Jakarta. One of Jakarta’s most iconic landmarks, the National Monument, will be washed this week and next for the first time in decades.
“Today we commenced [the cleaning] and some experts from Germany will come on Thursday to clean the obelisk,” monument manager Rini Haryani said on Monday.
Usually referred to as Monas, shortened from Monumen Nasional, the obelisk stands in the center of a grassy park in Central Jakarta that attracts thousands of tourists every day, along with hawkers, street performers and local children kicking footballs.
Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, ordered the construction of the 132-meter tower, which opened to the public in 1975.
The grounds and other attractions will remain open during the cleaning, scheduled to end on May 18, but the top of the monument will be off limits.
“Visitors can still visit the National History Museum and the Hall of Independence, they are still open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m,” Rini said.
German company Kaercher, known for its work on public monuments, has taken on the mammoth task of washing away 22 years of discoloring dirt and Jakarta pollution. The company recently changed its Facebook cover photo to an illustration of two figures abseiling down the structure’s facade.
Kaercher cleaned the monument in 1992 — the last time it had a professional rinse. Rini said the company would use special heavy duty equipment.
Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said he had entrusted Kaercher with the task because it did well in 1992 and because of its strong international reputation.
“First of all it is free,” he said. “Many companies offered us to clean it up for free, but we need a company that has experience… and we want to be able to promote our landmark.”
Kaercher has cleaned over 80 global landmarks, including the London Eye in England and Mount Rushmore in the United States.
Basuki dismissed criticism over his choice of a foreign company.
“There are many other historical monuments in Jakarta that need to be cleaned up,” he said. “Why don’t they make a fuss about these monuments?”
The city has invited residents and visitors to attend an event during which they can participate in the cleaning on May 15.
Monas last underwent major maintenance between Oct. 21 and Dec. 15, when its elevator system was replaced. the jakarta globe