The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Chinese-Indonesians Long for End to Discrimination
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta
Chinese-Indonesians may experience a more festive lunar new year in 2004, but eliminating long-standing bias against the ethnic group is much more important, activists say.
“All of the celebrations clearly show the euphoria that has resulted from the government’s recognition of Chinese-Indonesians’ cultural rights. But, the recognition of cultural rights must not be separated from civil rights,” human rights activist Frans Hendra Winarta told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
He said the government must continue to “liberate” Indonesians of Chinese descent from discrimination that finds its roots in the Dutch colonial era.
During Dutch colonial rule that lasted for more than three centuries, the role of Chinese-Indonesians was limited to trade.
“Chinese-Indonesians need to get back their political and civil rights,” said Frans, a noted Chinese-Indonesian lawyer.
Ernawati Soegondo, secretary of the Advisory Council of the Society of Chinese-Indonesians, meanwhile, said that Chinese-Indonesians were still being discriminated against.
She particularly pointed to the fact that the government still requires Chinese-Indonesians to produce the Republic of Indonesia Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI) if they want to obtain documents such as ID cards, passports and birth certificates.
Unlike Indonesians of other ethnic groups such as Indians and Arabs, Chinese-Indonesians are required by law to apply for the SKBRI to be officially recognized as Indonesian citizens.
“Chinese-Indonesian students are still required to submit the SBKRI when enrolling at certain universities, particularly state universities,” Ernawati said.
She also noted that it was near impossible for Chinese-Indonesians to join the Indonesian Military (TNI) or the National Police.
The government has actually revoked some of the discriminatory regulations since 1996, including the SBKRI. But, around 60 discriminatory laws and decrees of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) are still in place.
No less than three presidents — B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, and Megawati Soekarnoputri– have issued decrees ordering civil servants to treat all citizens equally regardless of their ethnic group.
However, most government offices do not implement the decrees due to the lack of ancillary regulations on the implementation of those decrees.
“There is no political will on the part of some government officials, therefore, they are reluctant to follow up the government’s decisions and continue to discriminate against Chinese-Indonesians,” Frans said.
He called on the government and other elements of the society to support efforts to end all forms of discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians.
“We thank the government for recognizing the lunar new year, but the most important thing is to end all discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians,” Frans said.
Ernawati concurred, saying that Chinese-Indonesians have been longing for years to be treated like other Indonesian citizens.
Indonesians of Chinese descent account for approximately 3 percent, or around six million, of the country’s 215 million people. However, they control over 60 percent of the country’s economy.
Following the abortive coup in 1965, which the government blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), the government introduced rules and regulations aimed at curbing the movement of Chinese-Indonesians in the country. The PKI was affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.
The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Gong Xi Fa Chai
Many Indonesians in the last few weeks, regardless of their religion or ethnicity, have shown strong interest in Imlek, the Chinese New Year of the monkey which will fall on Thursday. They want to know about the specific characteristics of the year and which characteristics of the monkey will be dominant.
According to Chinese tradition, the curiosity of the monkey will carry over into many areas of life. This is a good year for those who were born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980 and 1992. They are described as gifted, curious, quick-witted, manipulative and malicious.
There will be much festivity, or what one could call “a lot of monkeying around”. It is mere coincidence that this year is elections year for Indonesia. It is hoped that there will be no monkey business among politicians.
Although the number of Indonesians who celebrate Imlek is relatively small due to the demographic composition of the country, the event pervades the atmosphere of the nation. This was the case even when the celebration of Imlek was forbidden during Soeharto’s 32-year tenure. Business and economic activities are generally shut down on that day, which reflects the role of Chinese Indonesians in the economic sector.
Like last year’s celebrations of Idul Fitri and Christmas, Imlek festivities are apparent throughout the country. Meanwhile, the observation of Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence is keenly felt across the predominantly Hindu Bali. Likewise, Buddhists observe Buddha’s Day of Enlightenment.
In 2002, President Megawati Soekarnoputri declared the Chinese New Year an official national holiday. This was 35 years after then-president Soeharto banned the celebration of Imlek in 1967. It was Megawati’s father, the country’s first president Sukarno, who first declared Imlek a national public holiday and Konghuchu a national religion, only one year after Indonesia’s independence in 1945.
However no one can deny that it was Abdurrahman Wahid, affectionately called “Gus Dur”, who was a major architect in the restoration of the rights of Chinese Indonesians. Long before his election as the country’s fourth president in October 1999, in his capacity as the leader of the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), he consistently fought for the abolishment of all discriminatory policies against ethnic Chinese.
During Soeharto’s era, Chinese Indonesians commemorated Imlek quietly. Many said that Imlek did not mean anything to them, for fear of accusations that they were maintaining their Chinese culture. Soeharto also froze relations with China following allegations that the country was behind the abortive Indonesian Communist Party’s coup attempt in 1965. Relations with China were restored in 1990.
There were about 60 discriminatory restrictions imposed upon this ethnic group, including the obligation to use Indonesian names and to obtain the SBKRI, the Republic of Indonesia’s citizenship certificate. Their domination in economics often provoked anti-Chinese sentiment.
The worst anti-Chinese riot in Indonesian post-independence history occurred just days before Soeharto’s fall in May 1998. Hundreds of Chinese women were reportedly raped, and thousands of Chinese Indonesians forced to flee from Indonesia. The government did little to bring those responsible for the massacre to justice. However we must also remember that thousands of Indonesians from various ethnic groups were burned alive while allegedly looting goods from shopping centers. They are all victims who deserve equal justice, regardless of their backgrounds.
Despite commitments from
the government, most of the discriminative regulations against Chinese people remain intact. There are various reasons cited for this discrimination, from economic profit to racist factors, although in public, government officials will deny racist tendencies.
This Chinese New Year is a time for reflection and to determine how to face the future. It is agreed that the government should abolish discrimination against citizens of any background. Indonesian people of Chinese origin have the same rights and obligations of people from other ethnic and religious groups. They are all Indonesians. It is the obligation of the state to provide them with equal treatment.
We must also be reminded that it is the responsibility of all citizens to fight discrimination of any form. A pluralistic society is a tangible asset for the state and not a burden.
In the end we want to say: Gong Xi Fa Cai to all. May this year of the monkey bring prosperity, justice and security to the nation and its citizens.
The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
‘We Face Discrimination from Govt Officials’
Chinese-Indonesians will celebrate Imlek or the Chinese New Year from late Wednesday to early Thursday. Public celebrations were permitted with the issuance of a presidential decree by former president Abdurrahman Wahid in 2000 that revoked Presidential Instruction No. 14/1967 on Chinese religion, tradition and beliefs. Last year, the government declared Imlek a national holiday. The Jakarta Post talked to some people about the issue.
Widyawati Djuana, 27, is an employee at a financial firm in the Artha Graha building in South Jakarta. She lives with her husband and baby daughter in Setiabudi, South Jakarta:
“Imlek festivities are merrier compared to five years ago. Many people take part in the celebration, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. I have seen some non-Chinese people buying Chinese New Year paraphernalia at malls and shopping centers.
Unfortunately, there is still discriminatory treatment from government officers, especially when we apply for documents. In many cases, those officers still require us to show the SBKRI (citizenship certificate for nonindigenous people) before they will accept our application.”
Rosdiana, 23, is a Chinese-Indonesian housewife who lives with her husband in Ciputat, Tangerang:
“The Imlek festival is very different because the Chinese Lunar Year was officially declared a national holiday last year.
Once, we had to take leave for the celebration but now we all enjoy the holiday. The celebration is also held openly in public and aired on television. It’s good.
Public acceptance is also evident. Seeing people talking in Chinese in public places is a common sight now, even on board public buses.
I remember five years ago my father always warned me not to speak in Chinese while I was in public places.
However, I must admit that discrimination remains in our government. Nothing has changed particularly when we try to obtain documents.”
South China Morning Post
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Indonesia: Chinese-Indonesians Battle Discrimination
By Marianne Kearney in Jakarta
Badminton star Hendrawan gained citizenship only because he is a national hero
It is only 18 months since Hendrawan, an ethnic Chinese, a national hero and one of Indonesia’s most talented badminton stars, received his Indonesian citizenship papers, despite being born 32 years ago in Malang, East Java.
Trying to obtain his papers, it took the personal intervention of President Megawati Sukarnoputri before he was finally declared an Indonesian citizen.
Just after getting the citizenship papers, Hendrawan clinched Indonesia’s fifth successive win at international badminton’s most famous tournament, the Thomas Cup, in May 2002, making badminton history for Indonesia.
But before he played his winning shots in Kuala Lumpur, Hendrawan, like many other ethnic Chinese-Indonesians, was still considered a Chinese national. He could not apply for bank loans, register ownership of his house, register his daughter’s birth or enrol her at school, despite being a descendant of a Chinese-Indonesian family that had lived for decades in East Java.
A raft of anti-Chinese laws, prohibiting Confucianism, the use of Chinese dialects or the printing of Chinese characters, as well as the celebration of Lunar New Year, were implemented after the failed communist coup of 1965, as Chinese-Indonesians along with the Chinese government, were suspected of supporting the communists.
But since the downfall of former strongman Suharto in 1998, restrictions on Chinese culture have begun to lift.
Last year, Ms Megawati declared Lunar New Year or Imlek, as a national holiday, making it the first time that Chinese culture had been officially recognised since the 1965 ban.
Since 1999, Chinese Indonesians have openly celebrated Imlek, shopping malls have been decked out in red and gold lanterns every New Year, several Chinese-language newspapers have hit the streets, and Metro television station broadcasts the news several times a day in Putonghua.
But Hendrawan says, in practice, that many of the old laws discriminating against ethnic Chinese are still operating. Along with 100 other ethnic Chinese professionals, he was meeting the president’s husband, Taufiq Kiemas, last night, to demand equal rights for Chinese-Indonesians.
“If I wasn’t a star then I doubt today I would even have my citizenship papers,” says Hendrawan, citing a friend of his, who because he refused to pay “cigarette money” to government officials had waited 20 years to obtain his citizenship papers.
“We want to ask him [Taufiq] to eliminate discrimination, because since 1998 in Indonesia we have been talking of democracy and human rights, so if this is not just nonsense, then we should end discrimination for the Chinese.”
Although the requirement for ethnic Chinese to obtain proof of their Indonesian citizenship was revoked by presidential decree in 1998, almost every Indonesian government department still demands that ethnic Chinese come armed with their papers before they issue other documents.
As Chinese-Indonesians point out, such requirements are just perpetuating the former colonial system.
“The legal system here is still like the Dutch times, particularly when it comes to registering people’s births. We’re being segregated on the base of what race you are. The Chinese are still considered as foreign orientals,” says Frans Winarta, a well-known lawyer and member of Gandi, an ethnic Chinese group lobbying against discrimination.
Under the draconian Dutch colonial system, Chinese, Japanese and Indians were all classed as “foreign orientals” a class distinction which put them below Europeans but above native Indonesian people.
Taking up the cause of Chinese-Indonesians, a tiny minority of 10 million out of a population of 210 million, is not popular with many political parties because they fear being labelled as pro-communist or as anti-Muslim, Mr Frans says.
A draft citizenship law still requires Chinese-Indonesians to obtain the citizenship papers, but does not make the same requirement for ethnic Indians or Arab-Indonesians, he added.
The Jakarta Post
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Chinese New Year Euphoria and Political Trauma
By Frans H. Winarta, Member of the Advisory Board IBA Human Rights Institute, Jakarta
Indonesians, and especially
those of Chinese descent, have just celebrated Chinese New Year. Chinese-Indonesians who, for over 30 years during the New Order regime, were forced to celebrate this event behind closed doors, are now free once again to celebrate it publicly.
Whereas during the 300 years of Dutch colonial subjugation this event could be celebrated freely, in an independent Indonesia under the Soeharto regime, ironically, basic cultural, religious and language rights were severely restricted. Citizens of Chinese descent were even required to change their names and could not attend Chinese schools.
It is true that now many of the cultural rights of the ethnic Chinese have been restored. In actuality, however, the government is still far from going all the way in recognizing the human rights of our ethnic Chinese population. Many of their political rights are still limited, and as human rights are universal, to grant some cultural rights and to deny others is simply wrong.
Acknowledging the cultural rights of the Chinese does not give the government an excuse to forget about the recognition of other rights. Human rights are something that cannot be abolished or limited in any way. For 30 years under the New Order regime, the political rights of ethnic Chinese citizens were violated and completely ignored — a fact that, to the present day, causes unease and trepidation among Chinese communities throughout Indonesia.
Such restrictively encompassing political pressure as suffered by Chinese-Indonesians during the Soeharto regime has caused a section of the Indonesian community to lose their identity. Many ethnic Chinese have tried to deny their identity in various ways due to this political pressure that, at times, associated their “Chineseness” with Communism, betrayal, disloyalty, insularism, with their ancestral country and various other undesirable attributes that added to the political pressure and stigma weighted against them.
