The Straits Times
Friday, January 11, 2002
Jakarta groups blast proposed citizenship law
By Devi Asmarani (Straits Times, Indonesia Bureau)
Critics say new Bill being drafted still discriminates against minority Chinese by requiring ‘proof of citizenship’ papers
Jakarta – A new Bill on citizenship being drafted by a government team has drawn criticism from rights groups and others here for allegedly preserving discrimination against the minority ethnic Chinese group.
A team of Justice and Human Rights Ministry officials is preparing the second draft of the Bill and plans to submit it to Parliament later this year. If passed, it will replace the 1958 Law on Citizenship.
Anti-discrimination groups which got wind of details of the Bill say it continues to include a clause which has led to widespread discrimination against the Chinese, despite demands for its removal.
The contentious article stipulates that Indonesians ‘who need to prove their citizenship can get Letter of Proof of Indonesian Citizenship (SBKRI) at the relevant department’.
Although the article implies that the need for the document is optional, in practice it is a ‘must-have’ for most Indonesians of Chinese descent if they want to obtain passports, business or marriage licences, or loans.
The government has argued that keeping the article intact in the new Bill is important for administrative purposes.
But according to Ms Sondang Simanjuntak of the Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa non-governmental organisation (NGO): ‘It may sound insignificant but, in reality, this problematic article has provided a legal basis for many governmental or non-governmental institutions to discriminate against the ethnic Chinese.’
The original purpose of the article was to distinguish native Indonesians from Westerners and other ethnic minorities in the country, including the Chinese, Arabs and Indians.
During the Suharto administration, the requirement outlined in the 1958 law was applied primarily to ethnic Chinese Indonesians in what observers believed was part of a mechanism to suppress them.
The SBKRI is issued to those who are aged over 21.
Those who are not of this age have to show their parents’ documents in order to prove their citizenship.
It is also widely understood that the need to have the document was a major factor behind the prevalence of extortion and corruption.
The Lower Court issues the SBKRI after a hearing in which applicants must prove their citizenship.
But most people hire middlemen, who often collude with officials to skip the exhaustive court procedures.
Getting the document can cost between 500,000 rupiah (S$95) and one million rupiah.
Ms Sondang said: ‘Maybe it is not so hard for rich people, but we tend to forget that there are many poor ethnic Chinese too.’
Ethnic Chinese make up 4 per cent of the population but are believed to hold sway over 60 per cent of the economy, leading to the perception that most of them are well off.
But most ethnic Chinese Indonesians are small traders and businessmen.
Mr Wahyu Effendi, of the Movement of Struggle Against Discrimination (Gandi), said: ‘It is unfair that the ethnic Chinese have to prove they are Indonesian citizens by producing SBKRI while other minorities like the Arabs and those of Indian origin need only show their identity cards and their birth certificates.’
He said having the documents can also make them an easy target for discrimination.
The government-issued identity cards for the Chinese are subtly marked, either with specific numbers, a dot or extra white space. State universities have also imposed quotas on the ethnic Chinese.
Gandi and several other NGOs are currently drafting their own version of a new citizenship Bill which they plan to submit to Parliament.
The Jakarta Post
February 18, 2002
Chinese-Indonesians continue to suffer from discrimination
By Viva Goldner, Jakarta
Despite official freedom to celebrate their culture, Indonesians of Chinese descent continue to experience discrimination in political, business and social spheres.
From the time their birth certificate is issued with a mandatory stamp denoting their ethnicity, Chinese-Indonesians are forced to prove their citizenship at many stages throughout their lives.
“Chinese-Indonesians must provide additional certification, and pay higher fees, for identification cards, passports and other legal documents,” says human rights activist Ester Jusuf of Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa.
According to Ester, the private affairs of Chinese-Indonesians are also subject to intervention by the Army’s Coordinating Council for Ethnic Chinese Affairs (BKMC).
She said BKMC monitors any political dissidence among the ethnic Chinese community, with evidence of opposition to the government would be met with riot threats similar to the May 1998 mayhem, when Chinese-Indonesians were targeted in riots preceding the downfall of former dictator Soeharto.
Anton, a Jakarta movie importer, said he also faced discrimination in business dealings with government officials, who imposed additional import taxes and other levies.
“If I have to censor a movie, usually it costs Rp 15,000, but I have to pay Rp 150,000. But, I have to pay or there’s a long delay, and I’m a businessman, so time is money,” he said.
Faced with exclusion from mainstream society, Chinese-Indonesians of past generations worked hard to prove their worth, according to Anton.
However, the resulting disparate wealth of the ethnic Chinese community, who comprise 3 percent of the population, caused lingering resentment among indigenous Indonesians.
“It is true that many Chinese people are very rich, and very good at running a business, so it is then assumed Chinese people are very greedy and don’t want to share — it’s still part of the Indonesian culture to hate the Chinese,” Anton said.
Runi, a Jakarta communications consultant (not his real name), said he feared for his family’s safety following the political upheaval of 1998.
“I was so disappointed when the riots happened, because I was not living exclusively, but rather among indigenous Indonesians. In fact, there were only two Chinese families in our neighborhood — the other family owned a local store,” Runi said.
“Before the riots, we had been very assimilated, we were all friends, but then our neighbors looted the store of the other Chinese family.”
Anton said young Chinese-Indonesians avoided being out alone late at night or catching public transportation for fear of attack.
“It happened to my younger brother,” Anton said, “he was driving in his car when eight indigenous Indonesians surrounded the car with a sword and cracked his windshield. My brother managed to escape but he was so shocked this had happened to him, apparently for no reason other than that he was Chinese.”
Runi said he hoped his young son would be spared the feelings of dispossession that had caused Runi himself such despair.
“The most painful experience for me was when I tried to get a passport, and they asked me for a special certificate stating that I am an Indonesian citizen,” he said.
“We were forced to become assim
ilated, forced to have an Indonesian name — but still I feel rejected, that I’m an unwanted entity. I am treated as a foreigner, although I speak Indonesian and Javanese very well, and was born here — even my grandparents were born here,” he said.
Chinese-Indonesians were banned from holding public positions during the New Order era, and those recently migrated were denied citizenship.
Chinese culture and religion were outlawed in 1967 when Beijing was accused of involvement in a coup attempt blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
While former president Abdurrahman Wahid granted freedom to observe Imlek (Chinese New Year) and other traditions in 1999, President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s administration has failed to revoke 50 regulations deemed discriminatory toward ethnic and religious minorities.
Chinese-Indonesians face discrimination obtaining
Certificate of citizenship: Indonesians of Chinese descent are required to have a certificate of citizenship (SBKRI) which they have to produce when applying for official documents
Birth certificate: Unlike for other Indonesians, the ethnicity of Chinese-Indonesians is denoted on their birth certificate.
ID card: A certificate of citizenship is required before this card can be issued to Indonesians of Chinese descent. Chinese-Indonesians must also pay a higher fee for this document.
Passport: A certificate of citizenship is required before this card can be issued to Indonesians of Chinese descent. Chinese-Indonesians must also pay a higher fee for this document.
The Jakarta Post
February 19, 2002
Mega urged to do more to end discrimination
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s decision on Sunday to declare the Lunar New Year or Imlek a national holiday beginning 2003 is a step toward bridging the divide between the ethnic Chinese and indigenous Indonesian communities, Chinese Indonesians say.
They, however, call on the Megawati administration to follow the ruling with legislative reform to address remaining inequalities.
“The significance of Imlek being declared a national holiday is that it is an act of political recognition of Chinese Indonesian citizens,” National Mandate Party (PAN) legislator Alvin Lie told The Jakarta Post yesterday.
Alvin said past exclusionary policies had left the legacy of a social divide between ethnic Chinese and other Indonesians.
“The problems we have now date back to the Soeharto government, when the separation of ethnic groups was defined by the government. We must remove these barriers in order to improve relations between the different ethnic groups in Indonesia,” he said.
“Ethnic Chinese now have to free their minds from past trauma and exercise their rights and duties as Indonesian citizens, and contribute to society in the same walks of life as indigenous Indonesians; in business, politics and as civil servants.”
However, Indonesian National Unity Faction (FKKI) legislator Astrid S. Susanto said the declaration of Imlek as a national holiday would entrench ethnic separatism rather than promote unity.
“I don’t think there is a need to create more national holidays. I wonder if there are tribal groups who want to have their own holiday — should we make more national holidays for them?” Astrid asked.
Harry Tjan Silalahi, a researcher from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), disagreed, stating the move to make Imlek a national holiday would ease resentment among the ethnic Chinese community and facilitate a more inclusive society.
“Chinese Indonesians feel humanized by the government decision. The decision will raise the sense of belonging of Chinese Indonesians toward this country,” he said.
Harry said the right to express aspects of Chinese culture and traditions was an essential step in reconciliation between the ethnic Chinese and indigenous Indonesian communities.
“The government should give Chinese Indonesians freedom of religion, and room to perform Chinese cultural activities such as the barongsay in the public sphere,” he said.
Notwithstanding the symbolic importance of declaring Imlek a national holiday, Alvin said reform had stalled since former President Abdurrahman Wahid overturned Decree No. 14/1967 banning activities related to Chinese culture and Confucianism in 1999.
Alvin called on Megawati to adopt a firm approach to ensure the democratic rights of all citizens regardless of ethnicity.
“The main issue is not related to whether there is a holiday or not. Our main concern is that the government abolish all regulations and policies that are discriminatory toward Chinese Indonesians,” he said.
