Sep 28, 2013

Tight security at Miss World final

A glittering finale to the Miss World pageant was taking place in Bali on Saturday under heavy security as Muslim hardliners threatened fresh protests at the venue.

After weeks of radical demonstrations and warnings from embassies that extremists might attack the pageant, 129 beauty queens will take to the stage in glamourous gowns, with sniffer dogs, water cannon and heavily armed police surrounding the venue.

"The security is so far so good. We hope there’s no problems and I'm sure we'll get all the support we need," Nana Putra, executive director of the event's broadcaster and organiser MNC, told AFP from the venue at the Nusa Dua resort.

The American, British and Australian embassies last week said that radicals could attack the pageant, a chilling warning on an island where bombings in 2002 killed more than 200 people, most of them foreign tourists.

"Extremist groups may be planning to disrupt the Miss World pageant... potentially through violent means," said the US embassy in Jakarta.

The finale of the three-week event that ends with the coronation of Miss World 2013 will be broadcast in more than 180 countries.

Radicals have denounced Miss World as a "whore contest" and "pornography", and have burned effigies of the Indonesian organisers, branding them infidels.

Despite efforts by the UK-based Miss World to appease the hardliners with an early pledge to drop the famous bikini round, the protest movement snowballed and has overshadowed the contest.

Government officials bowed to the mounting pressure by ordering later rounds and the final to be moved from the main island of Java to Hindu-majority Bali, where the show opened on September 8 and where there is little hardline influence.

But the radicals say they are not satisfied and are threatening to travel to the venue for protests Saturday.

"We will do anything we can to stop Miss World," said Haidar Al-Hamid, head of the East Java province branch of the Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI).

He said FPI members had planned to cross the narrow stretch of water that separates the province from Bali to protest, but officials had closed the port Friday night, preventing them from leaving.

"The head of FPI has instructed any member who can get to Bali should, so even those from East Java are finding other ways to get there," Al-Hamid said, declining to say how many were expected to turn up.

Hundreds of FPI members failed to cross to Bali from East Java earlier this month, stopped at the port by a line of female police backed by hundreds of elite officers.

Another FPI leader, Maman Suryadi, said 5,000 members of the group would protest by holding an evening prayer and Koranic readings in Sentul on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.

Organisers had originally planned the final in a 10,000-seat venue in Sentul before being forced to move to a 2,000-seat centre in Nusa Dua.

Saturday's final will last several hours and will see the contestants parade in Indonesian-designed dresses and feature a series of musical performances, including one by British boyband Blue.

The finalists will face a question-and-answer round from a panel of judges before the current Miss World, China's Yu Wenxia, hands her crown to the new winner. - source


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