The result is that the Chinese community is still afraid to become engaged in or even talk about politics, let alone, become politicians themselves. There are few communities in the world as apolitical as Chinese-Indonesians.
It is difficult to convince them that, in order to struggle for equality in political rights and equality before the law, they must link up with other democratic forces in Indonesia. Ethnic Chinese are passengers in this ship we call
Indonesia, and what is experienced by some passengers will also be experienced by others.
What must be fought for is the destiny of Indonesia as a whole — the struggle for democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. If these things can be achieved, then discrimination against the ethnic Chinese will surely be eradicated.
The discriminative legal system inherited from the Dutch and propagated by the New Order regime through political segregation must be abolished in its entirety, because it creates different classes of citizens based on ethnicity.
Already from birth, citizens are classified according to race and ethnicity. The state gazette on civil registration must be replaced with a national law on civil registration that is more humane and respects equality before the law. The Constitution must also guarantee democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to the ideal of rule of law.
This is the second year in which Chinese New Year has been celebrated as a national holiday. There is a kind of euphoria about marking Chinese New Year, but the rights of ethnic Chinese — like other human rights conditions in this country — are still far from perfect due to violations by power-holders who do not respect law and human rights.
For instance, the anti-Chinese riots of May 1998 are still yet to be investigated properly and those responsible held accountable for their crimes. This increases the possibility that such tragedies can recur. It is ironic that Chinese New Year is being celebrated as a national holiday just five years after the tragedy of May 1998.
The struggle to abolish discrimination is still a long one, because discriminative laws against ethnic Chinese still exist and the DPR and the government show no political will to abolish them. Although the government has annulled the Indonesian Citizenship Certificate required solely by ethnic Chinese (SBKRI), in practice it is still often required in day-to-day administrative processes.
The SBKRI requirement has been perpetuated through a new citizenship law, although the original intent was to provide proof that a foreigner had been naturalized as an Indonesian citizen. Worse still, Karawang and Bekasi still issue national identity cards that specify keturunan, which indicates persons of Chinese descent). This may have occurred through ignorance, stupidity or because the official was racist — nevertheless, the discriminative mentality is evident.
According to the principles of human rights, all human beings are equal and must not be discriminated against based on race, religion, skin color, socio-economic status, cultural identity, political belief or ethnicity. Indonesia has signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and therefore must be consistent in implementing this in its legal, political, cultural and economic spheres.
There is euphoria now as we celebrate Chinese New Year; but the actual struggle for equality before the law is only begun and it may be some time before real equality can be achieved. Ethnic Chinese youth need to get involved in politics and join in the reform struggle with other democratic forces.
In this struggle, we must eradicate the fears of the past and look forward to a new day when democracy, human rights and the rule of law are respected. Ethnic Chinese must enter fields like public administration, law, national defense, policing, the judiciary and education in order to develop Indonesia in the right direction in partnership with other ethnic groups of this great and diverse nation.
At the same time, the government and legislature need to open up to Chinese-Indonesians so that they, too, can contribute fully to national development.
The Jakarta Post
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Chinese Muslims Celebrate ‘Imlek’ in Mosque
By Slamet Susanto/Tarko Sudiarno, Yogyakarta
An erroneous perception among the majority of local people in this country over the past several decades, nearly led to an ugly incident as a result of a celebration of Imlek or the Chinese New Year at a mosque.
They were led to believe — apparently without any independent research — by hearsay or racism-based propaganda that the Imlek celebration was a religious ritual connected to Confucianism or Buddhism. So as a response last year several groups of Muslim hardliners in the Yogyakarta area strongly opposed the celebration of Imlek in a local mosque and even threatened to break up the celebration of the Chinese New Year.
To enlighten these groups about their incorrect perceptions and to improve ethnic and religious tolerance, the Association of Muslim Chinese-Indonesians (PITI) in Yogyakarta decided to celebrate the New Year at a mosque last year. The Syuhada Mosque in Kotabaru was chosen for this unprecedented event — at least in Java — for its historical heritage.
The group chairwoman Lie Sioe Fen explained that the New Year celebration was not a religious ritual, but a tradition of his ancestors in expression of their happiness to welcome the spring. The tradition dates back thousands of years, long before any of the major world religions were propagated in China.
“As Muslims, there is nothing wrong with praying and expressing our gratitude in welcoming the New Year in a mosque,” Lie Sioe Fen said.
Former chairman of PITI Yogyakarta during the 1983-2002 period, Budi
Satyagraha, who initiated the idea to celebrate Imlek in the mosque, said that in the beginning, the idea created some heated debates, especially from the local Muslim hardliners. Such groups considered Imlek a ritual of a non-Islamic religion and they therefore mistakenly were led to believe it should be forbidden in a mosque. That is when they threatened to break up the celebration.
“Many suggested that I cancel the plan, because it was considered impudent, dangerous and could spark conflicts. But with the desire to preserve ethnic traditions and to create inter-religious tolerance, we went ahead. And Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), it was safe and ran well,” Budi, who is also a local councillor, recalled.
He said that on Jan. 30 this year, PITI would again celebrate Imlek at the Syuhada Mosque. It will start with an evening prayer (Isya). Other activities such as an informal discussion, the distribution of traditional Chinese New Year cake made of sticky rice, kue keranjang – similar to the distribution of ketupat (rice wrapped in fist-sized container from plaited young coconut leaves) during Idul Fitri holidays, and the distribution of ang pao, lucky money put in red envelopes, from the elder people to the younger ones.
They will also hold sholat sujud, a prayer to express their gratitude to God for their health and prosperity.
Budi said that the celebration of Imlek in the Syuhada Mosque this year would be a bit different from last year. Last year, because it was the first time, there were no Chinese lanterns. But now, lanterns will be installed to decorate the mosque. The lanterns have nothing to do with religion either, he said.
“Long ago in China, there was no electricity, so the people used lanterns as they did not want to be in the dark in welcoming the New Year. So, lanterns do not symbolize any religion,” Budi explained.
At its very roots, he said, PITI had always tried to create a harmonious religious life with respect of other religions in peace. Unfortunately, such a message of respect, tolerance and peace is not readily accepted by many groups and so must be communicated in a sensitive way over time.
“Next year, we might put on a barongsai dance in the New Year celebration so it is more cheerful. What’s important is that we introduce some of these things in stages,” Budi said.
Because Imlek is merely a New Year tradition to celebrate the coming of spring, Lie Sioe Fen explained, everybody in China celebrates it, regardless of their religion, ethnic group or political ideology.
Mosques, churches, temples and viharas all make preparations for the celebration. The New Year celebration is a happy time for people. Winter has passed and the spring is coming. The flowers are beginning to bloom and the planting season starts. This is like welcoming a new life after hibernating in the cold winter’s snow, he added.
“It is actually quite similar to many Javanese traditions. Some hold a thanksgiving party to express their gratitude for panen gadu (the harvest at the beginning of the rainy season) and others have different events at that time of the year,” Lie Sioe Fen, 49, said.
In order to improve religious tolerance, PITI Yogyakarta also holds other programs. It regularly organizes a charity bazaar, and on the third week of each month, it holds a Koran recital. PITI also often holds discussions and interacts with other groups from different religions.
“All Muslims are brothers and sisters, and all religious people should respect each other,” she said.
On Oct. 15, PITI organized a national seminar entitled, Imlek in the Perspective of Culture, Chinese Philosophy and Islamic Law. Among the speakers were Irwan Abdullah, executive director of Religious and Crosscultural Studies and H. Lasiyo, a professor of Chinese philosophy at the University of Gadjah Mada.
“In the future, we hope that PITI will become a bridge for Chinese-Indonesians who want to know more about Islam. They have long been marginalized, so that they’ve found it difficult to get information, especially about the religion, openly,” she said.
She said that PITI will invite public and religious figures (for the coming New Year celebration). It will invite 35 mass Muslim mass organizations in Yogyakarta province and 10 Chinese organizations as well as some Protestant and Catholic leaders. It is hoped that the get-together, with such diverse groups, will be a time of openness and tolerance.
In order to ensure it all goes safely and to prevent any unexpected incidents, PITI has also discussed the Imlek issue with moderate Islamic figures and the Yogyakarta Muslim Ulema Council (MUI).
In the end, the council issued a fatwa (edict), saying that there was no problem with the celebration of Imlek at mosques. It demonstrates that the erroneous perceptions are indeed being eroded and Chinese-Indonesian Muslims are leading the way to tolerance.
The Jakarta Post
Saturday, January 24, 2004
‘Making Chinese New Year a holiday is good step’
The celebration on Thursday of the Chinese New Year, known here as Imlek, was a peaceful and joyous event. This was the second year the celebration has taken place since the government declared Imlek a national holiday in 2002. However, The Jakarta Post spoke with several people who said Chinese-Indonesians still have some way to go before they are fully accepted here.
Dewi Bastina, 24, works as a reporter at a radio station in Central Jakarta. She is a native Indonesian and lives with her parents in Pondok Kopi, East Jakarta:
It’s good to have Imlek celebrated as a national holiday because it could help fight discrimination against the Chinese.
Yet, I cannot help but think that the openly celebrated Imlek is just a formality, as there’s still discrimination against the Chinese.
If you are Chinese and you want to get an identity card or a passport, you have to submit an Indonesian citizenship certificate. Native Indonesians don’t have to do that.
This huge wall standing between the Chinese and native Indonesians divides them into two different sides, leaving them still prejudiced toward each other.
We need efforts from all layers of society to appreciate other ethnic groups. It’s diversity that makes this world wonderful.
Lanny Winata, 35, is Chinese-Indonesian and works as a manager in Central Jakarta. She lives with her parents in Kota, West Jakarta:
Making Imlek a national holiday is a positive step and is somehow a recognition of the existence of Chinese, whereas in the past we were treated like the “stepchildren”.
But from my observations, too many political figures are using this occasion as an opportunity to gain support and garner votes from the people. I’m not being negative, but look at how so many party leaders show up on television, trying to earn our sympathy.
I hope that in the future, Imlek will be celebrated more openly but will be less commercialized.
The Jakarta Post
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Chinese Indonesians Ready for Elections
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta
Chinese-Indonesians are ready to participate in this year’s legislative and presidential elections after the New Order regime shut them out for 32 years, a seminar concluded.
Lee Cho Hui, the chief editor of the International Daily News, said Chinese-Indonesians were not only prepared to vote but also become actively involved in campaigning for certain political parties.
“The political awareness of Chinese-Indonesians has been increasing,” he said through an interpreter.
Lee was referring to some Chinese-Indonesians who
had been named legislative candidates, either for the House of Representatives (DPR), provincial legislatures (DPRDs) or the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).
The International Daily News is a Jakarta newspaper that compiles news related to Chinese people from around the world.
Lee presented his paper in Chinese before more than 700 participants at a seminar titled Ethnic Chinese and the 2004 elections held by the Chinese-Indonesian Organization (INTI) in Jakarta.
On the sidelines of the seminar, a Chinese-Indonesian participant told his friends proudly of his brother who became a campaign manager of a political party in North Sumatra.
Several other participants discussed the nomination of fellow Chinese-Indonesians in the legislative election.
INTI chairman Eddie Lembong said Chinese-Indonesians, who account for 3 percent to 4 percent of Indonesia’s population of 216 million, would play a significant role in the upcoming elections.
“A single vote counts,” he said, adding that voters would determine the future of the country.
However, Eddie called on Chinese-Indonesians not to vote along ethnic lines.
“If there are 100 Chinese-Indonesian candidates, should we vote for them? I would say no. We should vote for the people best able to serve the country,” he said.
Eddie suggested that the Chinese community take into account party platforms and track records as well candidates’ integrity and track records.
“If the Chinese-Indonesian candidate is a crook, don’t vote for him,” he said.
In his keynote speech, economist-cum-activist Faisal H. Basri said Chinese-Indonesians should vote for parties and legislative/presidential candidates who would fight against discrimination.
“I understand Chinese-Indonesians face state discrimination. You were exploited by political parties during the previous elections. Now, make sure that you vote for the right president who can guarantee to put an end to the SBKRI,” he said.
SBKRI is a citizenship document required by Chinese-Indonesians before they can be officially recognized as Indonesian citizens. An SBKRI is needed before many other documents can be processed, including passports, business licenses, credit applications and even applications for university enrollment.
Indonesia banned anything related to Chinese culture in the country following the aborted coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party, which then had ties with the Chinese communist party.
Former president Abdurrahman Wahid revoked in 2000 the presidential decree on SBKRI, but the government has until now failed to repeal its operational regulations.
The Jakarta Post
Friday, February 27, 2004
PDI-P Faction Slams Govt for Racist Policies
By Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Departing from its usual passivity, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction at the House of Representatives criticized the government of President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Thursday for failing to put an end to racial discrimination.
The faction said numerous discriminatory practices, especially against Indonesians of Chinese descent, continued to be committed and condoned by state officials at all levels.
“There is no excuse; the government of Megawati must stop all kinds of discrimination,” PDI-P faction member Sukowaluyo Mintorahardjo said.