There are currently 50 laws and ordinances deemed discriminatory on the grounds of ethnicity, including the requirement for Chinese Indonesians to produce certificates of citizenship (SKBRI) every time they apply for official documents such as identification cards and passports.
“The Megawati government must phase out the requirement for Chinese Indonesians to have a certificate of citizenship, which they have to produce when applying for official documents,” said Lieus Sungkarisma, chairman of the Chinese Descent Reform Party of Indonesia.
According to Paulus Widiyanto of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), the government is currently assessing those laws in need of revision in order to eliminate discrimination.
Former President Soeharto banned public display of Chinese culture and denied citizenship to recent migrants after Beijing was accused of involvement in an attempted coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965.
Although the ethnic Chinese community comprise less than 3 percent of Indonesia’s 215 million population, their dominance in many areas of the country’s economy has bred hostility among some of the less affluent Indonesian citizens.
Discriminatory Laws and Regulations
- Presidium Cabinet Instruction No. 37/1967 about Main Government Policies on People of Chinese Descent
- Presidential Decree No. 14/1967 on Religion, Beliefs and Culture of People of Chinese Descent
- Justice Minister Decree No. JB/1978 about a Certificate of Citizenship for People of Chinese Descent
- Justice Minister Decree No. MO1441/1983 about a certificate of citizenship based on dual citizenship between RI and People’s Republic of China
- Culture and Educational Minister Decree No. 170/1975 about assimilation directives in education
- Home Affairs Minister Decree No. 455.2/1998 about the management of temples
- A letter from Social and Welfare Minister to the Minister of Home Affairs No. 764/1983 about policies related to the Confucian community
- Internal Memo from the Ministry of Information No. 2/1988 about the banning of publications and advertisements using Chinese characters
The Jakarta Post
February 19, 2002
‘Imlek’ a misnomer
Being a Chinese-Indonesian, I must compliment your reporter on the page one article Govt declares ‘Imlek’ as national holiday (The Jakarta Post, Feb. 18, 2002) and the news coverage in the same issue.
But Imlek is, in effect, a misnomer. As your editorial and reporting are more often than not transcribed by your respectable peers in Southeast Asia, I feel the need to make a correction.
Imlek is the word for lunar calender. Thus what we call Ch
inese New Year is in the fact the Lunar New Year. By the same token the word “Mandarin” has been misused as the Chinese national language, which, as a matter of fact, is to denote the Peking (Beijing) dialect as decreed by the Qing government to be spoken by the mandarins in the former empire.
Liem Sian Tie
February 20, 2002
Indonesia stirs ethnic Chinese pot
By Richel Langit
Jakarta – Bowing to mounting public pressure for the government to give equal, non-discriminatory treatment to Indonesians of Chinese descent, President Megawati Sukarnoputri declared on Sunday that the Lunar New Year, or Imlek as the Chinese New Year is known in Indonesia, will be celebrated as an official national holiday beginning next year.
This is just one of a series of efforts by the government in recent years to phase out discriminatory policies against the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. Although Chinese Indonesians account for less than 3 percent of the country’s 215 million people, they control almost 90 percent of the economy.
In 2000, then president Abdurrahman Wahid revoked a presidential decree that banned all activities related to Chinese culture and religion. The decree was issued by then president Suharto after a failed coup d’etat by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965, which Indonesia partly blamed on China.
However, despite these initiatives, discrimination against ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is likely to continue.
At the policy level, discriminatory treatment toward ethnic Chinese benefits corrupt officials and greedy security personnel, while at the social level deep-seated resentment over the perceived dominance of ethnic Chinese in the country’s economy and their apparent reluctance to assimilate with Indonesians of other ethnic groups is unlikely to change overnight.
Currently, about 50 laws and ordinances are considered to be discriminatory toward Chinese-Indonesians. These, which date back as far as the Dutch colonization period, cover a variety of issues, including a ban on ethnic Chinese doing business at district and village levels.
The Megawati administration has promised to look into the laws for possible revocation, but doubt remains whether the process will run smoothly as corrupt government officials are likely to maintain the laws.
Up until now, for example, every Chinese-Indonesian is required to have a citizenship certificate proving that she or he is a legitimate Indonesian. The certificate is required when applying for official documents such as birth certificates and passports.
If the person is already a “legitimate” Indonesian, she or he has to produce evidence that they or their parents or grandparents have already obtained Indonesian citizenship. The process of obtaining a citizenship certificate itself is very complicated and costs a lot of money. Often, Chinese-Indonesians choose to bribe government officials in exchange for speedy process.
Even the country’s army exploits ethnic Chinese. The Army’s Coordinating Council for Ethnic Chinese Affairs (BKMC) keeps a watchful eye on the ethnic Chinese for possible political dissidence among the ethnic Chinese community. Evidence of opposition to the government is met with riot threats similar to the May 1998 mayhem, when Chinese-Indonesians were targeted in riots preceding the downfall of former dictator Suharto.
The council is officially said to have been formed immediately after the communist coup attempt in 1965 as suspicions were high that the communist ideology was being spread by the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. At that time, Suharto’s government wanted to curb the number of Chinese citizens entering Indonesia and limit their movement within the country. Allegations are abounding, however, that the BKMC has been used by the military to threaten and extort money from wealthy Chinese Indonesians.
In his short tenure, former president Wahid revoked a number of discriminatory laws, including a law requiring Chinese Indonesians to have a citizenship certificate and a law banning public activities related to Chinese culture and religion.
Although Chinese dances such as barongsai and other cultural arts have been performed publicly since then, ethnic Chinese are still subject to rigorous treatment not encountered by Indonesians of other “foreign” descent, such as Arabian or Indian ethnic groups. Government officials, for example, continue to demand Chinese Indonesians to produce citizenship certificates and charge high fees when they apply for official documents, arguing that the government has not issued implementation guidelines on the new rulings.
At the social level, resentment over the perceived dominance of ethnic Chinese on the economy and their apparent reluctance to assimilate are likely to keep anti-Chinese sentiment among “indigenous” Indonesians burning.
Anti-Chinese sentiment continues to run high as Indonesia struggles to dig itself out of the multi-dimensional crisis that struck in 1997. Chinese-Indonesian business people have largely been blamed for fomenting corruption and collusion by bribing officials to win business contracts or other favors from the government. Such practices have been blamed for pushing the country’s economy to bankruptcy.
The people at large have also questioned the ethnic Chinese sense of nationalism after allegations that at the height of the economic crisis in 1997-98, they chose to withdraw from Indonesia and parked their capital worth billions of US dollars – earned from doing business in Indonesia – in Singapore or Hong Kong. Such a sentiment is so prevalent among “indigenous” Indonesians that it would be difficult for them to accept that the ethnic Chinese is one of them.
“Ethnic Chinese now have to free their minds from past trauma and exercise their rights and duties as Indonesian citizens, and contribute to society in the same walk of life as indigenous Indonesians – in business, politics and as civil servants,” ethnic Chinese legislator Alvin Lie said when asked about ways to eliminate discriminative treatment against the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia.
Indeed, the significance of Imlek being declared a national holiday is that it is an act of political recognition of Chinese Indonesian citizens, but any move to eliminate discriminatory laws and ordinances will be offset by the reluctance of ethnic Chinese to assimilate with “indigenous” Indonesians.
The Jakarta Post
March 9, 2002
An old tale of pluralism and discrimination
By Alexander Irwan, Sociologist, Jakarta
“Alvin” got married to a woman from Padang, West Sumatra, which created a commotion in both families. His uncle predicted, in a rather threatening tone, that the cross-ethnic marriage, combined with differences in religious backgrounds, was a recipe for divorce. Marriage is a constant struggle, said his uncle, even for people like your aunt and me who are both Chinese and have the same religion.
And just like any other couple, they indeed struggled to make their marriage work. So far so good. On Feb. 5 2002, that was last year according to the Chinese calendar but this year according to the Roman calendar, his wife gave birth to their second son. And they both became busy finding the right name for their baby.
According to Chinese astrology, the boy was born in the year of the snake and had an element of metal. There are other elements in the Chinese astrology, namely fire, water, earth, and wood. Although Alvin himself did not know much about Chinese astrology, which was basically a perspective to help manage human relations, whether at the level of individual, household, or institution (includi
ng business), he got help from his friends who were more knowledgeable regarding the subject matter. His friends advised him and his wife to name the baby with at least two words, one word meaning fire, and another one meaning wisdom, love, or humanity.
It was the element of metal that needed to be softened up. Otherwise the boy would grow up cold and rigid. He would follow his logical reasoning and execute his decision without giving room to any consideration of humanity. Ever heard of cold-blooded teachers, executives, gangsters, parents, or politicians? If the son became a boss, he would fire an employee just like that, no matter if her husband had just lost his job due to a serious illness or suffered some similar cruel twist of fate. That’s just an example of how cold-blooded he could become.
And that’s not all. A “metal” person tends to become very stubborn. Look at Gus Dur, one of his friends said. The former president was also born in the year of the snake and his element was metal. On top of that, his parents named him “Wahid”, which means the best, number one. And indeed he grew up a very stubborn politician. He did not flinch even an inch to the pressure of students and civil society organizations that demanded him to carry out total reform.
Since Alvin and his wife had decided not to give a Chinese name to the baby, they started asking friends to suggest names from whatever languages they knew. They thought it was cool to mix different cultures, using the Chinese concept but picking the names from different languages.
