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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Miss Indonesia : Artika proud to reach top 15

Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Bangkok

Miss Indonesia Artika Sari Devi was Asia's only representative when the names of Miss Universe 2005 15 semifinalists were announced at the finals here on Tuesday.

The semifinalists were dominated by contestants from northern and Latin American countries.

"I was very surprised. It was stunning for me to be in the last 15," Artika told Indonesian reporters.

"It was such an honor to represent Asian women in the final. And more than that, I am here to represent my country," she said.

For Artika, being in the last 15 was such a great achievement although some would decry her very participation. "This achievement is not only for me but also the rest of the nation."

In reference to the controversy in her country over pageants, she added, "As I have followed all the process here, I know for sure that there is no such thing as a body-measurement session as complained by some groups back home."

Artika decided to join the pageant virtually at the last minute before the pageant started on May 13.

"I know that there are some groups who oppose my participation in the pageant but again I am representing Indonesia here. However, I respect their opposition."

Artika is the first Indonesian to fully participate in the annual beauty pageant with her participation at the swimsuit session during the presentation on May 25. Earlier attendants were "observers" as their organizers bowed to pressure back home against Indonesia's participation in a contest parading women's bodies. In the swimwear session Artika wore a one-piece swimsuit, as did contestants from Bahamas, China, Mauritius, U.S. Virgin Islands and Sri Lanka.

Indonesia last participated in 1996 was Alya Rohali, now a popular TV host, joined the pageant as an observer without joining the swimsuit session.

Artika also said she was struck by a text message she received just before the finals, which said nude pictures of her were circulating on the Internet.

"I tried to be strong. I can assure you the pictures were not of me." Given tight security and the tight schedule she managed to meet her family backstage before the finals, for just 10 minutes.

Although she was happy to be in top 15, Artika said that she was expecting more support especially from the government.

"Actually, the participation in this pageant is a good opportunity to promote the country more. It's quite sad, most of the contestants do not know where Indonesia is. They think Indonesia is part of Bali," she said.

She was also referring to other contestants who had groups of supporters flying their national flags, blowing whistles and beating drums to show their support.

After all this, Artika said she would return to her study to get a master degree in notary studies at the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, adding she hopes to work for the National Commission for Children Protection (Komnas PA).

Meanwhile, former education minister Wardiman Djojonegoro said he was very happy with Artika entering top 15 as the Putri Indonesia Foundation did not set a specific target for her participation.

"But from what I hear, Artika is very popular here not only among the contestants but also the Thais," he said. "Perhaps her only weakness is the fact that she was among the shortest among contestants. This is very visible on stage."

Wardiman, however, was upbeat that Artika's success would lead to more talented Indonesian young women applying for the Putri Indonesia pageant as well as better support and sponsors.

While host Thailand may be disappointed as Miss Thailand Chananporn Rosjan did not make it into the semifinals, Chananporn did get the Best National Costume competition on May 24.

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