The criticism comes as the Constitutional Court reinstated the civil rights of former Indonesian Communist Party members earlier this week, which consequently sparked calls for an end to all discriminatory policies against them.
Megawati chairs the PDI-P, which is aiming for majority votes in the April general election for a chance to contest the July presidential election. Megawati is the only presidential candidate put forth by the PDI-P, which has yet to nominate her running mate.
Many parties have been wooing the Chinese-Indonesian electorate, who account for 4 percent of the 216 million-strong population.
Sukowaluyo said many officials had maintained discriminatory practices by requiring Chinese-Indonesians to produce Indonesian citizenship certificates, known as the SBKRI, for all administrative processes.
The practice stems from the now defunct 1978 decree issued by the Minister of Justice that required Chinese-Indonesians to submit their SBKRI when applying for ID cards or passports.
The decree was revoked through a 1996 presidential decree, which also annulled all other discriminatory regulations against Chinese-Indonesians. A presidential instruction was issued in 1998 as operational regulation of the decree.
Article 4 of the 1996 presidential decree says that ID cards, family certificates or birth certificates can be used instead of the SBKRI.
Eight years after the revocation, however, discriminative practices prevail, Sukowaluyo said.
“I believe the discriminative practices are retained for under-the-table money,” Sukowaluyo said.
PDI-P legislator Dwi, however, jumped to the defense of Megawati, saying that her government had been doing its best to stop racial discrimination.
“All that we can do is to improve control over discriminatory practices. The government must take punitive measures against those who violate the regulations,” she said.
Responding to speculations that the criticism was simply aimed at winning the hearts of Chinese-Indonesians during election year, fellow legislator Didi said his faction had been studying the issue for some time.
“We made the statement today because we needed time to study this issue,” he said.
The PDI-P faction also announced its hotline at 5756161 for the public to report any discriminatory practices they experience. They are also welcome to file a report at the faction’s office, Room 525 at the House.
The faction also called on other factions to resume discussion of the draft revision of the Citizenship Law, which would provide a strong legal basis to end discrimination.
March 3, 2004
INDONESIA: Chinese Indonesians Seek Political Representation
Indonesia goes to the polls in next month, with President Megawati Sukarnoputri expected to retain power. But this time around, the president’s campaign is doing little to influence a small group of once-loyal supporters. Chinese Indonesians, who have traditionally shunned politics to focus on business, are now showing a new willingness to get politically active.
Presenter/Interviewer: Marion MacGregor
Speakers: Eddie Lembong, Chairman, the Chinese-Indonesian Association; Arief Budiman, Professor of Indonesian, Melbourne University
MacGregor: Most opinion polls are showing Megawati Sukarnoputri and her PDIP party sitting on a comfortable lead. But the daughter of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno could be facing a new challenge, with the possible loss of a small but influential group of traditional supporters. This year, Chinese Indonesians, who comprise about 4 per cent of the country’s population, have become actively involved in campaigning for a number of political parties, and several have been nominated as parliamentary candidates. Eddie Lembong is the Chair of the Chinese-Indonesian Association.
Eddie Lembong: We have openly stated…we appeal that Chinese Indonesians will support all the honest and qualified Chinese Indonesian candidates. The last straw breaks the back of the camel. That is to say, we can be very decisive when we participate.
MacGregor: In the past ethnic Chinese in Indonesia have mostly supported parties that have expressed a commitment to outlawing discrimination, whi
ch continues to be a serious problem. Resentment over disproportionate wealth among Chinese is still present. In 1998 it led to anti-Chinese riots, killing hundreds of people and prompting thousands to flee to neighbouring countries. Many of those who remained in Indonesia have been reluctant to play an overt role in the country’s development. This is why the political mobilisation of Chinese Indonesians is being seen as particularly significant, and especially the formation of ethnic Chinese political parties. The Chinese parties say they want to end isolation and discrimination. But some are wary of race-based politics. Harry Tjan Silalahi is a founder of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, and a former General Secretary of the Catholic Party of Indonesia.
Harry Tjan Silalahi: It depends on how they act if they overdo their participation it will create jealousies. As you know Indonesia are comprised of so many minorities, they envy each other basically, and so if a Chinese grouping as a group, exclusive group comes up faster and richer and so on, it may create unnecessary attractions or envies or jealousy from the other groups, yes.
MacGregor: This year, no Chinese Indonesian party succeeded in attracting the membership required to take part in elections. So Chinese Indonesians will be represented only as candidates for other political parties. And Harry Tjan Silalahi believes, they’re better off that way.
Harry Tjan Silalahi: It seems so and they realise that and they did so…so for instance even in PKB, the party of Gus Dur, there are lots of them, so they are very much scattered into these mainstream parties and it is a good sign you know.
MacGregor: Among Chinese Indonesians themselves, there’s little agreement over whether to go it alone or opt for assimilation, according to Arief Budiman, Professor of Indonesian at the University of Melbourne.
Arief Budiman: Well there are two views now in Indonesia, and both have strong supporters. One is saying that it’s better for the Chinese to come out from the closet and fight as Chinese Indonesians and make a party a Chinese Indonesian party something like that, like what happened in Malaysia. But some people said that in the old days under Sukarno and Suharto, those Chinese parties, under Sukarno there was a Chinese party, and then they worked together closely with the Communist Party, that was in 1965, when the military came to power and destroyed the communist party, the Chinese were also being destroyed by the military. And that’s a very bad experience, traumatic as a matter of fact for the Chinese. So many Chinese say don’t make a party based on ethnicity, it’s better for the Chinese to become Indonesians to be absorbed to the Indonesian community.
MacGregor: While Chinese Indonesians feel they need better political representation, they won’t necessarily vote for Chinese candidates who push ethnic issues, says Arief Budiman.
Arief Budiman: I think many Chinese they look at the candidate that fights for democracy and economic development. They don’t consider themselves Chinese any more but as Indonesians…so there is no so-called Chinese interests.
The Jakarta Post
Monday, March 15, 2004
Chinese-Indonesians rising to political stage
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Apriadi Gunawan, Jakarta/Medan, North Sumatra
Scores of Chinese-Indonesians legislative candidates and regional representative council candidates (DPD) will be adding new color to the country’s political stage.
Moving forward after 32 years of being deprived of their political rights, candidates of Chinese descent are determined not to miss a chance to participate in politics.
“This is not showing off, but I see the opportunity to fight for this country and for my province in more effective ways,” Dr. Sofyan Tan, a DPD candidate from North Sumatra, told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
“I believe this is the right moment and an opportunity for me to get close to the center of power and make a difference,” the doctor said.
Tan’s name is familiar among people in Medan, where he established a school for the poor in 1990. Thousands of children from different ethnic and religious backgrounds have studied at the school.
The school– Sultan Iskandar Muda — is financed through cross subsidy between wealthy and poor students, with the help of several businessmen and government officials.
For his hard work, Tan has received several awards, such as the Fellow Ashoka for Ethnic Relations and Education from Washington in 1989 and the Wiyata Mandala award for education in 2002 from North Sumatra Governor Rizal T. Nurdin.
Tan is one of the 172 Chinese-Indonesians across the country running for office, either as legislative candidates or for DPD seats. Four of the 38 Jakarta DPD candidates are of Chinese descent.
They are Kadiman Sutedi (Yongki), Anda Hakim, Hannan Soeharto and Eddie Kusuma.
It was former president Abdurrahman Wahid who took the initiative to end discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians and lift the ban against Chinese culture.
In the 1999 general election, only four Chinese-Indonesians won positions at the House of Representatives, including senior politician Kwik Kian Gie.
Another noted candidate in the upcoming elections is AB Susanto, who ranks first on the list of legislative candidates from the National Awakening Party (PKB) for Jakarta.
Susanto, who owns the Jakarta Consulting Group (JCG), has been a PKB member for only two years. Of PKB, he said, “I admire their genuine defense of pluralism.”
Despite the new opportunity, noted politician Lieus Sungkarisma, also of Chinese descent, has warned these candidates that they could be used by the parties for funding.
“I am glad that they are willing to take the chance, but they have to remember that parties could be using them only to finance their campaign,” Lieus told the Post.
Noted Chinese-Indonesian lawyer Frans Hendra Winarta urged the new politicians to have the courage to defend people of their own race.
“Indeed they should not only defend the interests of Chinese-Indonesians, they also stand up against discrimination against their own people,” Frans said.
He said that current prominent figures of Chinese descent were too afraid to fight discrimination against their own race.
“What’s the point in having these men close to power if they cannot end the discriminatory regulations, simply because they are afraid that people may consider them as exclusive politicians?” the lawyer said.
Lieus, who founded the Chinese-Indonesian Reform Party (Parti) ahead of the 1999 elections, however, cited the new phenomenon as encouraging. “Hopefully, in the next elections in 2009, we’ll have even better Chinese-Indonesian candidates,” he added.
The Straits Times
March 19, 2004
Chinese Indonesians enter politics
By Laurel Teo
Once politically subdued, a growing number of ethnic Chinese are now contesting in the upcoming polls
DR A.B. Susanto, 54, runs a management consultancy in Jakarta, and headed the Indonesian Catholic Community from 1998 to 2003.
Last year, the ethnic Chinese, who still advises a number of civil-society groups, put on a new hat.
He joined the Muslim-based National Awakening Party (PKB) and will contest as one of its candidates in the upcoming general election.
Once typecast as avaricious businessmen who care all about money-making and nothing about nation-building, many Chinese in Indonesia, like Dr Susanto, are sloughing off that image, as more and more among them take the plunge into politics.
On April 5, at
least 170 will be jostling for positions in the 550-seat national Parliament, as well as the 128-seat new regional representative council.
More are expected to compete at the provincial and regional legislature levels.
Contrast this with the handful who entered the 1999 polls, winning just four seats in the national legislature.
One obvious reason for this new trend is the government’s change of heart.
Under former president Suharto, the government curbed any political pursuits by the Chinese, who make up 4 per cent of the nation.
‘So even if we wanted to, there was no chance for us to take part,’ said businessman Tadjudin Hidajat, 64, another aspiring political candidate.
But since the collapse of Mr Suharto’s New Order regime in 1998, the restrictions have been gradually lifted.
Political parties, on their part, are also reeling in more Chinese, not only as rank-and-file members, but also as high-ranking office-bearers, added Mr Alvin Lie, 43, who won a legislature seat in 1999 on the National Mandate Party (PAN) ticket.
The subtext of this: parties now value the political contributions of their Chinese members, instead of treating them as token symbols or deep pockets to finance campaigns.
Regulations aside, the May 1998 anti-Chinese riots, too, played a big part in jolting the community into action, said Mr Hidajat, who described the incident as a ‘painful wake-up call’.
With the mushrooming of political forums, often advertised in local papers, awareness is also much greater among the Chinese.
The emergence of more Chinese-language papers, banned in the past, has also given greater platform to the community’s issues and political candidates.
That the once-subdued community now daringly lobbies politicians for changes, is another measure of the heightened political ferment, noted PAN’s Mr Lie.
Top on the list of burning issues are the discriminatory practices that still linger from the old era.
In 2001, the Chinese-Indonesian Association counted no less than 60 such laws and regulations.
So it comes as no surprise that a sizeable chunk of the community leans towards nationalist parties with inclusive agendas, such as the two giants – the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and Golkar, or smaller ones like the Democratic Party.
But a number have also thrown in their lot with reformist Muslim-based ones such as PAN or PKB – formed in 1998 by Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Muslim group.
A case in point is Dr Susanto. Courted by a swarm of parties, he was persuaded in the end by the PKB’s ‘clear terms on inclusiveness and pluralism’.
‘I was also touched by how sincere they were,’ said Dr Susanto, who highlighted the fact that non-Muslims hold more than 40 of about 250 leadership positions within the party.
That Chinese candidates are campaigning under a colourful spread of political flags, instead of converging under one, is a good sign, said business tycoon Sofjan Wanandi, 63, one of the few Chinese legislators during the New Order.
‘This will quicken the assimilation of the Chinese into Indonesian life,’ he said, adding that minority Chinese should seize this chance to prove to the majority that they are, indeed, sincere about having a stake in this country.
‘Show them we don’t just make money and then run away when there’s a problem.’
The Straits Times
March 19, 2004
Chinese newspapers aim to raise political interest
By Laurel Teo
Jakarta – Once banned, Chinese-language newspapers are making a comeback in Indonesia.
They focus on community issues and help to raise political awareness on the Chinese ground.
Not only do they run advertisements inviting readers to take part in political seminars held by Chinese civil society groups, they also feature ethnic Chinese candidates contesting the election.
The oldest among the papers is the Jakarta-based Harian Indonesia, which has the biggest circulation, at about 14,000 copies a day.
It was the only one allowed during the Suharto era, and was formed in 1966 when all Chinese papers were forced to close down and merge into a bilingual one.
It became a government tool to help older Chinese pick up Bahasa Indonesia.