Among the names that meant fire, bara (Indonesian), latu (Javanese), dahana (Sanskrit), and aidan (Celtic) were the most appealing to them. On the wisdom, love, or humanity side, the selected names were mudita and karuna (Balinese), aldan (English), prajna (Sanskrit) and amando (latin). The last name actually should sound amanda (deserved to be loved), but they changed it to amando because the baby was a boy. The change was off course protested by some of their feminist friends. While sorting for the right name, they called the baby “dedek”, meaning “adik”, or little brother/sister.
The couple’s enthusiasm, however, was crushed by the hard and cold fact of existing discrimination. Like any other parents, they wanted to have a birth certificate of their child.
A well respected hospital in South Jakarta, where the baby was born, ran a service to help new parents get a birth certificate for their baby. The one page brochure differentiated parents into three categories. The woman at the desk explained that for Muslim Indonesian citizens, the fee was Rp 150,000. And the amount was the same for Christian Indonesian citizens. But for the third category, WNI Keturunan Tionghoa, meaning Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent, the fee was Rp 300,000.
Worse, the ethnic Chinese were required to provide a citizenship document, or “Surat Kewarganegaraan”, and “Surat Ganti Nama”, an official document regarding the change of their Chinese into Indonesian name. Meanwhile, “Muslim and Christian citizens” were only required to bring in photocopies of general documents such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, and family cards.
The woman officer behind the desk responded to the couple’s upset reaction by saying that it was not the hospital’s policy but the policy of the Jakarta’s Civil Public Record office. And if they did not believe her, she told them to get the birth certificate directly at the Civil Public Record office.
For the ethnic Chinese, it is not the making of the Chinese new year to become a national holiday that they want to see. No other ethnic group’s new year had been turned into a national holiday anyway. There would be too many new holidays if the government made all ethnic groups’ new years into national holidays. It was off course nice to be able to say Gong Xi Facai, watch the barongsai dance in public, and read Chinese newspapers again. But what’s more important for the ethnic Chinese is the removal of the ethnic-based unequal treatment practiced by the government offices.
At the heart of the discrimination against the ethnic Chinese is the formal division of the Indonesian citizens into two categories: The pribumi or indigenous and the ethnic Chinese. It was the colonial Dutch who created the division. The purpose was to make the ethnic Chinese vulnerable politically and became dependent on their protection while carrying out the function of appropriating surpluses from the pribumis to be handed out to the Dutch.
Around two centuries later, the dual citizenship structure remains intact. So does the political vulnerability of the ethnic Chinese. Just like two centuries ago, the ethnic Chinese are currently having ample room to express their cultural values. But because of the official discrimination, the more the ethnic Chinese expressed themselves culturally, the more their political position becomes vulnerable. By maintaining the official discrimination, the government is actually helping the continuous growth of seeds of intolerance.
Discrimination is always by design. And it is indeed a scary picture since the ethnic Chinese did not receive any protection from the state during the May 1998 riots, where many ethnic Chinese, men, women, and children, became victims.
By the way, the couple decided to call the baby Bara Mudita.
The Straits Times (Singapore)
March 9, 2002
Chinese community ready to reinvest in country
By Robert Go
Jakarta – Nearly four years after May 1998’s deadly riots in Jakarta, leaders of the minority Chinese community here say it is time to bring back money parked outside the country and reinvest in Indonesia’s economy.
They may have many complaints about how the government manages parts of the economy, but recent policy decisions, including those initiated by former president Abdurrahman Wahid and others now implemented by the Megawati administration, are seen as assurances of the government’s commitment to protect ethnic-Chinese interests.
Said Mr Anton Supit, chairman of the Indonesian Footwear Association: ‘I guarantee many Chinese will bring back their money and reinvest here if they feel secure. We all know Indonesia still has big potential.
‘Now is the right time. The government realises it needs the support of the entire nation, so it has adopted policies that are more supportive of the rights of the Chinese.’
Leading businessman Sofyan Wanandi of the Gemala Group agrees: ‘We have started to look at business opportunities again. President Megawati has a lot of support from the Chinese community, because of her track record and her commitment to us.’
Businessmen here estimate that as much as US$20 billion (S$36 billion) was taken out of Indonesia in the aftermath of the May 1998 riots, when mobs destroyed parts of Jakarta’s Chinatown and drove thousands of ethnic Chinese out of the capital.
That money, they say, has since been parked in banks abroad or invested in countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.
Indonesia’s economy, in the meantime, has continued to stumble. Net investment last year, according to Bank Indonesia, was minus US$4.1 billion, reflecting a pullback by foreign investors.
But for this year, analysts predict growth of around 6 per cent on the investment front. Much of this will be fuelled by domestic businesses.
Said Mr Suryo Sulisto, head of the Indonesian Indigenous Businessmen Association: ‘The absence of the huge Chinese conglomerates means there’s a chance for smaller companies, owned by both Chinese and indigenous businessmen, to grow.
‘This shift from bigger to smaller companies will become clear this year.’
Mr Sofyan observed: ‘For foreign investors, it’s still the same concerns about stability and security. But t
hey may take the return of Chinese money as an indication Indonesia is finally safe enough.
‘The government, therefore, should concentrate on the other risk factors and show reform progress in the judiciary, law enforcement, investment laws and so on.’
March 27, 2002 12:43 PM
China Moves May End Croney Capitalist Game
Laksamana.Net – President Megawati Sukarnoputri has offered new guarantees for Chinese investment in Indonesia, and at the same implicitly sent a message that times have changed to “croney capitalists” linked to Suharto’s New Order regime.
In a speech at a business luncheon in Beijing Tuesday (26/3/02), Megawati guaranteed that Chinese investments in Indonesia would not suffer discriminatory treatment.
She added that Chinese business operators were welcome to play a larger role in Indonesia.
Highlighting improved political stability and security as priorities for her government this year, Megawati called for enhanced Sino-Indonesian cooperation on energy development and bilateral trade.
The speech marked a significant switch from Indonesia’s long-term love-hate relationship with China and its own ethnic Chinese community.
Right-wing military leaders together with nationalist and Islamic elements long tended to consider the local Chinese community a major threat to the security of the government and national security in general.
Being Chinese was inevitably linked to Chinese state communism, a linkage that became an obsession following the Chinese government’s support for the Indonesian Communist Party in the early 1960s.
Discrimination against Indonesia’s Chinese was embedded in policy even before this. Influenced by right-wing nationalists including Syafruddin Prawiranegara, Rachmat Muljomiseno and Soemitro Djojohadikusumo, the government in the 1950s, introduced what was called the Benteng (fortress) program.
Minister of Social Welfare Juanda stated at the time that the policy was designed to protect Indonesian importers and allow them to better compete with ‘foreign’ importers. The discriminatory aspect of the policy was quite clear.
‘National importers’ meant indigenous importers or import firm whose capital was 70% indigenous. Protection was provided in the form of granting them credit, licenses, and privileges to import certain goods. These privileges were not enjoyed by non-indigenous importers.
The Chinese minority at the time was very critical of the Benteng policy, since at that time Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent still technically held dual nationality, and the Benteng policy also affected them.
The aim of the policy was to encourage indigenous businessmen to regain control of Indonesian economy from ‘foreigners’, especially Indonesian Chinese businessmen.
In 1954 under Prime minister Ali Sastroamijoyo, the right wing nationalists continued the Benteng policy by transferring ownership of rice mills to indigenous Indonesians.
This discriminatory economic policy received support from Islamic nationalists based on the motto: better to support the indigenous capitalist rather than Chinese capitalist.
Most damaging for Chinese traders was the issuance of Presidential decree No, 10 in 1959, which banned ‘alien’ retail trade in rural areas and required ‘aliens’ to transfer their business to indigenous Indonesians by September 30, 1959.
The policy was not only a serous blow for Chinese small-scale traders and retailers, but also affected ordinary people living in the villages, who depended on the Chinese as distributors of primary commodities.
In the end, the policy was distorted and confused because it was poorly implemented and highly vulnerable to abuse.
What was being consolidated was not the role of the indigenous businessmen and traders but a group of license brokers and political fixers.
The discriminatory movement continued during the New Order regime led by Suharto. In 1974, several subsidized lending programs for indigenous businessmen were introduced.
State-owned investment company Danareksa was formed in 1977 to buy shares in large corporations and sell inexpensive investment certificates to the public.
In 1980 the economic nationalists gained increasing influence in moves led by State Secretary Sudharmono and his protigi, Ginandjar Kartasasmita.
Through several Presidential decreee like Presidential Instruction No. 14 of 1979 and Presidential Instruction No. 10 of 1980, the weak economic group (a phrase for indigenous businessmen) were given precedence in the granting of certain government contracts.
For small projects, only the ‘weak group’ would be allowed to bid. For medium-size projects worth up to $80.000, this group was given a 5% ‘cushion’ on bids.
For major projects, a new team was set up to decide on project allocation, known as Team 10. This provided extra powers to Sudharmono as State Secretary. Sudharmono later went on to become Then in Golkar chairman in 1983.
Ginandjar Kartasasmita served as vice chairman of Team 10 through which Sudharmono and his allies among the economic nationalists gained great leeway to build up their support base, in strengthening their own economic empires, at the same time giving
Suharto a valuable mechanism for patronage.
Very few of the indigenous businessmen assisted by Team 10 had any real foothold in production, industry or trade.
More importantly, they were not even members of the small-scale business community.
Aburizal Bakrie, for instance, controlled considerable wealth through the activities of his father, a successful commodities trader who had been building a fortune from as far back as the 1930s.
