President Joko Widodo unveils Indonesia's tallest statue

Artificial light illuminates the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue during the inauguration ceremony in Ungasan, Bali, on Sept 22, 2018.
Artificial light illuminates the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue during the inauguration ceremony in Ungasan, Bali, on Sept 22, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BALI (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In a ceremony attended by thousands of guests and featuring traditional dances, music and fireworks, Indonesian President Joko Widodo last Saturday (Sept 22) night inaugurated the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) - the country's tallest statue.

President Joko and First Lady Iriana made a brief trip to Bali to unveil the statue that stands on top of a hill in Ungasan, South Kuta.

Beaming with pride, the President could not hide his excitement because the 121m-tall monument was completed ahead of the International Monetary Fund World Bank Annual Meetings, which take place in Bali from Oct 8 to 14.

The meeting's gala dinner is slated to be held at the GWK complex.

Calling the giant statue a masterpiece, Mr Joko said its completion was a source of pride not only for the people of Bali, but also for Indonesia.

"It shows that as a great nation we have not only inherited extraordinary masterpieces, such as Borobudur and Prambanan, from ancient civilisations, but we are also able, in this contemporary era, to build (a new) civilisation and create (new) cultural masterpieces that are recognised by the world," he added.

Borobudur is a large ninth century Buddhist temple complex in Magelang, Central Java, while Prambanan is a ninth century Hindu temple complex in Yogyakarta. Both speak of the presence of a civilisation with sufficient economic power and technological sophistication to construct huge and elaborately decorated monuments.

Mr Joko reminded the audience that a towering masterpiece required an equally towering mind and effort.

"There is one thing from this majestic monument that we can use as a source of inspiration. This masterpiece is driven by courage to pursue big ideas. This inspiring monument would not be possible without courage to think big, courage to dream big and courage to take a major leap," he said.

Towards the end of his speech, Mr Joko commended famed sculptor Nyoman Nuarta, the initiator and designer of the GWK, for his courage and determination that finally saw the completion of the statue after a 28-year process.

He also praised the sculptor and his team for incorporating modern research and technology into the construction of the monument. The integration would ensure that the statue will withstand earthquakes, powerful gales and last for hundreds of years, he said.

"It will not only serve as the icon of Bali's culture and Indonesia's tourism, it will also be an historical footprint of our nation," he added.

Mr Nuarta, who had earlier escorted Mr Joko on a 30-minute tour of the statue's viewing gallery, was moved by the speech.

"It is truly an honor for me and those 200 workers who worked day and night over the last four years to complete the statue to have our President taking pride in it. I truly hope that the GWK will serve as a monument for our nation's cultural greatness."

Mr Nuarta joined President Joko and scores of dignitaries as they sounded a siren to mark the unveiling of the statue.

Among the dignitaries were former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, former vice-president Try Sutrisno, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, Bali Governor Wayan Koster and Mr Harjanto Tirtohadiguno who is the president commissioner of Alam Sutera Group the property developer that owns the GWK cultural park.

In its completed form, the GWK is one of the world's largest copper statues and the third tallest after the 153m Spring Temple Buddha in Henan, China, and the 130m Laykyun Setkyar Standing Buddha in Myanmar.

The GWK is the world's tallest statue of Lord Wisnu the Sustainer.

The statue is 75m tall with a wingspan of 65m and it stands on a pedestal that takes its total height to 121m, which is 30m taller than the Statue of Liberty in the United States.