But since Mr Abdurrahman Wahid became president in 1999 and lifted the ban on the use of Chinese language, three other papers have emerged in the capital.
The Indonesia Shang Bao is run by the Bisnis Indonesia daily’s management, while the Universal Daily is backed by Taiwanese funding. The International Daily is affiliated with sister papers in the United States.
There are a couple more in Surabaya (East Java), Medan (Sumatra) and Pontianak (Kalimantan).
Businessman Benny Teng, 72, who helped start the Universal Daily, estimated the total circulation of all the papers at no more than 50,000.
Raising readership numbers was a problem because after three decades of alienation, only a handful among those 50 and older can read Chinese. Another challenge was hiring staff fluent in the language.
The Jakarta Post
Monday, March 29, 2004
More Chinese-Indonesians become actively engaged in politics
By Christine Susanna Tjhin, Department of Politics and Social Change, Centre for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta
“If the world knows about 12 Chinese signs of the zodiac, Chinese-Indonesians know only of two — the cash cow and black goat,” joked Mely G. Tan years ago. The sardonic joke seems to have endured throughout Indonesian history and may be further accentuated in the 2004 elections — or not.
The post-1999 political climate has been more conducive to greater participation. Increased Chinese-Indonesian participation as legislative (House of Representatives) and Regional Representatives Council (DPD) candidates can clearly be seen — 172 so far, as noted by The Jakarta Post. Quality, however, is not as apparent.
Last Saturday, Paguyuban Sosial Marga Tionghoa Indonesia (PSMTI) and Forum Masyarakat Tionghoa (FORMAT), two of Indonesia’s distinguished Chinese-Indonesian associations, cohosted a “Meet the Chinese-Indonesian candidates” gathering. Three DPD candidates and 12 legislative candidates of Chinese descent from 8 different political parties were given an opportunity to campaign in front of just over 600 PSMTI members/associates.
The enthusiasm seemed very encouraging. The audience was eager to listen, question, clap, yell support and wait, for around seven hours. Candidates were also full of brio in using their allotted time. Except for one person during the first session, who seemed appallingly self-content with his lack-luster answer “We are in the process of discussing it”, whenever asked about his party’s platform on gender and other matters.
The intense forum, for all its worth and triviality, was an interesting portrait of Chinese-Indonesian political participation, particularly with regard to social associations and political party affiliation.
First, it reconfirms the heterogeneous nature of Chinese-Indonesians. Twelve candidates are spread between eight different parties. When a participant criticized the three DPD candidates for not letting just one candidate run, thereby focusing the Chinese-Indonesian vote, others vehemently rejected this. While one participant regretted that no Chinese-Indonesian political parties had passed the electoral threshold, others did not.
Second, creativity of the candidates has so far been limited to form (style of presentation and facilities) rather than substance (issues or ideas). Ideas presented were mostly uniform, dis
tinguishable only by eloquence, noise level or forcefulness.
Third, in terms of substance, the “ethnic discrimination” theme remained dominant on all platforms. This is not to say that one should drop the antidiscrimination movement. There must be a balance between making rightful demands against discrimination and delivering responsible civil and political obligations. Unless the balance is evident in the eyes of the public, the theme will generate only vague sympathy. It will also become increasingly less empowering for Chinese-Indonesians themselves.
Fourth, gender and youth issues occupy a miniscule place in the agenda, if at all. This may be a consequence of the current patriarchal system within society and/or the Confucianist concept of filial piety. Or was 10 minutes simply not enough to do justice to their vision and mission? Still, much has to be developed.
The overall tone of efforts to overcome the prevalent apolitical situation was pretty optimistic. But was this simply election hubbub or something more significant?
Many people might be curious about how the Chinese-Indonesian vote will be distributed, for reliable polling is well-nigh impossible. Chinese-Indonesians are obviously anxious about where their vote should go. But the more important, yet often overlooked, moment of democratization is actually the period between elections.
Most of the candidates in the forum were baffled when a female participant solemnly asked what they would do if not elected. Had she asked the entire audience what they would do after casting their vote, I wonder what would have happened?
Ideally, as responsible citizens, Chinese-Indonesians should be more involved in social and political participation. This goes beyond party membership or pursuing electoral candidacy. Chinese-Indonesian associations, to a certain extent, can play a critical role in stimulating participation, at least among their members.
Political education may well depend on the creativity of these longer-established associations. What PSMTI, FORMAT and others have done must be given credit, provided that they can maintain their non-exclusive objectives, engage in creative repositioning and apply a facilitative approach to their upcoming activities.
While their membership may be exclusive, their objectives and activities must remain far-reaching. Allegations that these associations are exclusive will automatically be rendered invalid once action proves otherwise. The forum has shown how associations can relate to party members. The associations have created the space for members to engage in dialog with candidates without imposing a collective party preference.
Though no social contracts were signed, the event has produced a moral commitment between members of associations and candidates. What can be pushed further on both actors is creative repositioning from “passive victims” to “proactive contributors”. Becoming quasi-watchdogs/moral guardians by scrutinizing and “punishing” rotten Chinese-Indonesian politicians could be an alternative way of supporting the national movement against rotten politicians.
Of course, Chinese Indonesian associations are not the only catalyst for greater participation, but they remain influential. They still have a lot of gaps, for example limited participation by young people and women. Empowerment, unfortunately, does not seem to be on the associations’ main agenda thus far. The relevance, sustainability and quality of these associations are pretty much determined by how well they deal with the empowerment of young people and women because both will definitely bring a fresh nuance to the whole endeavor.
Ultimately, cash cows and black goats may soon be replaced by something else: Honorable hares and daring dragons, perhaps?
The Jakarta Post
Thursday, April 15, 2004
SKBRI not required by Chinese: Mega
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
President Megawati Soekarnoputri has stepped into the controversy over the plight of Chinese-Indonesians by declaring that they are no longer required to possess an Indonesian Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI).
During a meeting with dozens of Indonesian badminton legends, who are mostly Chinese-Indonesians, Megawati called on all immigration offices across the country on Wednesday to abide by the law.
“There is no obligation for Chinese-Indonesians to obtain an SBKRI if they already have a proper identity card showing that they are Indonesian citizens,” Megawati was quoted as saying by the chairman of the Indonesian Badminton Federation (PBSI), Chairul Tandjung.
The meeting was also attended by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights’ director general of immigration, Mochammad Imam Santoso. The director general, however, failed to make any comment.
Chinese-Indonesians have often complained that they are still being asked to produce SBKRIs when applying for passports and other official documents.
Former president Soeharto actually scrapped the SBKRI policy in 1996 through presidential decree No. 6/1996.
In 2000, former president Abdurrahman Wahid went further by scrapping presidential decrees that banned the display of Chinese culture in the country and limited the movement of Chinese-Indonesians. He also revoked a decree of the People’s Consultative Assembly on the requirement for SBKRIs.
Citing the absence of ancillary regulations, officials on the ground continue to require Chinese-Indonesians to produce SBKRIs when applying for passports or identification cards (KTP).
Chairul said on Wednesday that President Megawati had instructed the immigration director general to ensure that all immigration offices would not demand SBKRIs as part of the requirements for the issuance of Indonesian passports.
“There is no such thing as indigenous and non-indigenous Indonesians. They (Chinese-Indonesians) are born here and made many contributions to this country. They are all Indonesian citizens,” the President stressed.
The SBKRI issue last resurfaced when Indonesia’s Olympic gold medalists Alan Budikusuma and Susi Susanti were asked to provide SBKRIs when they applied to renew their passports.
Alan and Susi are to travel to Athens later this year to carry the Olympic torch representing Indonesia.
Another badminton player, Hendrawan, had a similar experience last year, prompting Megawati to intervene.
Many Chinese-Indonesians had hoped, however, that Megawati, who took over the national leadership in 2001, would take resolute action against immigration officers who continued to require SBKRIs.
“What we had been hoping for is that President Megawati would issue a written instruction saying that SBKRIs were no longer required to end this issue once and for all,” Alan said on Wednesday.
He expressed the hope that the SBKRI issue would not continue to cause problems, not only for the badminton players but for all Chinese-Indonesians.
The Jakarta Post
Friday, April 16, 2004
Indonesia to amend discriminative law on citizenship
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
The government is considering an amendment to Law No. 62/1958 on citizenship that will scrap all regulations that discriminate against Chinese-Indonesian.
Spokesman for the Directorate General of Immigration, Ade Endang Dachlan, said on Thursday there were some articles in the existing law that required Chinese-Indonesians to produce an Indonesian Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI) when applying for immigration documents if there were doubts about their citizenship.
“The requirement was adopted because at the time, there were many (stateless) migrants living in Indonesia. The rules applied
not only to Chinese-Indonesians but also to Indian-Indonesians and Arab-Indonesians too,” Ade told The Jakarta Post.
He said the regulations were no longer relevant because most ethnic Chinese-Indonesians were born here and possessed birth certificates as Indonesian citizens.
“To ensure an end to the discriminatory policy, the law needs amending,” he said. The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights had begun efforts to revoke articles on SBKRI, Ade said.
Chinese-Indonesians have long complained about the discriminatory ruling stipulated in the obsolete law. Discrimination has kept those of Chinese descent from working in the bureaucracy, the military, police or political institutions.
Former president Soeharto also banned the performance of Chinese culture and prohibited the use of Chinese writing, isolating Chinese-Indonesians to the business sector.
It was also Soeharto who issued Presidential Decree No. 56/1996, scrapping many regulations that justified the use of the SBKRI.
But because the law on citizenship remains intact, in practice the discriminatory policy is still in effect. Indonesia’s first Olympic gold medalists Alan Budikusuma and Susi Susanti are the latest to complain about the SBKRI, saying immigration officials asked them for their SBKRIs when they were renewing their passports.
Deputy cabinet secretary Erman Radjagukguk said a presidential decree could not annul the citizenship law.
“We will look into how to amend the citizenship law,” Erman told the Post.
Ade denied reports immigration offices had asked for the presentation of SBKRIs. Since 2002 the office had circulated a letter announcing the certificate was no longer needed to obtain or renew immigration documents, he said.
“Those who hold identification cards, birth certificates and other official documents that prove their Indonesian citizenship do not need to present an SBKRI.”
“Should they experience otherwise, they should file a report to the immigration head office. I promise we will take action against those errant officials,” Ade said.
He also called on the Chinese-Indonesians not to use middlemen or a service bureaus when traveling.
“Sometimes immigration officials make deals with these middlemen so they can ask for more money. Please try to go to the immigration office by yourselves to ensure no one will try to extort money from you,” Ade said.
The Jakarta Post
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Six Years After, May 1998 Tragedy Still Unresolved
By Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta
After six years, three governments and two independent investigations, the May 1998 riots remain unfinished business for the citizens of this nation.
The National Commission on Human Rights has found indications of systematic gross human rights violations in the tragedy, which took place between May 13 and May 15 of that year and recommended an ad hoc human rights trial, but families of the victims have been kept waiting for the perpetrators of the crimes to be brought to justice.
The House of Representatives during the current Megawati Soekarnoputri administration declared the riots just “ordinary crimes”.
But, I Ketut Murwati, the director of human rights violations cases at the Attorney General’s Office, said his office was waiting for new evidence from the rights body’s team tasked with investigating military and police officers for their alleged role in the tragedy.
The 16-member independent team set up by the rights body in March 2003 was not able to get the suspects to respond to multiple summonses, in order to formally recommend that the government set up an ad hoc human rights tribunal in line with Law No. 26/2000 on human rights.
According to the law, all suspects can be summoned by the team if the House proposes the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal which must be endorsed by the government.
Jakarta turned into a giant battle field when riots paralyzed the capital city and many other cities such as Medan, Palembang, Surakarta and Surabaya. Thousands of people vandalized mostly Chinese-Indonesian-owned buildings and looted shopping malls.
More than 1,000 people were killed and more than 60 women and girls, mostly Chinese-Indonesians, were victims of gang rapes and other sexual violence during those three days of bloodshed, arson and turmoil.
The riots were precipitated by the shooting of four Trisakti University students on the afternoon of May 12.
A joint fact-finding team set up by the government alleged that the riots were part of a scenario engineered by former president Soeharto’s son-in-law Prabowo Subianto, then the Army’s Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) chief and most recently a Golkar Party presidential candidate before he lost the nomination, in his attempt to have martial law declared, which would allow him to take power amidst the national leadership crisis that ended with Soeharto’s resignation on May 21.
To this day, no legal action has been taken against Prabowo over his alleged roles in the tragedy, including orders to abduct and “disappear” many prodemocracy activists in 1997 and 1998, and his secret meeting with civilian figures at the Kostrad headquarters when the tension was at its peak on May 14.
Both the government’s fact-finding team (TGPF) and the rights body’s team are of the same opinion that the riots involved intelligence personnel and that someone had hired the rioters. At the very least, they were grave crimes of omission as some members of the security forces were ordered back to their barracks and the security officials allowed the chaos to continue unabated.