Other to benefit from Team 10 included Fadel Muhammad, Imam Taufik, Jusuf and Achmad Kalla, Fahmi Idris, Siswono Yudohusodo, Suryo Sulistio, Rudy Pesik, Surya Paloh, Kamaludin Bachir, Kusumo Martoredjo, Sudharmono’s son-in-law Bambang Rachamdi, Ponco Sutowo, Agus Kartasasmita, Abdul Latief, and Hasyim Djojohadikusumo.
Team 10 became the vehicle for the Suharto clan and its cronies to control government purchases in all ministries and state-owned companies.
Megawati’s guarantees to China appears to mark the end of the road for this system.
The China Trip
Indonesia appears to have won major benefits from the President’s trip to China. These include:
- A package of loans worth $400 million
- A partnership deal between Pertamina and PetroChina
- Chinese economic and technical aid for Indonesia
- Cooperation on public-works projects in Indonesia
- Establishment of a China-Indonesia energy forum
China will establish consulates in Surabaya and Medan, and Indonesia will establish diplomatic missions in Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Megawati also called for the early re-opening in Indonesia of the Bank of China, closed amid the furore of alleged Chinese involvement in the coup attempt of 1965.
The President left Beijing Tuesday for Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, and Fuzhou, capital of coastal province of Fujian.
Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia
Issue Power and Politics March 2002
The Price to be Paid: The Ethnic Chinese Encounter in Indonesia
(Harga yang Harus Dibayar: Pergulatan Etnis Cina di Indonesia)
I. Wibowo, editor
Jakarta Gramedia Pustaka Utama dan Pusat Studi Cina 2001
by Benny Subianto
The downfall of the Soeharto regime in May 1998 has been accompanied by the rise of identity politics. Soon after coming to power i
n 1966, Soeharto reversed the pluralistic politics which had been promoted by Soekarno, and his New Order systematically subordinated ethnic, race, and religious identities. At the same time, Chinese-Indonesians were particular targets of popular and state hostility, due to allegations that the People’s Republic of China was implicated in the September 1965 aborted coup. Under such difficult circumstances, right-wing Chinese-Indonesian politicians, most of whom happened to be Catholic and closely allied with certain rightist army generals, advanced the policy of marginalizing and excluding the Chinese from public life. Subsequently, a small number of well-connected Chinese became incredibly wealthy under Soeharto’s patronage, but Chinese-Indonesians in general, with no political representation, became the enduring target of extortion by the state and its apparatus.
Tragically, the downfall of Soeharto brought another round of anti-Chinese persecution, the worst in post-Independence Indonesian history, characterized by harsh attacks, harassment, looting, and rape in Jakarta, Solo, Medan, and other cities. This occurrence refutes the theory of “assimilation” advocated by the Chinese Right in the early days of the New Order regime. In fact, the origin of the so-called “Chinese problem” can be traced back to 1966 and the imposition of the assimilation policy. The policy itself is peculiar and contradictory: it attempts to incorporate the Chinese community into Indonesia by encouraging and even forcing people to stamp out their “Chineseness” in such ways as adopting Indonesian-sounding names. But at the same time it has placed the Chinese in an identity trap, actively preventing assimilation through policies of discrimination and separation.
The latest wave of violence has awakened the Chinese-Indonesian community to contest its marginalized status after being repressed for more than three decades. This development is supported by recent political reforms that allow the emergence on the political stage of previously invisible or subordinated social groupings ranging from ethnic groups to organized Islam. Harga yang Harus Dibayar: Pergulatan Etnis Cina di Indonesia (The price to be paid: The ethnic Chinese encounter in Indonesia) documents recent reflections on the problem identity of Chinese-Indonesians.
In the opening essay, Wang Gungwu (“Ethnic Chinese: The Past in their Future”) suggests that overseas Chinese have two choices: either admire Chinese history or accept the national history of the country in which they have made their home. Most Chinese-Indonesians have chosen to accept Indonesian national history and forget Chinese history; however, this political determination seems futile in light of the last three decades. The Soeharto regime essentially repressed Chinese identity, but at the same time maintained it as a scapegoat to be blamed or even attacked as necessary. The disastrous political events of May 1998 depict how easily a repressed identity can be manipulated.
But despite political discrimination and marginalization, most Chinese-Indonesians were grateful to the Soeharto regime for providing a stable business environment. Thus even as anti-Chinese riots began to break out in the provinces in early 1997, the Chinese in Jakarta believed they would be safe, since Jakarta was always well guarded by the army. It is understandable then that the severe anti-Chinese rioting of May 1998 in Jakarta radically changed Chinese-Indonesian views. In the aftermath of this bloody, orchestrated riot that forced Soeharto from power, Chinese-Indonesians began questioning their identity. “Krisis Identitas Diri pada Kelompok Minoritas Cina” (Identity crisis for the Chinese minority), by R. Bachrun and B. Hartanto, depicts how Chinese-Indonesians have abruptly had to face the following dilemma: while they already identify themselves as Indonesians, the “Chinese-Indonesian” identity has made them very vulnerable to political violence. One of the many faces of this dilemma was experienced by a Chinese-Indonesian woman named Damayanti (a pseudonym), who fled to Singapore in the aftermath of May 1998. Singaporeans looked at her with astonishment, simply because her Indonesian name did not prepare them for her Chinese face.
In “Susahnya Jadi Orang Cina: Ke-Cina-an sebagai Konstruksi Sosial” (The difficulty of being Chinese: Chineseness as a social construct), Thung Ju-lan raises the issue of the scant attention Indonesian social sciences have paid to “identity.” This is quite surprising since in the last three decades, “identity,” though repressed, has been very important in both everyday life and legal categorization. This is especially true for Chinese-Indonesians, who are always asked about their identity, which is seen as different from that of other Indonesians.
In the concluding chapter of the book, the editor, I. Wibowo, asks when Chineseness will end (“Kapan Ke-Cina-an Akan Berhenti”). Chinese-Indonesians have been trying to end their Chineseness, but their effort has obviously been unsuccessful. The May 1998 anti-Chinese rioting is the nadir of their futile effort, which only confirms to the Chinese in Indonesia that they are not yet accepted by the community in which they were born and raised, in which they live and work. Referring to Rene Pattiradjawane’s essay, “Peristiwa Mei 1998 di Jakarta: Titik Terendah Sejarah Orang Etnis Cina di Indonesia” (The May 1998 affair in Jakarta: Low point in the history of the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia), the editor argues that the tragedy of May 1998 was systematically instigated, and, further, that the rioters would not have attacked the Chinese had there been no anti-Chinese sentiment to manipulate.
The author is a Jakarta-based researcher.
The Jakarta Post
May 12, 2002
Trisakti 4 remembered four years on
Jakarta (JP): Fresh roses and bouquets of flowers were carefully placed on Saturday upon the black gravestones belonging to former Trisakti University students Elang Mulya Lesmana and Heri Hartanto, who were buried side by side in Tanah Kusir cemetery in South Jakarta, as well as that of Hendrawan Sie in Kamal cemetery, East Jakarta.
Chants and prayers by the parents, relatives, university officials and several colleagues who could hardly hold back their tears highlighted the modest ceremony held to remember the deaths of the four students as a result of the 1998 shooting at their campus, an event that led to the resignation of Soeharto.
The remembrances began earlier this month as the university’s extended family laid flowers on the grave of Hafhidin Royan in Bandung, West Java.
It was part of the commemoration of the Trisakti tragedy culminating at the university’s campus on Sunday, as the university and other student groups planned to revive the people’s memory of that gray, chaotic evening on May 12 four years ago, by holding a peaceful vigil in the capital.
The four were shot dead at their campus after military troops forced them and their fellow demonstrators to disperse from an antigovernment protest that turned violent.
They are not dubbed as “the reform heroes” for nothing since their deaths added the fuel to the fire which expanded into a nationwide movement protesting Soeharto’s military-style regime. It also fueled hopes that the nation could become a more democratic republic without the existence of a repressive military regime.
But have their deaths been repaid in full?
“Not yet. We better take the Trisakti tragedy as the spirit of reform movement…it will roll on although there are still people who resist reform and even hamper it. This commemoration is an event for us to reaffirm our commitment to the development of a civilized society,” Trisakti rector Thoby Mutis said during Saturday’s ceremonies.
The Trisakti shooting was followed by widespread
rioting, chaos and looting across the country on May 13 and May 14, with common criminals and thugs joining in to target Chinese-Indonesians’ shops and homes. Many were killed, raped or had their houses or businesses burned to the ground.
It has not yet been made clear to the public as to why security officers seemingly made no attempt to stop the chaos. The Supreme Court is expected to give its legal opinion on this matter. But many people believe the security apparatus set out to “teach” the public a lesson to the public on how powerful the security institutions can be when they want to act, or in that case what occurs when they refuse to act to secure the country.
Within four years, the nation has had three presidents: bureaucrat B.J. Habibie, humanist and activist Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid and now the daughter of founding president Sukarno, Megawati Soekarnoputri. It has also seen six different Cabinets.
But none of the new leaders have taken the initiative to determine whether there were human rights abuses in the killings and the riots — neither against the students or the Chinese-Indonesian victims. Instead, they preferred to see it merely as a part of history or the rebirth of the country.
Human rights activists have consistently called the targeting of Chinese-Indonesians genocide, and that the government should put a great number of military and police officials on trial.
