The brand new IDR75K (US$5) bill was only released yesterday, but it has already become the subject of a racial controversy online.
A hoax that has been circulating on social media claims that a young boy featured on the new bill – one of nine children dressed in traditional costumes from across Indonesia – is wearing a "traditional Chinese costume." The boy also happens to have slanted eyes, further fuelling the racist claim touted by anonymous users on Twitter.
The hoax got big enough that it prompted a statement from Indonesian officials, who denied the claims and said that he was actually wearing a traditional costume from North Kalimantan, which may indeed be unrecognizable to a lot of Indonesians, owing to the hundreds of ethnic groups in the country.
"There were people asking about [the attire] looking like it's from China? That is not the case, it is actually a traditional attire from North Kalimantan, clothing of the Tidung people. The selection process was discussed by cultural experts and we also coordinated with the local Education Agency, as well as with [representatives] of the Tidung people in North Kalimantan," Bank Indonesia's (BI) Head of Money Management Department Marlison Hakim said.
BI's Deputy Governor Rosmaya Hadi said the children on the back side of the IDR75K bill represent Indonesia's diverse cultures, as it showcases ethnic groups from across the country.
The boy has since been identified as Muhammad Izzam Athaya, an elementary school student from Tarakan city.
"As a parent, I am actually quite concerned about the hoax, but the upside of it is that Indonesians are coming to know about Tidung traditional attire. The people in North Kalimantan in particular are working together to clarify this matter," Muhammad's father Hendra Maulana said today.
The predominantly Muslim Tidung people make up a part of Dayak Tidung tribe, who are scattered from North Kalimantan to the Malaysian peninsula. The Tidung attire has been officiated as North Kalimantan's regional costume.
Anti-China paranoia is quite pervasive in Indonesia, especially in recent years. Distrust of China as a nation, and of Chinese people, are also high among Indonesians, perpetuated in large part by hoaxes such as Chinese migrants coming over to steal local jobs.