The rights body’s investigation team said current Golkar presidential candidate Gen. (ret) Wiranto, then the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief, Prabowo and the Democrats’ Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, then the TNI chief of territorial affairs, were three of dozens of military and police officers who were responsible for security at that time.
The team’s many questions remain unanswered, particularly as to why Wiranto, Prabowo and many other generals went to Malang, East Java, to attend a Kostrad ceremony, while Susilo met with Muslim intellectual Nurcholish Madjid when the riots were escalating.
Wiranto has said that like the East Timor human rights case, the investigations are merely aimed at discrediting him and sabotaging his presidential bid.
In his book Wiranto’s Notes: Witness to the Storm, Wiranto shifts the blame elsewhere for the tragedy, saying he had asked then chief of National Police Gen. Dibyo Widodo, former chief Jakarta Military Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin and former City Police chief Insp. Gen. Hamami Nata to take necessary measures to restore security and order, but apparently they did not.
Wiranto has publicly declared that he must be innocent of any wrongdoing in the May tragedy, otherwise Solahuddin Wahid who led the investigation into the case would not have chosen to become his running mate in the upcoming presidential election.
Prabowo, in a book entitled Politik Huru-Hara Mei 1998 (The Politics Behind the May 1998 Riots) written by his close friend Fadli Zon, shifted the responsibility to Wiranto, who he says never answered phone calls on May 14.
Maswadi Rauf, a professor of political science at the University of Indonesia said human rights abuses linked to the military in the past would remain unresolved if either Wiranto or Susilo were to win the presidential election.
Probes into the May 1998 tragedy
Institution Date Findings/Suggestions Govt Response
1. TGPF July-Oct, 1998
- serious crimes [govt reponse: none]
- sexual violence [govt response: none]
- further investigation needed
2. House (DPR) Jan-July 2002
- ordinary crimes
- violators must be tried in court
3. Komnas HAM March-Sept. 2003
- gross human rights [govt response: none]
- establish an ad hoc rights tribunal
The Jakarta Post
Thursday, May 13, 2004
May 1998 Riot Victims Still Waiting for Justice to Come
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati and Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta
For the last six years, Mey Ling (not her real name) has never missed a prayer, asking God to punish the group of men who gang-raped her on a street in West Jakarta as riots swept the capital in May 1998.
“I am not a saint, I will never forgive those men. I hope they all are condemned to hell. This is the only thing I can do,” she told The Jakarta Post during an interview on Monday evening.
She added that she had lost hope of ever seeing the rapists being brought to justice.
Mey Ling, now 28, was a final year student at a private university in West Jakarta when the incident occurred. She was on her way from the campus to her home in the Jembatan Lima area when a number of men stopped the bus she was riding on.
“They shouted, where are Chinese, where are Chinese, and they pulled me and other bus passengers of Chinese descent off. The driver and his assistant tried to stop them but they were outnumbered,” she said.
The male Chinese passengers were beaten up by the men, all of whom were wearing black long-sleeved shirts and carrying wooden sticks. About four or five female passengers were gang-raped, Mey Ling recalled.
“What’s did I do? I never asked to be borne Chinese. Why did they do that?” she cried.
The interview had to be stopped several times as Mey Ling found herself unable to hold back the tears as she recounted the worst moments of her life.
“I don’t care about politics. I don’t care who becomes the president or vice president as long as he or she punishes those who did this to me,” she said.
Mey Ling failed to finish her studies. Her family is not wealthy enough to emigrate, so now she prefers to stay at home where she feels safe. She now helps her parents, who sell plastic domestic goods.
Since the incident, Mey Ling, who has decided not to marry, says she hates native Indonesians as they remind her of the rapists.
Another victim, Andi Kusuma, said he could only hope the Indonesia people would elect leaders who were capable of maintaining security in the country. But he also hoped the next president would investigate the May riots and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“We don’t seek revenge. We only want justice to prevail,” said Andi, whose house and computer shop in Glodok were burnt down by a group of unidentified men.
Andi, whose arms were burnt during the incident, said he was lucky that his wife and their two children had not been harmed as they were visiting his parents-in-law in Yogyakarta at the time.
“Frankly speaking, we placed a lot of hope in the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). But, their investigation means nothing without the political will on the part of the government. I was a little bit disappointed when Pak Solahuddin decided to team up with Pak Wiranto,” he said.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) investigated the riots and held a number of military and police officers responsible, including former military commander Gen. (ret) Wiranto.
The Komnas HAM team was led by its deputy chairman Solahuddin Wahid, who eventually stepped down after he decided to pair up with Wiranto for the upcoming presidential election.
Muntaris, 47, and his 41-year-old wife, Nurhayati, will never forget the flames that razed the Yogya Department Store in Klender subdistrict, East Jakarta, on May 13, 1998, an incident that resulted in the death of their eldest son, Achmad Zakir, then 18.
They now prohibit their three remaining children from visiting the shopping center, which is located only around 100 meters away from their home, even though the department store now has a new name — Central Klender Plaza.
“I’ve told my children that I’ll cut off their legs if they go there,” Muntaris told the Post.
On the eve of the riot, Zakir wrote in his diary: “Thank you, heroes of reform. You have gone for good. You dared to sacrifice your lives. My prayers will always be with you. Your names will be remembered forever. I hope your good deeds will be accepted by Allah the Almighty. Amen.”
Muntaris recalled that his son had just finished his final exams in his vocational school. He was waiting for graduation day when he lost his life to the flames in the mall, together with hundreds of other people.
“I do not know who was responsible for what happened, but I believe that someone must be punished,” said Muntaris, who works as a polisher with a furniture company.
Indeed, six years is not enough to heal the wounds suffered by the victims of the riots and their families. Neither can they forget their individual nightmares, let alone forgive those responsible.
The Jakarta Post
Thursday, May 13, 2004
May 12, 1998
12:15 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Students hold peaceful demonstrations to demand the
resignation of president Soeharto and the improvement of the economy as a result of the monetary crisis in 1997.
12:30 p.m. Students march to the House of Representatives in Senayan.
1:15 p.m. It is decided to discontinue the march to Senayan and instead march to the Mayor’s office in West Jakarta.
1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The demonstration continues peacefully.
4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The students gradually return to campus.
5:05 p.m. An argument develops between students and others posing as Trisakti alumni, who later admit to being intelligence officers.
5:15 p.m. There is the sound of gunfire from the back of the student ranks. Tear gas canisters are thrown into the crowd in the campus, students run into various buildings to seek cover.
5:30 p.m. Between four and six officers wearing Brimob police uniforms fire long-distance shots in the direction of the students in the campus from the flyover.
7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Gunfire continues and Trisakti University hold negotiations with the head of the field officers to halt their fire. The force withdraws after four students are killed and several others sustain serious and light injuries.
Victims of the May 13 and May 14 riots
288 dead 101 injured 92 rape victims
Shops Banks Shop-houses Offices Houses Shopping Centers Warehouses Gasoline Stations Cinema Centers Hotels Automobile Workshops
Four students die in the Trisakti shooting and are named heroes of the reform movement:
- Elang Mulia Lesmana Faculty of Civil Engineering and Planning, majoring in
- Hafidin Royan Faculty of Civil Engineering and Planning, majoring in Civil Engineering, 1996
- Heri Hartanto, Faculty of Industrial Technology, Majoring in Mechanical Engineering
- Hendriawan Sie, Faculty of Economics, majoring in Management, 1996
May 13, 1998
Morning of May 13
Burial and memorial ceremony for the victims of the shooting. Political and community leaders gather at Trisakti campus. Crowds of people arrive and gather outside the campus.
Afternoon of May 13
Riots break out, buildings and shops are looted and burned. It is suspected that those involved in the looting have been provoked by certain parties. The rioting begins in Slipi and spreads to other areas including KH Hasyim Ashari, Roxy, KH Moh. Mansyur and Cengkareng.
May 14, 1998
The violence climaxes, many people are found burned to death in buildings and shops. Chinese-Indonesians are attacked and women raped.
Characteristics of those suspected as provocateurs of the riots:
- Not locals
- Arrived in trucks, mini buses and motorcycles Dressed like thugs, in various locations they used high school uniforms
- Appeared to be too old to be high school students
- Appeared muscular and well-trained in conducting arson, rioting and using Molotov cocktails
The Jakarta Post
Thursday, May 13, 2004
‘May Riots: A Heartbreaking Past’
Six years ago, thousands of people were killed in systematic riots in Greater Jakarta. With the passage of time, none of the perpetrators, let alone the masterminds, has been taken to court. The Jakarta Post talked to some city residents on the tragedy.
Hendrawan, 31, is a former badminton player who now works for an oil company. He is of Chinese descent and lives in Cibubur, East Jakarta, with his wife and two children:
Frankly, the May riots were a heartbreaking incident. We had been striving to defend the Thomas Cup for the country in Hong Kong, but what did we get in return?
Whenever anything went bad, people tended to blame Chinese-Indonesians. What has happened is already in the past; let it remain a dark moment in our history.
As for the issue of Republic of Indonesia Citizenship Certificates (SKBRIs), I hoped (1992 Olympic gold medalists) Susi Susanti and Alan Budikusuma would be the last victims. I know how it feels. I thought I’d be the last to experience such discrimination. Let’s hope it won’t happen again in the future.
Made Ardian, 26, is an activist with a human rights group. He lives in Pejaten Barat, South Jakarta:
I urge families of May 1998 tragedy victims to keep on fighting for their right to truth and justice. The investigation results of a fact-finding team from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on the tragedy are stuck in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). The office refuses to follow up on the results, as it claims they are inadequate for the prosecution of indicted human rights violations. I suspect political power play is involved in that decision.
With regard to suspicions that some presidential candidates may have been responsible for the human rights violations in the tragedy, I also call on those who care about the victims, the nation and human rights not to elect them.
It will be impossible to complete the investigation of the tragedy if those people gain power. There will be a conflict of interest. Moreover, as one vice presidential candidate is from Komnas HAM, he would be politically compromised.
The Jakarta Post
Friday, May 14, 2004
Memorial to Commemorate 1998 Riots
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Leony Aurora, Jakarta
President Megawati Soekarnoputri attended a ceremony on Thursday evening to dedicate the Monumen Persaudaraan (Brotherhood Monument) at the Lindeteves Trade Center, just across from the protected Candranaya Chinese mansion, in West Jakarta.
Megawati said in her speech that the May riots six years ago not only claimed lives but also resulted in hatred and trauma.
“We only recognize Indonesian citizens or foreigners living in the country. So don’t refer to yourselves as descendants of particular ethnic groups,” she said.
“The Republic of Indonesia Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI) is no longer needed,” she added, referring to a document that has been required by Chinese-Indonesians when applying for passports and other documents.
During the ceremony, a 44-year-old victim of the May riots, Iwan Firman, said he had forgiven those who had harmed him. Iwan was left permanently handicapped in the riots.
The construction of the monument was initiated by the Chinese-Indonesian Reform Movement (Parti). The monument was designed by noted sculptor Nyoman Nuarta, famous for his Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue in Jimbaran, Bali.
“The monument is half finished,” Nuarta told The Jakarta Post by phone.
The monument depicts two men — one of Chinese descent and another indigenous — holding the Garuda state emblem. It symbolizes reconciliation and the will to develop the country together. The monument will be completed within a month.
In the initial plan, the monument was to be erected in the park in front of Kota Railway Station, West Jakarta.
The local administration opposed the plan, arguing that the park would be overcrowded because there was already a fountain and a busway station.
Nuarta said the current location was not ideal as it was not spacious enough.
The May 1998 riots, which led to the downfall of former president Soeharto, have never been fully investigated even though there were reports of thousands of people killed and dozens of women, mostly Chinese-Indonesians, raped.
The Jakarta Post
Saturday, May 15, 2004
‘No officials apologized for riots’
The May 1998 riots that led to the downfall of president Soeharto have never been fully investigated, despite reports that thousands of people were killed and dozens of women, mostly Chinese-Indonesians, raped. The Jakarta Post spoke with several residents about the issue.
Dorothy Sinambela, 32, is a mother of two and a member of a non-governmental organization working for social development. She lives in East Jakarta:
The leaders of this nation should clarify what happened during the May 1998 tragedy, because it is maybe the bleakest period in this nation’s history. Everyone watched as thousands of people were killed and harassed, but no one took responsibility.
There should be a place or a forum that can serve as a catharsis for everyone who has repressed their anger and pain for the last six years. After all, the tragedy was a collective experience for the nation, not just the victims.
Najya, 27, is a graduate student at a private university in West Jakarta. She lives in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta:
I urge the government to take legal action against those who were responsible for security (during the riots).
I have never heard any of those high-ranking officials or officers who were supposed to protect the people apologize for their failure to prevent the rioting, arson and killing of people.
No one can deny that those days of violence will remain in people’s minds no matter how hard we try to forget them, especially because the tragedy, ironically, brought us to the era of reform.
If the presidential candidates are smart enough to see what is going on in the nation, they can win by campaigning for an investigation into the bloody tragedy, which would be followed by a reconciliation among the people.