According to some, the reform movement seems to have stagnated as very few serious political changes have been made to develop a strong democracy. Thousands of people throughout the archipelago are fighting against others for a variety of reasons while the military remain extremely powerful despite the phasing-out of their dual function in politics.
It was the Trisakti parents’ unrelenting demands for investigations of the shooting of their children that persuaded Gus Dur’s administration to bring the triggermen to a military court. But the court’s decision was not seen as satisfactory as only low-ranking personnel, who were merely carrying out their superior’s orders, were sent to jail.
Lasmiyati, mother of Heri, said that sentencing the troops did not solve the case because “their superiors should be held responsible for the shootings and brought before the court first”.
Hafhidin’s father, Enus Junus, said the efforts to bring the case to the human rights court was not revenge against the military. “But if we keep it quiet, then we give a bad precedence where in the future the state may use arms to repress their intellectual youths.”
The human rights commission completed an investigation into the tragedy and two other incidents that took place at the Semanggi overpass on Nov. 13, 1998 and on Sept. 24, 1999, in which more students and residents were killed.
In the recommendation to the Attorney General’s Office, the commission underlined that the three incidents are closely related to the riots that followed.
Also present at Saturday’s commemoration was the Community of May Victims’ Relatives, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Kalyanamitra and Nusa Bangsa Solidarity (SNB). They issued a joint declaration demanding the government to pay attention to the case.
Asmara Nababan, secretary-general of the National Commission of Human Rights, expressed his pessimism of the current Attorney General’s Office, and said they would probably find another loophole to delay the probe of the Trisakti shooting.
“The law does not provide a timeline for the Attorney General’s Office in looking at the investigation result from Komnas. That will serve as another excuse to delay the probe,” Asmara said on Saturday.
But Komnas was not surprised as it had faced a lot of stumbling blocks in the last four years.
“We all knew when we started with this case that we would constantly be banging our heads against the wall as it involves a lot of political interests,” he remarked. (tso/bby)
The Jakarta Post
May 13, 2002
Trisakti, four years after
On this day, May 13, as readers open these pages, gatherings will no doubt be held at various places throughout the country to commemorate the events that took place exactly four years ago, which shook the nation out of its lethargy and set the movement for democratic reform rolling.
To be more precise, however, that day, May 13, 1998, merely marked the peak of violence in a string of events that ultimately forced then president Soeharto from power. That happened eight days later, on May 21. For those who are not familiar with the events of that time, what happened, in the proverbial nutshell, was this: On May 12, with the student movement across the country clearly showing signs of coagulating and student unrest spreading everywhere, students of Trisakti University started one of the largest antigovernment demonstrations in front of their campus in West Jakarta. It was, by all accounts, despite the noise, a peaceful demonstration. However, as the students started to return to their campus, four of them were shot dead by sniper fire.
Their funeral the following day, attended by thousands, set in motion a violent flood of long pent-up discontent during which, for two days, hordes of people, consisting mostly of Jakarta’s urban poor, looted and burned all they came across in one of the largest rampaging sprees the city had ever experienced. Chinese-owned shops and business establishments bore the brunt of the rage. This was the trigger that set in motion the final downfall of Soeharto.
But while not everyone is agreed on what precisely transpired during and immediately following those incidents until the fall of the erstwhile Indonesian autocrat, it seems, with hindsight, that it was the sacrifice of the lives of the four Trisakti students that gave the final impetus to set the reform movement moving.
Having reached that conclusion, it seems proper for us at this point to ask ourselves whether that sacrifice was not made in vain. The point is that for most of those who were directly involved in setting the reform movement rolling, precious little has been achieved today, four years after what has become known as the Trisakti Case or Incident?
It is true that the realities of life normally mean that change occurs slowly. Nevertheless, it is frustrating these days to see how our politicians handle affairs of state as if no radical change had taken place. Group interests still rule and the power of money still seems to be as strong as ever.
In places such as Maluku, where sectarian strife has raged for years and taken thousands of lives, no satisfactory resolution of the conflict seems to be in sight as, again, group interests vie for dominance.
As legislators bicker among themselves and with the executive, the forces of resistance against amending the 1945 Constitution appear to be left hanging
in the balance and conservatism is hampering even the formation of a commission on the Constitution.
For those who are currently in a position of power, the message from all of this is that those who fail to heed the lessons of history are prone to repeat the old mistakes. History has proven that even in a developing country such as Indonesia, democracy, with all its shortcomings, is still the most workable system of government. In a case where democracy appears to be hard to achieve, the remedy should not be sought via a return to authoritarian rule, which would only sweep existing problems under the proverbial carpet.
Let this lesson therefore be learned. Too many sacrifices have already occurred at the altar of Indonesian democracy to betray those who made them.
The Jakarta Post
May 13, 2002
May riot victims still traumatized
By Damar Harsanto, Jakarta
Four years have passed, but victims of the 1998 May riots are still imprisoned by their traumatic experiences, which have become the worst nightmare of their life.
“Until today, I am still tailed by pain and sadness as a result of the incident which destroyed my whole life,” said Iwan, who like other Chinese-Indonesians, uses a local name.
On May 14, 1998, Iwan, who worked at an electronic shop in Kota, West Jakarta delivering orders and collecting debts, was on his way home in Tanah Tinggi, Central Jakarta, when dozens of unidentified men blocked his way, grabbed him and tortured him.
“Without any clear reason, I was beaten until I fell to the ground, then they started stamping on me with their military boots,” Iwan, 43, said. “After that, they dragged me to my motorcycle and poured fuel on my body then set me on fire,”
Iwan was tortured on Jl. Let. Jend. Suprapto in front of STM Poncol vocational school, only hundreds of meters away from his house.
Fortunately, a passerby stopped the mass assault and took him to the Islamic hospital in Cempaka Putih for medical treatment. In the incident, Iwan lost his ears and most of his fingers. Besides a broken leg and hand, Iwan also suffered injuries which have left scars all over his body and face.
After a few days, he left the hospital, but when he arrived home, he suffered even greater pain as he was rejected by his family, who were aghast at his severe wounds.
“Even, my wife didn’t want to know me. She called me ‘a dog’ and prohibited me from seeing my children,” he claimed.
Iwan admitted that he has tried to commit suicide several times, but was always saved by people.
During the May riots, hundreds of shop-houses and shopping centers across the capital were looted and set alight. The riots, which were tainted by anti-Chinese sentiment, claimed a total of 1,217 lives, according to data from the Volunteers’ Team for Humanity. The team also reported the finding of sexual assaults on Chinese women during the riots.
Until today, no one has been named a suspect or held responsible for the tragedy.
Shirley, 22, another victim of the May incident admitted that she was still haunted by the trauma, though the intensity had faded.
“We become anxious and get ready to seek refuge if the media reports any possible mass riot,” said Shirley, who resides at Jatinegara traditional market in East Jakarta with her family.
Shirley’s home was looted by a mob on May 13, the first day of the May incident, when she and all her family members sought refuge at a relative’s home.
During the incident, Shirley lost her belongings including a television set, a washing machine, and other electronics. Clothes and other basic commodities like rice, detergent and sugar in the storeroom were also taken by the looters.
“At that time, we planned to move to a safer place, but then we decided to stay here although we are still haunted by the trauma,” said Shirley, whose family runs a fried meat ball business.
Achen, a resident of Citra Garden in Cengkareng, Tangerang, whose neighbors’ shop-houses were burnt down during the incident, revealed that many of the victims have returned to their business.
“Almost all of my neighbors have resumed normal operations,” Achen said.
However, she admitted that some victims who suffered massive losses during the riot were still severely affected by the trauma, which prevented them from resuming their business.
The Jakarta Post
May 16, 2002
Chinese-Indonesians still fearful of more rioting
By Damar Harsanto, Jakarta
High, strong fences were erected surrounding some malls and shopping centers here in the wake of the May 1998 riots, yet they fail to ensure business safety, at least for most shop owners who are still traumatized by the bloody incidents four years ago.
Patty, 45, an owner of a cosmetics shop at Mal Ciputra in Grogol, West Jakarta, said she still felt unsafe and worried that similar riots might recur though the mall management had constructed strong, three-meter high fences.
“The strong fence will only hamper the rioters from trespassing but not totally block their way,” said Patty, whose shop at Glodok Plaza in Kota, West Jakarta was demolished during the May riots.
She worried that imminent riots were still possible amid the country’s unstable political and economic situation.
The most important thing, Patty said, was not the construction of the fences but the improvement of the country’s political and economic situation.
After she lost her shop during the May riots, Patty now has an insurance policy on her shop, but she still feels unsafe and admits that the insurance company would only minimally reimburse any losses.
Leo, 40, the owner of a shop at Gajah Mada Plaza in West Jakarta admitted that the fence at least gave a bit of a feeling of safety though “it is like being imprisoned.”
“The mall is located near to Chinatown, which is consistently exposed and can easily become a riot zone again,” Leo said.
He said there was a lingering anti-Chinese sentiment, among most native Indonesians, as evidenced by the May riots, the looting and burning of shops and houses, mostly belonging to Chinese-Indonesians and the gang rape of many Chinese-Indonesian women.
Leo used to have two textile outlets, respectively at Gajah Mada Plaza and Glodok shopping center. But the latter was destroyed during the 1998 riots.
“Today, for business safety, all my goods have been insured for any unexpected incidents, including riots,” Leo said.
The May riots incurred losses of more than Rp 2.5 trillion (US$268 million). Thousands of buildings were destroyed during the violence, which also claimed 2,244 lives, according to the latest data from the Volunteers’ Team for Humanity.
