220 kings, sultans to gather for history revival talks

Some 220 kings and sultans from across the archipelago are expected to meet in Bandung, West Java, this weekend to talk about the government’s role in writing the history of sultanates and kingdoms and how it should be taught in school.

“The history of the kingdoms and sultanates is very limited today and there have not been any signs of improving it,” secretary of the meeting’s working body Upu Latu M.L. Benny Ahmad Samusamu said in Bandung on Thursday.

He said restoring the history was discussed during the group’s first meeting in Jakarta in 2009 and was also included as one of the meeting’s five recommendations.

This year’s two-day meeting will be opened this Saturday at Gedung Merdeka.

Chairman of the meeting’s working body, Pangeran Raja Adipati Arief Natadiningrat, said Gedung Merdeka was deliberately chosen as the venue for the meeting because the group wanted to harness the spirit of the Asian-African Conference held at the same place back in 1955.

“During the meeting, the Asian and African countries called for independence, and a fight against poverty and illiteracy. We hope the same spirit will be realized,” Arief said.

He said he hoped that the meeting would also help strengthen the friendship and unity among the participating kingdoms and sultanates, which were rooted in different ethnicities and religions.

“We cannot forget our motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika [unity in diversity], which has been almost forgotten thanks to the various uniformities done through regulations and laws that decrease differences,” Arief said.

He also said that the meeting would not talk about the political attitudes of the participating kings and sultans as that matter should be left to political parties and legislative councils.

“We will just remind the political elite to conduct their political practices politely,” Arief said.

Asked for comment about the deliberation of the bill on Yogyakarta’s special status, Arief said the matter was beyond his authority. “It’s [the authority of] the government, regional legislative councils and the House of Representatives. We just ask that no uniformity is needed for differences.”

The meeting, according to Benny, will begin with a historical walk from the Savoy Homann hotel to Gedung Merdeka, to resemble the Asian-African Conference, and will be officially opened by Vice President Boediono.

“The kings and sultans will wear their respective costumes,” he said.

So far, he said, 196 kings and sultans had confirmed their attendance at the meeting, which will also be attended by kings of the Sulu Sultanate, the Kabuntalan kingdom of the Philippines and of the Kabantenan residing in Sri Lanka.

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