The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
May monument won’t wipe away grief, pains of riot victims
By Ati Nurbaiti, Jakarta
Much thought and energy is put into the design of any monumen
t. Thus, those who planned a structure to mark the May 1998 tragedy went through several discussions, including those with survivors and their families, before deciding on the “Brotherhood Monument” commissioned to the renowned sculptor Nyoman Nuarta.
Yet, somehow the monument’s design brings about a sense of sad detachment from the experience of the survivors and their families, and indeed, the mark on the nation itself.
The design portrays two men, supposedly one indigenous and the other of Chinese descent, holding up a big, heavy national symbol of the garuda (eagle) bird bearing the coat of arms of Pancasila state ideology and the slogan, “Unity in diversity”.
All is well, everyone’s happy now and living in harmony.
But since when was everyone so happy?
In the riots of May 13 to May 14, 1998, violent gangs set shopping centers on fire, killing almost 1,000 people in a number of cities, raping and murdering their own fellow citizens. We know they are all still out there, along with those who masterminded the series of incidents, who remain protected under impunity.
Successive governments have failed to follow up on the recommendations of the official fact-finding team for further investigation. So, while there is a bitter consolation in the team’s conclusion: that the riots were likely organized, and thus not likely to happen any day; the fact remains that ordinary men and women are not entirely safe in their homeland, depending on the whim of some evil people.
In May 1998, it was those of Chinese descent who were assaulted. They had no idea why their homes were razed or why they should be gang raped. The urban poor were another group of convenient, disposable “objects” — like the women victims, they are unseen and unnamed in the “May monument” design. Another time, another place, mindless people, even though a handful, could again be mobilized against any other suitable, innocent and silent target.
The Chinese minority was such an easy, silent target, more so their women apart from the poor who were burnt alive in stores and stigmatized as “looters”. But was the May tragedy, which followed the May 12 shooting of students in Jakarta, really a conflict between indigenous Indonesians and Chinese Indonesians?
How could one proclaim that everyone has forgiven and forgotten, when nothing has been done to relieve the grief of hundreds of families who lost their loved ones in building infernos, or the pain of rape victims, some who even got pregnant and refused to undergo abortion for fear of God.
What kind of nation can claim to be civilized when scores of its people are yet to overcome their trauma, in the absence of signs of any investigation let alone a sign of anyone brought to accountability for what they endured?
Although the organizers of the ceremony marking the site of the future monument acknowledged that one victim’s story did not represent all of them, the monument design seems to reflect the message of the booklet distributed at the commemoration. It is the message from victim Iwan Firman, who after surviving major burn injuries, had attempted suicide a number of times. He describes how he slowly manages to live in peace with himself — and it this feeling which seems to have been recklessly generalized into a “forgive and forget” attitude.
Many people could learn from Iwan. But a more broad deliberation on the design might also have revealed other distinctive feelings of citizens who were not as directly affected as Iwan — such as shame, disbelief and anger at the occurrence of such a sick incident in the heart of the capital, and the fear that it might not be the last. At a discussion last week on the May riots, speakers said that answers were absolutely needed on what really happened and why, and who was responsible.
No wonder President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the May 13 ceremony in downtown Jakarta saw no need to comment on the nagging questions of who should be held accountable, and when, for those dark days. Activist Sandyawan Sumardi immediately accused the President and organizers from the Chinese Indonesian Reform Movement (Parti) of “a systematic attempt at historical amnesia”, Kompas daily reported.
Monuments either aim to commemorate, celebrate — or, indeed, as in many instances of history writing — to wash away history. Any monument genuinely wanting to serve as a testimony and/or reflection of a national tragedy would involve a lengthy, thoughtful deliberation of a broad scope.
Hence the scores of entries for the belated Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial before it was decided to have the names of servicemen and women who died and went missing in action in the Vietnam War engraved along a black granite wall, now on display in Washington DC.
And in Choeung Ek in Cambodia, a big lump forms in your throat at the sight of thousands of skulls, silent witnesses to unbelievable cruelty at the hands of the victims’ fellow countrymen — just like the victims of our horrible May legacy.
The above shrines seem to try to provide a means of contemplation and healing for all those affected, and for others who may find a lesson from the tragedies.
Yet the design of the “May monument” which “celebrates reconciliation” brings to mind the typical attitude of members of the elite, as seen in other cases of the violation of human rights in the country — just forgive, forget and don’t open old wounds that may sting those who can still wield influence and power.
Ati Nurbaiti is a staff writer of The Jakarta Post.
The Jakarta Post
Monday, June 14, 2004
Chinese Fight Open Discrimination on Batam
By Fadli, Batam
A group of Chinese-Indonesians has opened on Batam a “complaint post” in the city, where ethnic Chinese can lodge complaints on the bureaucratic obstacles.
Anas, a member of the Batam branch of the Chinese-Indonesian Social Association (PSMTI), said the complaint post was opened on May 27, and was possibly the first such facility in the country.
The organization has opened two complaint posts in the city: one at PSMTI Batam headquarters in the Seruni shopping complex and another at Batam International University (UIB).
Anas said the facilities were established in response to frequent complaints from the Chinese-Indonesian community on bureaucratic discrimination they had experienced, especially when applying for passports and identity cards.
It is common knowledge that government officials and civil servants often extort money from Indonesian-Chinese, and that if a Chinese refused to hand over the money, their applications would be delayed indefinitely or would not be processed.
Prior to the 1998 reform movement, public complaints over the practice were rarely heard, due to the bureaucratic system under the Soeharto regime.
After his ouster, however, protests against the practice have been on the rise, with indigenous Indonesians joining the chorus, and have encouraged more Chinese to voice their complaints and experiences.
Indonesians of Chinese descent only comprise about 4 to 6 percent of the national population, but contribute greatly to the economy.
According to Anas, no individual has taken advantage of the new service, but he hoped some would visit the facility soon.
“In opening the post, we hope to see the end of bureaucratic discrimination. We demand equality in public services, like other citizens,” he said.
After a predetermined number of complaints had been filed, the group would arrange to meet with the relevant government officials to seek a solution in each case.
Amat Santoso, a local Chinese-Indonesian, said he experienced a difficulty when he recently applied for a passport extension, because he did not have the “required” Indonesian citizenship
certificate (SBKRI) for Chinese-Indonesians.
The law on SBKRI requirement was abolished in 1996, but has yet to be enforced.
“I had to bribe the immigration officials in order to facilitate my application. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
The Straits Times
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Chinese Tycoons Place Their Bets
By Eugene Low
They are aligning themselves with presidential candidates, who also want them to help finance costly campaigns
The cukongs (wealthy Indonesian businessmen) are back in force.
Business tycoons in Indonesia are aligning themselves with key presidential candidates, who are also out to woo them for financial backing.
Campaigning in such a large country is an expensive business, say political observers. Each candidate needs hundreds of billions of rupiah to ensure that his or her campaign machinery runs smoothly.
A portion of the money is spent on expensive television advertising, said a close aide of one candidate.
But the bulk of the funds is said to be used to help sway voters.
Transparency International Indonesia alleged last week that all five candidates were engaged in money politics by handing out free basic commodities, medical services and transportation.
Wealthy businessmen seeking to ingratiate themselves with the political elite offer a ready source of funds for presidential hopefuls mounting a major charm offensive across the sprawling archipelago.
The sums of money changing hands are huge, with some donations amounting to more than tens of billions of rupiah.
And with the outcome of the election still anybody’s guess, the tycoons are hedging their bets. Many are said to support more than one candidate.
An analyst said: ‘The businessmen don’t know which one is the winning horse. So it is safety first – they are putting their eggs in several baskets.’
Should their candidate win, the tycoons will expect some returns – either in the form of preferential access to lucrative government contracts or policies that help their businesses.
Tycoon Tomy Winata, for instance, is rumoured to be supporting Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as well as Mr Wiranto, although both candidates have denied it.
Lippo Group chief executive James Riady and the Gajah Tunggal group’s Sjamsul Nursalim are also said to be backing several candidates.
The talk is that Mr Bambang, Mr Wiranto and President Megawati Sukarnoputri all have close links with Chinese businessmen.
Welcome to the muddy waters of campaign funding in Indonesia, where the rumour mill churns out plenty of grist.
The problem is a lack of transparency when it comes to reporting the sources of campaign funds, political observers told The Straits Times.
Earlier this month, an Indonesian anti-corruption commission announced the wealth of the five pairs of candidates in a bid to improve accountability.
The richest among them is vice-presidential candidate Jusuf Kalla, with a total wealth of 122.7 billion rupiah (S$23 million), according to figures announced by the Commission for the Eradication of Corruption.
The General Elections Commission (KPU) also requires candidates to report where their campaign donations come from. However, the rules tend not to be followed strictly.
‘Under-reporting is common and even if a report is filed, it is usually not very detailed,’ said a source.
‘Some donations are also hard to trace because they are given in cash.’
Does the resurgent political influence of the cukongs signal a return to the cronyism of the Suharto era?
Political observers believe that cronyism was never really eradicated, even after the resignation of former president Suharto.
The tycoons are said to have always maintained their relations with the government and key political players.
Salim Group’s Liem Sioe Liong, for example, began forging ties with Mrs Megawati when she was still vice-president.
Others have also done the same, including timber baron Prajogo Pangestu, property developer Ciputra and textile king Marimuthu Srinivasan.
But thanks to a free press and more political competition, the situation has improved, an analyst said.
‘In the past, you could do things openly. Now, it has become more sophisticated and subtle.’
Still, there is a need for greater transparency and for the KPU to better enforce its rules, said political observer Andi Malarangeng.
‘Campaign funding is normal in any democracy, but it should be made clear who funds whom,’ he said.
‘The funding limits should also be respected to make sure that the president is not indebted to only a few rich businessmen.’
The Jakarta Post
Friday, June 25, 2004
Government confirms SBKRI not required
By Sari P. Setiogi, Jakarta
The Minister for Home Affairs Hari Sabarno told provincial and regental/municipal secretaries on Thursday that the controversial Indonesian Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI) was no longer required from Chinese-Indonesians.
“The government sent a letter in 1996 stating that the SBKRI was no longer needed to acquire official documents,” Hari explained to the regional officials.
Chinese-Indonesians — more than five million throughout the country — are still required to produce the SBKRI when applying for official documents, including birth certificates, citizenship cards (KTP) and passports.
While the ruling was officially scrapped with the issuance of presidential decree No. 6/1996 by then president Soeharto, civil servants at provincial offices are still demanding that Chinese-Indonesians produce the certificate, arguing that they have not received the implementing regulations yet.
Hari told the secretaries that the SBKRI was only required of ethnic Chinese people wishing to obtain Indonesian citizenship for the first time.
“It should be understood that the children (of people who already have such citizenship) no longer need an SBKRI. They are Indonesians automatically,” said Hari.
The minister admitted, however, that a lack of information among his staff at the regional level had prompted them to ask Chinese-Indonesians to present the certificate when applying for official documents.
Some Chinese-Indonesians, including star badminton players Susi Susanti, Alan Budikusuma and Hendrawan, have publicly complained recently, because they were still asked to produce the SBKRI and encountered difficulties in obtaining documents.
“There is no such thing as indigenous and non-indigenous Indonesians. They (Chinese-Indonesians) are born here and make many contributions to this country. They are all Indonesian citizens,” Hari stressed.
Hari called on Chinese-Indonesians to say no if they were asked to produce SBKRI.
However, no punishment will be given to officers who do ask for the SBKRI or create difficulties in the document registration process for Chinese-Indonesians.
“Just report them (officials who ask for the SBKRI) to the police. But what will happen next is up to the police,” said Hari.
Hari became furious, however, when a woman from the Anti-Discrimination Institute shared her experiences of discrimination while trying to register 125 Chinese-Indonesians in Tegal Alur, West Jakarta.
The woman said the institution assisted 125 Chinese-Indonesians and 529 indigenous Indonesians in Tegal Alur — who were too poor to register and pay for their birth certificates.
Those 529 indigenous citizens were granted birth certificates at not cost, while the 125 Chinese-Indonesians were charged with a crime for not register
ing their births.
Hari, however, snapped: “I do not want to hear such a story here. I have known such things from A to Z. Can we make it quick as it is late already?”
Chinese-Indonesian businessman Ciputra, who was at the forum, said he still experienced discrimination. “My KTP still has the 09 code showing that I am a Chinese-Indonesian,” he said.
He also said that the prolonged issue of the SBKRI was a way for civil servants to get money from Chinese-Indonesians. “I have a big concern for Chinese-Indonesians who are poor and can’t get the necessary documents because they can’t pay.”
The Jakarta Post
Monday, June 28, 2004
Ethnic Chinese set criteria of anti-discrimination
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
For much of the Chinese-Indonesian community, a commitment to ending discrimination and ensuring security will be the determining factors when they cast their ballots in the July 5 presidential election.
Decades of discrimination and being the target of public anger have led many ethnic Chinese residents to form their own criteria for the next president.