After the riots, some malls and shopping centers in Jakarta, including Mal Ciputra and ITC Roxy Mas in Central Jakarta have constructed strong, high steel fences.
Saidi, spokesman of the security department at Mal Ciputra acknowledged that the 2.5-meter high fences would be effective only as a temporary block for rioters, hopefully long enough for help from the police to arrive.
Meanwhile, Xiung xiung, owner of a cellular phone shop in ITC Roxy Mas said that security still topped the shop owners’ concerns.
“Certainly, we still worry of possible riots in Jakarta because nobody, including the government, can guarantee order and safety in the city,” said Xiung.
Xiung recalled the latest clash in January this year when hundreds of residents of Duri Pulo subdistrict in Central Jakarta ran amok following the violent eviction of alleged illegal squatters. In the incident, a car and three motorcycles were set ablaze but no fatalities were reported.
The Jakarta Post
May 21, 2002
Chinese-Indonesians still discriminated against
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta
It was a sad irony that top shuttler Hendrawan who saved the country in the Thomas Cup championship had to struggle to get his citizenship certificate before heading to China for the tournament a mere two weeks ago.
Hendrawan, the 2001 World Champion and the 2000 Olympics silver medalist, had
complained publicly about the difficulties of getting his Republic of Indonesia Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI).
Hendrawan filed the SBKRI request last year, but it was not until President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who learned about the problem from the media, stepped in and helped him,
that he got the certificate.
Hendrawan was born in Malang, East Java, 30 years ago, while his parents were both born in Pasuruan, also in East Java.
But why was it so hard for Hendrawan to be recognized as an Indonesian citizen despite his birth and his considerable achievements for the nation?
Because Hendrawan is a Chinese-Indonesian.
As a Chinese-Indonesian, he is required by law to apply for the SKBRI to be officially recognized as an Indonesian citizen.
If a star such as Hendrawan had such difficulties getting the certificate, just imagine what happens with “ordinary” Chinese-Indonesians.
Ernawati Sugondo, secretary to the Advisory Council of the Society of Chinese-Indonesians, said there were no less than 12 bureaucratic institutions involved in the process of issuing an SKBRI before the certificate can be signed by the president.
The institutions are the neighborhood unit, the subdistrict office, the district office, the mayoralty office, the gubernatorial office, the police subprecint, the police precinct, the city police headquarters, the prosecutors’ office, the district court, and finally the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.
“It takes tens of millions of rupiah all along the way to finally get the certificate,” Ernawati told The Jakarta Post.
She said that the applicants have to provide the money in order to “accelerate” the process.
“Even if they have handed over millions of rupiah, the process may take years. Without the money, it would probably never happen at all,” she said. Hendrawan’s brother reportedly applied for the citizenship certificate 20 years ago, and to this day, he still does not have one.
An SBKRI is needed to process many other documents, including passports, business licenses, credit applications and even university enrollment.
In the case of Hendrawan, he had previously obtained a passport only after he attached a copy of his father’s SBKRI.
One ordinary Chinese-Indonesian, Ling Ling, 19, told the Post that two years ago she applied to a private university here. She had passed the entrance test, but the university rejected her just because neither she nor her father, had the SBKRI certificate.
“That’s the most terrible thing I’ve ever experienced. I was born and grew up here, I only speak Indonesian, I’ve never stepped foot in China. Why would people doubt my loyalty to this country?” asked Ling Ling in an emotional voice.
Ling Ling, who had wanted to major in economics, now studies political science in another private university which did not require the SBKRI.
In 1996, former president Soeharto issued Decree No. 56/1996 stating that the special requirement of an SBKRI was no longer necessary.
The decree was strengthened by his successor B.J. Habibie who issued Decree No. 26/1988 ordering government bureaucrats to give the same service to everyone.
Later in 1999, he also issued Decree No. 4/1999 ordering all government officials to follow up on his earlier instruction barring government agencies and officials from discriminating against Indonesians based on their ethnic background.
To date, however, the decree has not been implemented in the various government offices. They are reluctant to implement the decree due to what they claimed was a lack of technical instructions on how to impose it.
Lawyer Esther Indahyani Jusuf alleged that government officials intentionally maintain the discriminative regulation in a bid to get bribes.
“SBKRI is a gold mine for many civil servants,” she said.
She said that the Chinese-Indonesians have no other choice but struggle to get the SBKRI, otherwise, they would face difficulties the rest of their lives here.
Recent history of Chinese-Indonesians
1955: Indonesia and China signed an agreement on dual citizenships, which allowed Chinese people who lived in the country to hold both Indonesian and Chinese citizenship.
1958: Indonesia approved the citizenship law, which stipulates naturalization.
1959: Indonesia and China agreed to a repatriation process for 140,000 Chinese descendants.
1965: The Indonesian Communist Party attempted a coup d’etat. Jakarta accused China, which was denied.
1967: Diplomatic ties with China were frozen. This abruptly halted the repatriation. About 100,000 people were stranded here and considered stateless.
1969: Indonesia decided not to impose the dual citizenship agreement. A Chinese person whose parents held China citizenship could only hold Indonesia citizenship by naturalization, which was proved by the issuance of SBKRI.
1990: Indonesia resumed ties with China.
1992: Beijing said that they would issue passports in January 1993 for the more than 240,000 stateless Chinese here.
1996: Soeharto issued a decree on the annulment of the SBKRI requirement. The Chinese-Indonesians could instead use their ID cards, birth certificate and family card (kartu keluarga) for education and business purposes.
1998: Habibie issued a decree ordering government officials to treat all Indonesians the same.
1999: Habibie issued a decree banning the discrimination against Indonesians based on their origins.
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS)
Contemporary Southeast Asia
December 1, 2001 [available online May 27, 2002]
SECTION: No. 3, Vol. 23; Pg. 576; ISSN: 0129-797X; IAC-ACC-NO: 82481120
Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia
By Anthony L. Smith
Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia
Edited by Benedict R.O.G. Anderson
New York: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University, 2001. 247pp.
For those who view Soeharto’s personalized authoritarian regime, heavily
buttressed by the military, with nostalgia (in which amnesia seems to play its part) for “more stable times”, Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia is a good antidote. As the contributors weave their way through the extra-juridical killings of suspected criminals in the 1980s, the unrestrained violence against the Chinese community in May 1998, the Pemuda Pancasila (Youth of the Pancasila) gangs used for political thuggery, and the campaigns of terror waged in East Timor, Irian Jaya, and Aceh, one is reminded that the “stability” of the Soeharto era was purchased at a cost to human security. This edited volume draws together articles on those themes, although, as Benedict Anderson explains in the introduction, there are gaps: most obviously the 1965-66 killings of suspected communists and Leftists, and the violence in Maluku. (Oddly, Anderson also informs the reader that “[n]or does it devote more than passing reference to the Petrus [‘Mysterious Killers’] campaign in 1983” [p. 18] when the first chapter, by Joshua Barker, deals primarily with this topic.) The contributors are a mixture of sociologists and political scientists — with the different methodologies and foci mostly evident — who draw on a lot of interesting primary source materials and field-work to supplement existing secondary sources.
Barker begins the substantive chapter with his contribution on police attempts in the 1980s to harness criminal gangs by co-opting their “reformable” elements (p. 29) into various types of security work, while eliminating those who refused to submit themselves to this kind of registration. The Petrus killings in Java, where a large number of criminals were assassinated by the security forces, is a difficult subject to research. However, Barker does include some interesting case studies and interviews. These killings were intended to be a lesson to others about the penalties for crime, encapsulated in the policy of
the morgue in the city of Solo in operating an “open-door policy” to view the Petrus victims. Jun Honna’s chapter examines military ideology under the Soeharto regime, which is revealed through a study of documents, as extremely conservative, with a degree of paranoia (as would be expected). The official military position identified communism with every movement that challenged Soeharto’s New Order, including democracy and environmental groups, right into the late 1990s — a charge which could easily be seen as an attempt to unfairly tarnish the opposition, given the unlikelihood of the accusations. Paradoxically, the military was also critical of market liberalism — which was criticized by using the language of dependency theory.
James T. Siegel’s “Thoughts on the Violence of May 13 and 14, 1998, in Jakarta” combines some heart-rending stories of the pillaging and sexual violence against the Chinese community with discourse analysis. On the whole, Siegel does an excellent job of dissecting the statements and stories. Media commentator Wimar Witoelar’s remark that the organized rapes of Chinese women reflected “our lack of morals” (p. 109) reveals the soul-searching that went on (and to this reviewer also, perhaps, the only kind of remorse that could be shown as Witoelar and others knew that the offenders would never come to actual justice). In another section, Siegel analyses statements made by a well-to-do Trisakti University student, and part-time starlet, to a women’s magazine. Siegel makes much about the student’s remark that when the campus was hit by tear-gas “[F]ortunately, I had on softlens” (p. 94). He (over)interprets this symbolically:
But Alya is perfectly safe from them [the police]; she wears softlens. Nothing the police does harms her. What protects her is a cosmetic device which she presumably wears in the attractive photo which accompanies the article. … Her contact lenses are an element in the construction of her appearance … that assure her she is recognized for what she is: a member of the class the police usually protect (p. 95).
Or could it just be that contact lenses prevent tear-gas from making painful contact with the pupil of the eye?
