the bid and has been registered as Komodo’s OSC because they lobbied the Foundation to continue the nomination. They even asked Jusuf Kalla (the ex-vice president of Indonesia) to become the Komodo Ambassador, calling people to vote for Komodo through cheap SMS.
The cheap SMS votes (Rp.1) is indeed misleading, because of course there is a sponsor behind it. Recently the Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Body (BRTI) have received numerous complaints from users who were charged between Rp.1,000 and Rp.1,500 for each Komodo SMS vote that they thought were free. As of now, BRTI is summoning Mobilink and Telkomsel regarding this matter.
We are now left with the Ministry not being the official supporter of the Komodo campaign, but other parties are profiting through the number of SMS that we send each time we vote for Komodo. Ultimately, however, the profit goes to the organizers of the contest themselves, although they say “it aims for a distribution of surplus“.
Economic benefits to Indonesia? Komodo National Park was already registered as a UNESCO heritage site since 1991, and I see no additional benefit of branding Komodo Island as a winner of a suspicious vanity contest. One should definitely scrutinize the Ministry whether it has conducted any due diligence before it participated in the contest in the first place, especially since it involved taxpayers money.
If any taxpayers money should be involved, it should be invested to improve infrastructure in Komodo Island itself, including the surrounding areas in West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara. Not to mention to increase the welfare of park rangers because in the end Komodo Island is a National Park where one of its main purpose is for conservation of the Komodo dragons.
I see no difference between the New7Wonders of Nature contest with Miss World or Miss Universe. If anyone deserves a title out of this mess here, it should be, misunderstanding.