“The most important thing is for a candidate to be committed to ending discrimination against us, both in the economy and politics,” the chairman of the Modern Market Supplier Association, Susanto, told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.
He said that to make sure they made the correct choice in the election, Chinese-Indonesians were going over the records of every candidate, especially their records on the ethnic Chinese community.
“We are definitely not going to choose a controversial candidate because there will be rallies against them every day if they are elected. As a result, we won’t be able to run our businesses,” Susanto said.
Another key point is whether the candidates have ever made statements or put forth opinions detrimental to the economic rights of Chinese-Indonesians.
Susanto said some candidates might have in the past expressed a desire to restrict the expansion of ethic Chinese-owned businesses, justifying such moves by saying 60 percent of the country’s economy is controlled by such businesses.
“That is unfair because we are Indonesian citizens and should not be treated differently,” he said.
Several Chinese-Indonesian businesses grew into conglomerates under former president Soeharto, who also treated the conglomerates as cash cows for his political objectives.
David, a representative of retailers at the International Trade Center in Jakarta, said the ethnic Chinese would vote for candidates with clear anti-discrimination records.
“Support for our cultural existence is another point… Although all of the candidates have attended our holiday celebrations, we know not all of them truly support us,” David said.
He said that to better understand the true motives of the candidates, his association had looked into their records to make sure they did not vote for the wrong person.
However, such opinions do not represent the views or wishes of all Chinese-Indonesians. Some ethnic Chinese tycoons want a candidate who is capable of maintaining security, regardless of his or her commitment to eradicating discriminatory policies.
“Many of the tycoons support certain candidates or figures who are out to maintain security. For tycoons their choice is linked to business interests and they will vote for whoever can make things easier for them,” an ethnic Chinese businessmen said.
He said most of the tycoons who enjoyed numerous privileges during the New Order regime wanted a president whose policies would resemble those of former president Soeharto.
“They miss the special privileges they used to enjoy,” he said.
The Straits Times
July 3, 2004
The Chinese: Security of family, business comes first
By Eugene Low
Thirty-year-old Ng Siauw Pheng set up his computer shop in Glodok, Jakarta’s Chinatown, in 2000 – just two years after the district suffered some of the worst riots in its history.
He was not directly affected by the racial riots in May 1998, when Chinese businesses were looted and many shops in Glodok were razed.
Nonetheless, when he votes on Monday, the security of his family and business will weigh heavily on his mind.
This is the reason why, he said, he will root for retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
‘He is a former military man and is able to maintain law and order. He can also act to stamp out corruption,’ he told The Straits Times.
Mr Ng’s views are not unique among Indonesia’s minority Chinese community, which represents around 4 per cent of the population.
Many Chinese voters want a strong leader who can uphold the law. And they think Mr Bambang, a former security czar, is the best man for the job.
‘The Chinese community values security and around 60 per cent of them are likely to vote for Mr Bambang, whom they regard as a strongman but not totalitarian,’ said political analyst Andi Malarangeng.
An underlying tension still marks the ties between the Chinese and indigenous Indonesians.
Thanks to the cosy relationship that prominent Chinese tycoons, or cukongs, enjoy with the government, the Chinese are often viewed as controlling the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth.
This has bred resentment, which sometimes explodes into violence.
Mr Ng believes Mr Bambang can prevent a recurrence of such unrest. And unlike Golkar candidate Wiranto, he has a relatively clean human rights record.
His nationalist platform also appeals to Chinese voters, who are unlikely to favour Dr Amien Rais and Vice-President Hamzah Haz because of their links with Islamic groups.
President Megawati Sukarnoputri is also a nationalist. But the lack of progress under her rule has disillusioned many Chinese voters.
‘I don’t think she has done enough to solve the country’s problems,’ said Mr Ng.
As a consequence of the political repression and discrimination as well as the cronyism instituted by the new Order Regime, there has been a stereotype in Indonesian society that the ethnic Chinese are simply egoistic “economic animals” who do not care about the well-being of the people and the country. This stereotype is one of the stigmas borne by the ethnic Chinese. Another stigma that has been extremely effective in repressing the ethnic Chinese so as to make them avoid politics is the Baperki/Communist stigma.
In the aftermath of the G30S/PKI so-called abortive coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI: Partai Komunis Indonesia) during which all leftist elements were brutally purged in Indonesia, the new Order military regime carried out repressive measures to arrest and persecute political figures, activists, party cadres and members of various Chinese organisations accused of having Baperki/Communist affiliations. The same applied to various organisations, associations and foundations linked to the Chinese that were dissolved and banned. Thousands of ex-Baperki and Chinese schools as well as buildings owned by Chinese organisations were confiscated and converted to military lodging facilities or state schools, there were even those turned into homes for military officials or shophouses and other commercial complexes.
The anti-Chinese repressive measures implemented by the military regime was in fulfillmen
t of the China Containment Policy of Capitalist Western countries to counter the so-called “Communist threat” from the North that was identified as the People’s Republic of China. From an early stage during Sukarno’s presidency elements of the Indonesian military, particularly the army had been attempting to carry out anti-Chinese/China activities to divert the attention of the Indonesian people from their struggle against Anglo Saxon (US and Great Britain) imperialism. One of their main activities was to spread anti-Chinese/China propaganda actively and intensively. They tried to manipulate Indonesian public opinion by trying to convince the Indonesians that their true enemy was not the West but Communist China and that the Chinese in Indonesia were a fifth column of the PRC. It is important to remember that at that time the Vietnam War that the Americans started was at its peak.
In the meantime, LPKB (Lembaga Pembinaan Kesatuan Bangsa: Institution for the Establishment of National Unity), an army-sponsored organisation set up by Dutch-educated Peranakan Chinese to foster assimilation of the Chinese into indigenous Indonesian society, regarded the G30S incident as a starting point for which to deal their political rivals a final blow. LPBK played an active and important role in scapegoating the Socialist Chinese organisation Baperki and carried out a systematic campaign to eliminate it. In accordance with the CIA and MI6 programme to eradicate all leftist and left-leaning elements in Indonesia, Baperki had been accused of being an extension of the Indonesian Communist Party. All of a sudden in 1965, the entire Indonesian mass media which had passed through screening by the army was authorised to republish and carry out anti-Chinese and anti-PRC propaganda.
All members of the Baperki leadership and other Chinese political figures were pursued and arrested by the army which extorted a great sum of money from them. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese, perhaps over a million Chinese, were massacred by the army along with army-backed vigilante squads consisting of armed civilians, this massacre costing over a million lives and which was not limited to the Chinese would have not been possible without CIA and MI6 death lists of suspected Communists, Leftists and miscellaneous groups linked to the Indonesian Communist Party and/or mainland China supplied by the local American and British embassies. Many forms of restrictions were imposed on the ethnic Chinese, starting from the prohibition on Chinese culture, rituals, religious beliefs in public as well as the ban on Mandarin and Chinese characters. A most effective measure to psychologically emasculate the Chinese was the enactment of a governmental order replacing the respective form of address for China and the Chinese as Tiongkok (Zhongguo) and Tionghoa (Zhonghua) with the perjorative term “Cina”, as a result of this the military regime succeeded to make the Chinese politically and psychologically helpless. All these developed into longstanding traumatic symptoms which was why during the new Order Era (1965-1998), the ethnic Chinese in general avoided politics at all costs. Even now, after five years since the fall of the new Order Regime, most Chinese are reluctant out of traumatic fear to be involved in practical politics.
However the business flair of military officers in their efforts to generate wealth following the example of the Dutch colonisers led them to cultivate a group of Chinese business cronies affiliated with the KMT regime in Taiwan who served as the military regime’s financial managers in a business environment rampant with corruption, cronyism and nepotism. Many of these cronies with their private armies from their Gongsi (enterprises or conglomerate business empires) abetted the army in tandem with spies sent from Taiwan in the massacre of fellow Chinese who were oriented to the Dalu motherland. Unfortunately, to make matter worse, these opportunistic Chinese capitalists forgot who they were and enriched themselves without any qualms about ethics, morals and compassion, thus came into fruition the negative stigma in Indonesian society that all Chinese are corrupt, rapaciously greedy and nothing but “economic animals”.
Moreover, other than making use of a group of American-educated indigenous Indonesian technocrats known as the “Berkeley Mafia” as well as seeking the aid of international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, ADB etcetera and establishing IGGI, the military regime was actually very pragmatic in taking advantage of a good number of Chinese who were as a matter of fact very experienced in trade, commerce and finance and were part of a worldwide overseas Chinese business network, this enabled the military regime to improve the economy in the real sector. The ethnic Chinese in Indonesia were encouraged to enter business and at the same time were restricted to it so as to prevent them from being active in other fields as they were prior to 1965. Explicitly as well as implicitly, they were discouraged (even threatened) to enter politics and restrictions in the form of quotas and glass ceilings were placed on Chinese entering the civil service and the military.
Due to the discriminative anti-Chinese policies of the new Order Regime that lasted for more than three decades, the Chinese gradually distanced themselves from politics and concentrated on the business sector. This was a condition created during the new Orde Regime era which resulted in the public misperception that the Chinese only acted for the sake of self interests by accumulating wealth and sanctioning any means whatsover to achieve an end. Nonetheless, honestly speaking, since many centuries past the Chinese have been playing a predominant and determinant role in all fields of life ranging from politics, the economy, social life, arts and culture, journalism, literature, sports, diplomacy, religion and also in the armed struggle to free the East Indies from the Dutch and guerilla warfare against the Japanese Imperial Army during the Japanese occupation.
The political Role of the ethnic Chinese in the post New Order Period
The 13-15 May Tragedy in 1998 struck another traumatic chord in all Chinese throughout Indonesia and made them realise that they have been marginalised and emasculated for too long. Most of their rights as Indonesian citizens were not accorded to them and as suspected Communists and PRC fifth columnists they were always scapgoated and subjected to extortion to the powers that be. Their sense of self-esteem as Chinese, and even as human beings had been violated. The only freedom they had under the new Order Regime period was in business which helped to increase the living standards and the education of many Chinese, however without political emancipation such material comfort is meaningless. The 13-15 May anti-Chinese pogroms proved that the ethnic Chinese who controlled most of the Indonesian economy, were actually politically powerless and within a matter of hours, they were made helpless.
Immediately after the fall of the new Order Regime in May 1998, various Chinese organisations and political parties were established. The 13-15 May 1998 Tragedy and the new Order Regime’s fall from grace was an important momentum for the resurgence of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese in tandem with the Indonesian’s people reawakening in their struggle for justice and democracy. Out of spontaneity and spirit, nothing much nothing more, however deficient in political experience and organisation as well as a lack of skilled leaders of high integrity, these organisations and political parties emerged out of the dark with their slogans and jargon of democracy and reformation. During the 1999 general elections, only one Chinese party (PBI) passed the selection test of the General Election Commission (KPU) and took part in the elections. The calculations made by the founders and the leadership of PBI were erroneous, they assumed
in confidence that they would receive the support of the majority of the Chinese community in Indonesia whose number amounted to almost 10 million people. Thus, according to their assumption, at least 5-10 seats would be won in the DPR-RI (Indonesian Parliament). In reality, the PBI only attained one seat (L.T. Susanto who represents West Kalimantan where the mostly Hakka Chinese form a majority).
Does one seat in parliement ensure that one can realise the aspirations and the interests of the Chinese in Indonesia? There are actually several Chinese who have become MPs as a result of the 1999 General Elections, among others : Alvin Li Lingpiao (PAN), Candra Wijaya (PDI-P), Enggartriasto Lukita (Golkar) along with L.T. Susanto (PBI). Except for Alvin Li Lingpiao who is very vocal, the other Chinese MPs are mostly the obverse of his vocalness. However it remains to be seen whether Alvin Li Lingpiao is actively serving the interests of the ethnic Chinese in parliament.
After the formation of parliament following the 1999 General Elections, various recommendations, petitions and even consitutional amendment plans to revoke discrimination have been proposed in parliement by various organisations and NGOs under the coordination of the National Solidarity group (SNB) led by Ester Indahyani Yusuf. It is still a question whether those Chinese brothers of ours will fulfill these aspirations in their capacity as MPs? Are they actively lobbying within and outside their cirlcles in order to bring forth these recommendations during parliamentary sessions?
During Abdurrahman Wahid (himself an ethnic “Hui” Chinese) or Gus Dur’s presidency, a noted economist Drs. Kwik Kian Gie was appointed Coordinating Minister for Economy and Industry, his appointment to such a a strategic ministerial post made the entire Chinese community proud. During the thirty two years of rule under the new Order Regime, only once was a Chinese appointed as a minister, namely Timber tycoon Muhammad “Bob” Hassan alias The Kian Seng, a close friend of former President Suharto, his tenure did not last long for two months after his appointment Suharto resigned. Nevertheless it has been a great disappointment to the people of Indonesia that Kwik Kian Gie was not able to apply a quick therapy to save Indonesia’s ailing economy due to friction between him and other ministers. Now under Megawati Sukarnoputri’s presidency, Kwik Kian Gie serves as State Minister of National Development/Bappenas head, however his integrity and uncompromising nature when it comes to principles has made him unable to get along well with the other ministers, which is why he finds himself in a difficult position and seemingly he has been ‘nonactivated” with the effect that he is not as vocal as he used to be.