The Pemuda Pancasila, outlined by Loren Ryter, have moved well beyond their role in the revolution of 1945-49 to a role of “loyalty to the (personalized) state itself’ (p. 126). These Pemuda, boasting at their peak in 1983 some 50,000 members (p. 143), were little more than street thugs occasionally unleashed by the state security apparatus. Former intelligence supremo, Ali Moertopo, maintained a “zoo” of these characters (an array of underworld agents) (p.150), in what represented a Faustian pact between the regime and the criminal class.
The last three chapters cover the three worst afflicted regions in terms of formal military violence — East Timor, Irian Jaya, and Aceh. Douglas Kammen makes good use of his extensive knowledge of the Indonesian military and a wide compilation of material to analyse the East Timor conflict in the run-up to, and the immediate aftermath of, the popular consultation in August 1999. He demonstrates that attempts to normalize Indonesian rule by some officers were sidelined with the emergence of Colonel (later General) Prabowo Subianto and his Special Forces in the early 1990s — troops trained in “counter-terrorism” by their American and Australian ounterparts. Kammen makes the convincing argument that the Indonesian military attempted to portray the East Timor situation as an “internal” conflict, thereby needing military intervention. Clearly, this is a pattern repeated over and over again around the archipelago. (There are some small errors in this chapter: Goa was invaded in 1961, not 1960 [p. 157]; Portugal joined the European Community in 1986, not the European
Union as it was later to be known [p. 160]; and foreign policy co-ordination in the EC/EU has remained elusive, despite the inference that Portugal’s membership made recognition of Indonesia’s rule over East Timor impossible [p. 160] — although the EU did finally agree to a common position on this particular issue, member states could have just as easily taken independent stances as they have on other issues.)
Danilyn Rutherford’s chapter gives some background to the problem of Irian Jaya (or Papua), before looking more closely at the situation on the island of Biak where an unknown number of demonstrators were killed on 6 July 1998 for raising a Papuan flag. This security force reaction continues to the present. Although Indonesia is now a democracy of sorts, this reveals that the republic still has quite some way to go in terms of liberal freedoms. Raising the Papuan flag caused General Wiranto, then head of the military, to term this a “betrayal of the nation” and to promise “firm action” against it (p. 192). Once again, the reader will see the theme of the Indonesian military attempting to create divisions within Papuan society — like successful marketing people, they have tried to create a demand for their services. An aspect of the Papuan situation that Rutherford brings out very well is the religious/spiritual overtones inherent in political discourse in Irian Jaya — including a very strong strand of mille narianism.
Geoffrey Robinson closes the book with an insightful account of the conflict in Aceh. Rejecting that the conflict is not a logical extension of primordial sentiment, or a struggle for an Islamic state, Robinson tracks the various oscillations of the Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh) movement. Robinson makes a compelling case that the military have, from around 1990, severely aggravated what was, hitherto, a manageable situation. Although sentiments about Aceh’s independent history and its economic exploitation were initial reasons for the resentment against the Indonesian state, more widespread opposition has come after the military engaged in a campaign of terror. How else could it be explained that Aceh has gone through periods of being “calm and orderly” and in fact “super-loyal” to Indonesia since 1945? (p. 219). Since the early 1990s, when raids, arbitrary arrests, torture, assassination, and rape, have been regular tools of the military in Aceh, opposition to Indonesian rule has spread far and wide. Moreover, ma ny high-ranking officials are on record as justifying extra-juridical killings in the province and elsewhere, including Soeharto himself (as Robinson reveals from Soeharto’s own writings). Robinson was, at the time of writing, hopeful that Indonesia’s democratized environment would make a positive change. However, abuses have carried on to this day.
Anderson, as editor, is to be commended for bringing together a series of excellent chapters that expose the violent side of Soeharto’s regime. Something which is not mentioned by the editor is that these chapters are mostly drawn from the Cornell University-based journal Indonesia. It is probably good practice to acknowledge prior publication. Other small points are that the term “Holland” (a province) should not be mistaken for “the Netherlands”, and Xanana’s surname is Gusmao — not Gusmao. That said, this compilation of exposes on the use of violence is well written and researched, and very salient. It is a timely addition to discussions on Indonesia’s political future. The overall impression that one gets from this book is that the stability of the Soeharto years was achieved through some very short-sighted policies and measures which alienated large sections of the population. Unfortunately, Indonesia is attempting to make a difficult democratic transition, whilst reaping the long-term problems that Soe harto sowed. As for Indonesia’s future, Robinson says it best: “The evidence also suggests that national disintegration will not be the automatic result of an end to authoritarian rule in Indonesia. In fact, I think it can be argued that, far from jeopardizing the political future of the country, a shift toward a less authoritarian system — and one which is less wedded to the use of terror
– may provide the best possible guarantee of its continued unity and viability” (p. 241).
The Jakarta Post
May 30, 2002
Govt denies practicing policies discriminating Chinese descents
By Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, Jakarta
Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra refuted the accusation that the government has imposed a discriminatory policy on citizenship for Chinese-Indonesians, saying the regulation requiring non-indigenous people to obtain a citizenship certificate (SBKRI) has long since been annulled.
He, however, said his office could not turn down any application for such certificates because numerous government institutions have frequently required the citizenship certificate in dealing with non-indigenous people.
The minister was referring to the inconsistent implementation of the regulation’s 1996 annulment. Many government institutions still require Chinese-Indonesians and Indonesians of Arab descent to show their citizenship certificate when they apply for passports from the immigration office or for places at state-run universities.
“By law, SBKRI is no longer necessary. But in practice, many institutions face the dilemma of either being prudent or abusing someone’s rights,” he said in an interview at his office on Wednesday.
“The government has no intention of discriminating against non-indigenous people,” he added.
The issue of Indonesian citizenship recently rose to the fore after Indonesia’s top shuttler Hendrawan, who helped the country retain the Thomas Cup, received his citizenship certificate only days before heading to China for the tournament earlier this month — thanks to President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s intervention — even though he had already applied for it at Cibinong District Court on November 2001.
Based on several presidential decrees, the ministry had repeatedly issued instructions to remind all government institutions not to require SBKRI any longer from non-indigenous people, but it has been unavoidable when it comes to the delicate situation of whether someone’s citizenship is in doubt.
Currently, the government is drafting a law on citizenship to strengthen the decrees.
Citing an example, Yusril said many Chinese-Indonesian businessmen requested the citizenship certificates because banks refused to extend loans without the certificates to prove they were Indonesian citizens.
The Ministry of Education has also required Chinese-Indonesians to show their citizenship certificates when they apply for a recommendation to study overseas.
“The immigration office will not issue a passport if they doubt the citizenship of the applicant,” Yusril added.
But are such difficulties only the privilege of Chinese-Indonesians?
Yes, because Indonesians of either Arab or Indian descent are not required to obtain a SBKRI because they don’t have dual citizenship imposed by their country of origin.
According to the 1946 law on citizenship, all people living in Indonesia since the country’s independence on Aug. 17, 1945, are assumed to be Indonesian nationals.
Indonesia adopts the blood-linked citizenship principle (ius sanguinis), where someone’s citizenship is based on their parents, while China — since 1950 under Mao Tse Tung — adopted the birth-based (ius soli) principle, accepting the citizenship of those of Chinese descent, including those in Indonesia, no matter where they reside.
The Far Eastern Economic Review
September 19, 2002
TV Shows, Films Probe Indonesia’s Discrimination
By Margot Cohen
A festive wedding anniversary cake sits untouched as a couple stares at a television screen. It is May 1998, and riots are wrecking Jakarta’s Chinatown district, Glodok. “We have never managed to learn from history,” sighs the man, clutching his wife’s hand. She is a local Chinese. He is pribumi, part of the ethnic-Malay majority.
Ethnic tensions in Indonesia are real enough, but the couple is fictional — two characters in a six-part television serial, Cinta Terhalang Tembok (“Obstructed Love”), that aired earlier this year on Indonesian TV. The series is one of a number of recent TV shows in Indonesia, along with a recent big-screen feature, that are breaking the Suharto-era taboo on discussions of ethnic differences. In each of them, the social and legal inequalities suffered by ethnic Chinese are examined through the device of inter-ethnic relationships.
The shows aren’t perfect: Some reviewers have criticized them as didactic, superficial and historically flawed. And they haven’t exactly scored in the ratings. With the exception of Jangan Panggil Aku Cina (“Don’t Call Me Chinese”), which captured a 40% share of viewers, other offerings drew low ratings, according to TV surveyor ACNielsen.
Still, many Indonesians say they could represent the beginning of a welcome trend to promote social awareness. “The more exposure, the more positive it is,” says Kristoforus Sindhunatha, the former chairman of a state body charged with overseeing cultural assimilation of minorities. “Nothing should be hushed up any more.”
During the Suharto era, movies and TV shows preferred to uphold the cheery fiction of national unity, largely ignoring the ethnic Chinese, who account for 4% of the population but who hold a disproportionate share of the national wealth. When ethnic Chinese were shown, the portrayal was rarely complimentary. “If they appear at all in films, Indonesian-Chinese have minor and usually negative stereotyped roles: greedy moneylender, procurer, con man, or for a change, token soldier,” notes anthropologist Karl Heider.
The taboo has eased, mirroring a greater willingness to allow the open expression of Chinese culture in the years since the fall of Suharto. But while such aesthetic blossomings have sparked little debate, the recent TV programmes and films have proved more controversial, not least among some ethnic Chinese.
