Jakarta. An Indonesian actress seen vacationing in the Maldives with Indonesian tycoon Aburizal Bakrie in a holiday video leaked last week has come forward with allegations that someone had tried to use the content of a stolen memory card to blackmail her family.
"We were blackmailed two months ago, before the video was leaked," Olivia Zalianty, 32, said in a press conference held on Sunday evening. "They asked for a large amount of money, but we didn't give it much thought."
The short video, as well as a small cache of photographs, appeared on the Internet last week in an apparent attempt to shame Bakrie — the Golkar Party's presidential candidate — ahead of the election. Olivia and her older sister Marcella, 34, were shown vacationing on the island nation of the Maldives with the 67-year-old tycoon and Golkar Party lawmaker Aziz Syamsuddin, 43, in a video seemingly shot the week of May 5, 2010. The four were seen relaxing on a private jet before taking in the view from the infinity pool and seaside deck of the W Retreat & Spa's posh "Ocean Haven" room on Fesdu Island.
Bakrie attempted to dress the island getaway up as a fact-finding mission over the weekend, explaining that the Zalianty sisters — and Indonesia as a whole — could learn a lot from the tiny island nation of the Maldives.
“The Maldives is a very small country, but it’s tourists exceed the tourists who come to Indonesia,” the presidential candidate told the Bakrie family-owned news portal Vivanews.co on Sunday. “We brought along those two sisters because they’re very concerned about tourism. Oliv happens to enjoy diving while Marcella likes making videos about marine tourism.”
In 2012, the Maldives booked little more than 958,000 tourists as the nation was rocked by political instability. Indonesia, on the other hand, recorded more than 8 million tourists during the same period, according to the state-run Antara News Agency. In 2010, when Bakrie visited the Maldives the island nation reported less than 800,000 tourist arrivals a year — less than half the annual number who arrive in Bali alone, according to government reports.
Olivia and her sister remained quiet throughout the initial scandal surrounding the video, but decided to come forward to "set the record straight" on Sunday. The actress called the vacation a "business trip" to look into the Maldives' tourism industry — an often-repeated assertion in this controversy despite the fact that neither sister had a vested interest in Indonesia's tourism sector in 2010 and have failed to develop an interest in the four years that followed.
"Initially we didn't want to comment [on the vacation] but the news has gone too far and we decided to set the record straight," Olivia said. "Marcella and I went there on business, with the intention of studying tourism. It was also a vacation because we both love nature and diving. Mr. ARB also has the same hobbies."
Although only four people appear on the vacation footage, Olivia said the actual entourage was much larger and that Ananda Mikola, Marcella's husband, was invited but declined the offer.
"I'm disappointed that the video was distributed online," Olivia said. "I feel that some irresponsible party intended to make Marcella and I the black sheep in all of this. And I'm sad that my sister is the one becoming an easy target for their interests. I was the one who asked her to join [us on the trip]."
The footage was likely stolen by someone with close ties to the family, Olivia said. The photographs and video were stored on a memory card left in a camera at the sister's office. When she attempted to find the files again, the memory card was missing, Olivia said.
"I think someone close [to us] leaked the video on purpose because the camera that was used belonged to the office and the file was stored there," she said. "I have no idea how it was leaked. I checked the file and it was gone, the memory card was gone."
But the missing video initially failed to raise alarm among the sisters, who saw nothing wrong with its content, Olivia said. The two had long-standing friendships with the Bakrie family and nothing untoward had happened on the trip, she said. The actress maintains a good relationship with Bakrie — one of Indonesia's richest men and the chairman of former President Suharto's Golkar Party — and the rest of his family.
"So far our relationship and communications are still going on," she said. "We have nothing to hide in this matter. His family already knows about all of these, so it's fine. [We share] a familial relationship because Marcella and I are his children's friends. There's nothing negative about that."
Regardless, Olivia said she regrets that the video went public and apologized for any damage it may have caused Bakrie's presidential campaign.
"We apologize for the bad image problem this has caused him," Olivia said. "We hope the public won't be provoked by this misleading news... I regret all of this, it was intended as a good thing. Why don't these people make something useful for the Indonesian people instead?"