Question Lift of Ban on Film Imports

The Jakarta Globe

Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Arientha Primanita & Elisabeth Oktofani

Although Hollywood blockbusters are expected to be back on Indonesian screens on Friday, the foreign film controversy appears far from over.

Lawmakers weighed into the saga on Tuesday, questioning the government’s decision to lift the ban on a film imports even though its tax issues had yet to be fully resolved.

Ibrahim Sakti Batubara, a National Mandate Party (PAN) lawmaker from House of Representatives Commission X, which oversees sports and tourism affairs, alleged that pressure from foreign movie producers had played a role in the decision.

“I don’t know why the freeze was lifted when so many problems, especially related to the tax issue, were not resolved,” Ibrahim said. He also criticized Tourism Minister Jero Wacik for behaving like the spokesman for foreign film importers. “I will ask the commission to summon the minister to explain this movie import issue,” he said.

The return of Hollywood films was made possible by the Customs and Excise Office clearing newly registered film importer Omega Film to bring in movies.

Omega was given a film import license on May 3, but a freeze was imposed as officials sought to clarify its relationship with Indonesian film giant Cineplex 21.

Cineplex 21 is affiliated with Camila and Satrya, two major film importers banned by the Finance Ministry pending payment of Rp 22 billion ($2.6 million) in back taxes and interest.

Bambang Soesatyo, a lawmaker from Commission III overseeing legal affairs, said the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) should investigate whether the so-called tax mafia was involved in the film import industry. He said the sudden revocation of the freeze should raise suspicion that there had been political interference.

Speaking to reporters at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, Wacik denied “the ruling power” had interfered and rejected claims that Cineplex 21 and Omega were operating a monopoly. “There used to be a monopoly, but we’re in the process of phasing it out, we can’t just do it with a snap of the fingers,” Wacik said.

“If they’ve got 600 buildings, 600 screens, how can we get rid of them all? Previously, if you imported a film, only you could show it. Not any more. If A imports films, it’s legally obliged to allow all other screening companies to show it. But it hasn’t been fully implemented.

“Anyone can be a film importer, the only catch is, can you get the films from Hollywood agents?”

Djonny Sjafruddin, head of the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union (GPBSI), also defended Cineplex 21 over the monopoly claims. “Although the Indonesian cinema industry is dominated by Cineplex 21, the Business Competition Supervisory Commission [KPPU] has already investigated them twice and did not find any evidence of a monopoly.”

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