Take Nico Krisnanto, an ethnic Chinese who founded the legal advocacy group Movement for Struggle Against Discrimination, or Gandi. One reason he didn’t bother watching, he says, is that he believes individual relationships between ethnic Chinese and pribumi are generally harmonious. Where there are clashes it’s due to “political engineering” by shadowy forces seeking to benefit from inter-ethnic violence, he argues. Therefore, the TV programmes and films “are not relevant. They just rely on romance. They don’t explain about power politics.”
However, Anton Supit — Gandi’s current chairman — believes such programmes could play some role in spreading greater social tolerance. “But if it’s only that, it’s not enough. There must be political will, so that all Indonesians have the same rights.”
Legal change, though, has been maddeningly slow, and ethnic Chinese still suffer legal discrimination. Such obstacles are at the heart of the TV drama Ing Tak Perlu Menangis (“Ing Doesn’t Need to Cry”), based on — and starring — real-life badminton player Ivana Lie. The serial shows that despite the Chinese teenager’s success on court in representing Indonesia , she couldn’t get an Indonesian passport or even a local identity card. Ing was unwilling to jump through all the bureaucratic hoops — and the script implies that she shouldn’t have had to, either. Meanwhile, she is shown resisting suggestions that she take the fast track to assimilation by changing her name. The show also helps explodes the myth that all Chinese are rich: Ing’s father is a humble temple-sweeper.
The accent on Chinese poverty also comes across in the soap opera “Don’t Call Me Chinese,” which is set in West Sumatra and tells the tale of a pribumi doctor who falls in lov
e with a poor Chinese girl. Her hopes for love look doomed to failure, first because of West Sumatra’s matrilineal culture, which demands a steep purchase price for local grooms, and then because of the attitude of her boyfriend’s mother: “Don’t be blind, she’s Chinese!” the older woman cries. “But she is also human,” her son replies.
The show’s “deep human values” win kudos from Ranny Emilia, head of the Centre for Thought and Ethical Studies at Andalas University in Padang. “The message is quickly understood because the language is very transparent, very explicit — exactly what was forbidden during the Suharto era,” she observes. Other viewers might find the exaggerated simplicity that characterizes much of the dialogue in both this production and “Obstructed Love” a little grating.
In contrast to the penury on display in Padang, a lavish Chinese lifestyle splashes across the big screen in the movie Ca Bau Kan — a title taken from the Hakka Chinese word for “woman,” which has come to mean “prostitute.” Armed with a budget of 5 billion rupiah ($564,000) for her first feature film, director Nia DiNata laboured — in vain, say some local reviewers — to portray the Chinese trappings of the colonial era. The bigger controversy, however, centres on the portrayal of Chinese protagonists, a hodgepodge of law-breaking businessmen.
“All the men were so cruel,” says Myra Sidharta, a Jakarta psychologist. “Even towards the women, whom they claimed to love. I think it reinforced stereotypes.” Yet the producers insist they wished to highlight the resilient relationship between a pribumi girl forced to become a prostitute for Japanese soldiers, and the Chinese-Javanese businessman who adores her. He also uses some of his wealth to support the anti-colonial struggle. “I was interested in getting involved in this film because it has a mission,” lead actor Ferry Salim told local reporters. “Although [my character] is Chinese, he has a nationalist spirit.”
That spirit unmistakably guides the TV serial “Obstructed Love.” It depicts the life of a pribumi scholar from North Sumatra, beginning during the independence struggle and continuing up to the 1998 riots. We see him first as a young man, bridling under the occupying Dutch forces and hating in particular a Chinese soldier who beats his father. But, in a twist of fate, the two men subsequently become close friends. The Chinese man helps his companion to win the love of a Chinese woman, and even donates his blood to save his ailing friend. The message is clear: one nation, one blood.
Above all, the serial preaches forgiveness grounded in historical and cultural understanding. The young man learns that many Chinese were forced to take the side of the Dutch, who manipulated them to advance their own interests. Rather than condemn the Chinese for often speaking in their own language in the presence of pribumi, he grasps that many Chinese were simply ashamed of their imperfect command of the national language, Bahasa Indonesia . And rather than be swayed by his schoolmates’ claims that the Chinese are “wily and opportunistic,” he prizes their industriousness and benevolence.
For their part, some of the Chinese characters chide their brethren for harbouring suspicions against the pribumi. “We live in Indonesia , not in China,” says the former soldier. “It’s time that we all acted like we live in Indonesia .”
If the dialogue sounds a little pat, so too, is the assimilationist denouement. Unlike Ing, the feisty badminton player, the Chinese maiden in “Obstructed Love” gladly changes her name and converts to Islam after she elopes with her beloved scholar. A tearful reunion with the parents follows. But as the serial closes with footage from the 1998 riots, it’s clear that Indonesia has some way to go before it reaches a happy ending.
The Far Eastern Economic Review
September 19, 2002
Indonesia’s Battle To Be Accepted
By Dewi Anggraeni
It’s more than four years since protesters rampaged through Jakarta’s Chinatown district, burning down homes, looting businesses and claiming hundreds of lives.
For the ethnic Chinese, much has changed in the years since. They are now free to use Chinese characters in public, they can celebrate their festivals like Lunar New Year through the rituals of ancestor devotion, incense burning and dragon dances, and they are even re-entering mainstream politics: A senior state minister, Kwik Kian Gie, is now a respected member of the political elite.
“But they still have some way to go,” says Fikri Jufri, political observer and former editor-in-chief of Tempo news magazine. “There are still discriminatory practices against ethnic Chinese in various spheres.”
Obstacles undoubtedly remain: Lobbyists point to 62 discriminatory laws and regulations that still linger from the Suharto era. These make it harder for local Chinese to do everything, from obtaining credit from state-owned banks to securing passports and identity cards. For example, to renew a passport, a Chinese must submit proof of citizenship for any deceased parents; non-Chinese Indonesians don’t. On the religious front, mixed marriages also face various bureaucratic hurdles. Meanwhile, a sweeping draft law that would bar racial and ethnic discrimination is still gathering dust in parliament.
Still, many ethnic Chinese believe that things are slowly getting better, and that their countrymen are increasingly prepared to accept them as equals. “We now feel we can contribute to rebuilding the nation,” says Pikky Njoedarwo, an ethnic Chinese who runs a small business in Semarang, Central Java.
The change is the result of a number of factors, according to Harry Tjan Silalahi, head of the prestigious Centre for Strategic and International Studies think-tank in Jakarta. First, he says, there’s a perception among indigenous businesspeople that they’re now playing on a more level playing field after the public humiliations of ethnic-Chinese businessmen like Liem Sioe Liong and Bob Hasan — Suharto cronies who grew rich alongside the first family.
As important, he says, was the sense of shock among indigenous Indonesians at the violence of May 1998, and in particular over the widespread reports of gang rapes of Chinese women. Deep down, Tjan Silalahi believes, many Indonesians want to make sure such incidents never happen again.
His views are echoed by Bob Widyahartono, a senior lecturer in economics at Trisakti University and himself of Chinese descent: “Since 1998 the ethnic Chinese are more included, more accepted as fellow Indonesians. There is even a feeling of solidarity across the racial barriers.”
Widyahartono believes the Chinese paid a high price for survival in the Suharto era. In 1967, Suharto imposed severe restrictions on the community, which accounts for 4% of the national population, after accusing China of involvement in the allegedly communist-led coup attempt of September 1965. That left Indonesian-Chinese “at the mercy of the political elite, who turned them into money-making machines.” Now, he says, members of the community are gradually returning to politics, “and generally they are well-received.”
As for who created the gap between the ethnic Chinese and the indigenous population, Widyahartono believes both sides have a lot to answer for. The local population, particularly the working and lower-middle classes, tend to be unreasonably jealous of the relatively well-off Chinese, while the Chinese are too fatalistic about the discrimination they suffer.
“The indigenous tend to feel that the Chinese are the cause of their misery, so they dislike them and keep away from them,” Widyahartono says. “On the other hand, the ethnic Chinese tend to give up before trying. If they are asked to pay, they pay. They don’t want problems. That’s why it’s extremely hard to break the cycle.”
In predominantly Chinese areas, for instance, Chinese merchants almost automatically reach for the till or the wallet if a uniformed official comes to visit. For low-level officials, it is easy money, and a hard habit to break. Widyahartono believes enlightened officials have a key role to play in ending the practice.
“For example, they should go and visit a shop belonging to an ethnic Chinese. When they’re offered money they should refuse and explain that you’ve come for a friendly visit, not to extort money,” he says. “When this happens often enough, the ethnic-Chinese business operators will realise that things are changing.”
Meanwhile, Eddie Lembong, president of the Association of Chinese Indonesians, believes the Chinese, too, must actively strive to alter perceptions. He’s lobbying hard to get ethnic Chinese to diversify out of their reliance on business and to move into areas that are traditionally out of bounds, such as the army, the police force and the civil service. (In some cases, though, this would require changes in legislation.) Lembong believes that unless the ethnic Chinese begin to open up and mix among the majority of the population, they will never uproot deep-seated suspicions and prejudices.
Encouragingly, there are signs that attitudes are improving. Take the city of Garut, in West Java. Earlier this year, officials there moved against an ethnic-Chinese businessman suspected of duping army and police officers into lending him money. Local media then reported that officials had decided that the local Chinese community should help pay back the missing money. That infuriated not just ethnic Chinese, but also many non-Chinese, including some Islamic groups, who staged protests.
Local officials insist the reports were untrue, and that there were never any intention to blackmail the ethnic-Chinese community. For Indonesia’s Chinese, though, the show of support from their neighbours was a hopeful sign that they are accepted.