Ever since the inception of Chinese political parties it has been predicted that they were bound to go blunderbust due to the non-homogeneous nature, different political interests of the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. To make things worse, these political parties were established out of the blue without adequate preparation. A political party needs vision, a mission, platform and a programme, all of which has to be clear and in accordance witht the interests of the respective constituents as well as possess solid, skillful leadership of high moral integrity. A sectarian and primordial pollitical party will find it difficult to gain support from outside its own group. Support hoped for from Chinese businessmen and conglomerate bosses which if garnered would be of much significance in developing these political parties, came to no avail in many cases. Businessmen simply have their own interests to reckon with, they only support political parties which according to their reckoning will emerge victorious, so as to protect their business interests.
In the 1999 General Elections, most Chinese who voted chose other parties not affiliated with Chinese ethnicity, in general they gave their support and voted for Megawati’s PDI-P which at that time symbolised all those repressed by the former regime. In several areas, there were those who voted for Amien Rais’ PAN (Central Java, Yogyakarta and North Sumatra), Gus Dur’s PKB (East Java), Golkar (Chinese businessmen who support the status quo) and PDKB (a Christian party).
Besides political parties which have mushroomed in the post-Suharto era, there are many NGOs, clan associations, associations, organisations as well as foundations involving Chinese which have different visions and missions, however most of them are socio-cultural organisations. There are those whose membership is based on place of origin in China, dialect group, clan etcetera. In general terms, these organisation are very paternalistic and tend to avoid politics.
In addition to that, many Chinese scholars, students and youth are actively involved in various organisations and NGOs which are Chinese-based but also integrate well with other activists from different ethnic groups to work together to bring about what they aspire in common for Indonesia to be. Most of these Chinese who are nationalistically Indonesian in aspiration are Peranakans, most of whom are Christians. For example, Frans Hendra Winata has been appointed member of the National Law Commission (KHN), Candra Setiawan is a member of the National Human Rights Commssion, Ester Indahyani Yusuf from the National Solidarity Group and Surya Chandra who is a coordinator of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institution. Not to mention too, those active in professional organisations such as Anton Supit and Sudhamek AWS. In the post-Suharto period many analysts have emerged in the political, economic, social and other fields and these analysts are actively expressing their opinions in articels published by mass media. In the journalistic world, many young journalists have also appeared both in printed as well as electronic media.
In comparison to the new Order Regime period, there has been much progress in the political life of the ethnic Chinese. Unlike before, more and more Chinese discuss politics and other national-related issues with much anthusiasm. They diligently attend discussions or seminars which among others are often organised by INTI, a prominent Chinese organisation. Unlike in the past when they usually listened passively or put forth questions solely related to Chinese issues with much shyeness, they now have no misgivings about asking questions and also expressing personal opinions concerning Indonesia in general. In anticipation of the 2004 General Elections, all Chinese political parties are in danger of imminent collapse. There is not a single party which has met the requirements of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry and no verification has been done by the General Elections Commission to be able to have right to participate in the general elections. Indeed, thousands of supporters as well as party cadres in various regions of the country who spent many months working hard and raising funds to take part in the 2004 General Elections are very disappointed. Ironically, without the slightest sense of duty and responsibility leaders of these political parties have become turncoats by changing allegiance by joining other political parties which are predominantly indigenous Indonesian, abandoning their cadres and supporters in confusion and disappointment. However things are not so bad as they seem, according to research done by several Chinese language newspapers, there are 92 Chinese electoral candidates for parliament spread out among various political parties which will contest the coming elections, there are even more Chinese candidates for the regional parliaments. It is still unclear whether they were recruited as vote getters or as fund raisers, but this is testimony to the progress of the political life of the ethnic Chinese. Thus it is obvious as is evident from the hundreds of Chinese throughout Indonesia who have registered themselves as electoral candidates for the regional parliaments.
eral Layout of the political Strength of the Chinese in Indonesia
Interestingly, there has all along been an impression in Indonesian society as a whole that the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia as well as the Chinese the world throughout are homegeneous, that the Chinese in Indonesia are united as one entity due to the injustice they suffered under the new Order Regime. However in reality, this is not the case, the ethnic Chinese are very heterogeneous, not only in their political views, but also in the social, cultural, religious, belief, traditional, business and other fields, and this shows just how wrong the indigenous Indonesians are in regarding their ethnic Chinese counterparts as homogeneous, regarding bad acts done by certain Chinese as representative of the Chinese mentality.
In general, the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia can be categorised as “Totok” and “Peranakan”, the Totok Chinese are those who are unmixed with native Indonesian blood and are often descendants of recent arrivals from China, this group of Chinese is very much oriented to their place of origin in China. Generally speaking, they still adhere to the original Chinese culture, traditions of the mainland and the older generation is fluent in Mandarin or the dialect of their place of origin in China. On the other hand the Peranakan Chinese are mostly those whose ancestors came to what is today Indonesia centuries ago, during that time many Chinese male immigrants came alone and thus they married native Indonesian women are mixed Chinese-Indonesian women. This group of Chinese is thus of mixed Chinese-Indonesian blood and consequently their culture is a blend of old Chinese customs syncreitised with local Indonesian cultures, however the Chinese characteristic remaining predominant. They do not speak Mandarin or any Chinese dialect and are not anymore oriented to their place of origin in China because their is no more link between them and the mainland. Most Peranakan Chinese do not even know where their forefathers came from in China.
The Totok Chinese are not homogeneous either, they are distinguishable from their place of origin on the Chinese mainland, there are those from Fujian (Hokkiens), Guangdong (Cantonese), Zhejiang (Wu), Yunnan (Han), Hubei (Han), Shandong (Han), Henan (Han) etcetera. Most ethnic Chinese in Indonesia are Hokkiens and they are further divided into several distinct subgroups, ther are the Minnan from Xiamen and environs and Hokiciu, Hokchia, Henghua etcetera. From Guangdong there are Si Yip and Sam Yip Cantonese , Moyan (Meixian) Hakka, Tapu and Teochew from Shantou. Chinese from Fujian, Guangdong, Zhejiang and environs along the south east coast prefer to call themselves Tangren (people of Tang) rather than Tang while many from Yunnan, Shandong, Henan, Hebei and environs are Han-Hui (Huihuiren or Muslims). Their political views and orientation are also very diverse, there are those whose loyalty is to the mainland (PRC), while others pledge their alliance to Taiwan (ROC or Taidu separatists). They are also differentiated according to the respective regions in Indonesia where they live such as for example the Medan Chinese (mostly Hokkien), Java Chinese (mostly Hokkien), Bangka Chinese (mostly Hakka), Kuntian or West Kalimantan Chinese (mostly Hakka) and often these labellisations have negative connotations. Different dialect groups are also identifiable by profession or trade, for example Hokchia are prominent in banking and the textile industry, Henghua are active in transportation, Hokkien control much of the agricultural produce and the salted fish trade, Hakka excel in peddling, Cantonese control a substantial portion of the restaurants, furniture production and trade and photography, Hubei people are well known as dentists or supplier of dentistry tools/equipment, Shandong people produce and sell their famous Shuijiao (dumplings) and Lamian (hand made noodles). Thus it comes as no surprise if one goes to the Mangga Dua commercial district in North Hakarta, most peddlers there are Hakka, most photography shop owners are Cantonese, most sparpart sellers and distributors in Sawah Besar are Henghua and most businessmen in Pintu Kecil are Hokchia.
There is no real sense of unity among the Totok Chinese, in addition to fierce business rivalry along dialect lines, many are very fanatical as to their place of origin in China. That is why there are multitude of dialect associations when all Chinese should rather unite as one single entity. There is a huge gap between Hakka and Hokkien as well as Hakka and Cantonese, an even larger one between Southerners and Northerners, the latter of which many are not pork eaters by virtue of their Islamic faith, anathema to the Southerner for whom pork is part of his daily joie de vivre. The fierce rivalry between the leaders of different dialect groups is cause for much intercenine conflict at all levels between them, this is why many Chinese organisations are primordial, paternalistic and ultratraditional. Leaders tend to be those successful businessmen who cultivate close relations with indigenous Indonesian leaders. This is nothing new because in an immigrant society whose sense of personal security is precarious, success in business as well as good political connections are often taken as a measure to deterimine who is fit for leadership.
Meanwhile the Peranakan Chinese consist mainly of those from the middle and lower classes who are varied according to the respective local environments in which they live. They have far and large integrated and even assimilated with the natives. Most of them are not traders and the majority of them work as blue or white collar workers in local or foreign companies or are consultants, lawyers, notarists, lecturers, teachers, artists, designers, bakery owners, saloon owners, photomodels, social workers, Christian missionaries, workshop owners etcetera. Unlike the Totok Chinese, there are not many Peranakan Chinese organisations because in general they tend to congregate in predominantly indigenous Indonesian national organisations, ranging from political parties to social, religious, professional, cultural organisations and NGOs. They feel wholly Indonesian and loath to have any links with China or be identified as such.
The political views of the Peranakan Chinese do not differ with those of the indigenous Indonesians in general, however they are still very diversified. They voice out their political aspirations through political parties of their choice which is why there has never been any intention among the Peranakan to establish a Chinese political party. Unlike PBI which was founded by a Hakka notable, several Peranakan political figures took part in the establishment of PAN and other political parties.
In anticipation of the 2004 General Elections, it is certain that the ethnic Chinese will be some sort of “pretty woman” which various political parties will vye for. The number of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is now approximated to be at more than ten million and this is a significant segment of Indonesia’s population especially in terms of financial support and vote getting in the coming elections. Nonetheless most Indonesian political parties have misjudged the situation for the Chinese have learned much from the lesson of the 1999 General Elections. They now realise that their lot does not lie with such political parties who can only but pay lip service to the aspirations of the Chinese, especially with their loads of empty promises during the campaign period to gain Chinese support. For example the conceptors and the founders of the Vicepresidential Center certainly did not except such a response from the Chinese which was the obverse of their expectations. Therefore we hope that political parties that wish to recruit Chinese cadres and electoral candidates do not do so merely for money.
Acceleration of Reform of Political Culture
It is undeniable that the
ethnic Chinese have much potential that can be relied on in Indonesia. With the largest overseas Chinese population in the world, they can partake a very significant role in bringing about progress in Indonesia. In general, they are highly educated and have an excellent work ethic and last but not least, the worldwide Chinese commercial distribution network which they are part of. Many of them have hundreds of years of experience in international trade and commerce, and they are well versed in recognising opportunities and taking advantage of them.
According to Christianto Wibisono’s Indonesian Business Data Center, in 1998, the amount of funds stored in Singapore ACU by Indonesian nationals amounted to 110 billion US dollars. Say if half of that amount belongs to Chinese from Indonesia, thus such an amount is already a very huge amount. If only half of that financial reserve would be returned to Indonesia, it will therefore not be necessary for the Indonesian government to beg for aid from the CGI, IMF, World Bank and the ADB. It is the same thing if we look at our neighbouring countries, are we not amazed by the progress attained by Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand? Why are those relatively smaller countries with much less natural resources performing better than Indonesia? Other corruption, collusion, nepotism and political instability, it is also because the people and the governments of those countries treat all their citizens equally and with impartial justice. Each and every citizen has his rights and responsiblities guaranteed by the constitution. In determining who is to be appointed to what position in government, selection is carried out based on merit and not corruption, collusion, nepotism, race, religion or other primordial differences.
In order to bring progress and prosperity to Indonesia, whether we like it or not we have to enable the participation of all potential available, not excluding the ethnic Chinese for they are part of Indonesian society. Open as wide as possible the doors to anyone who has commitment and ability to help us attain our common goals, and its positive results we will see. PM Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand is a Chinese, so is former Philippine President Corazon Aquino as well as former President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia. Malaysia’s cabinet is also filled with Chinese.
All discriminative laws and regulations must immediately be revoked so that there are no more stipulations that an ethnic Chinese must possess a document to prove that he is an Indonesian citizen. Government insitutions such as BKMC (Body for Coordination of the Chinese Problem) have also to be dissolved and not nonactivated. The Law has to be implemented without discrimination. Do not simply regard the anti-corruption campaign as a slogan but it has to be a top priority carried out firmely and consistently. If all along, for the sake of several billions of US dollars we are always subservient to all conditions set forth by the IMF, why do we have to have second thoughts and postpone the revocation of all the discriminative and racist laws and regulations?
Henceforth we hope that there will be acceleration in reform of Indonesia’s political culture which will ultimately bring is out of this crisis which we all face. It is hoped certain ethnic Chinese will abandon their bad business practices, to not only seek profit without listening to one’s heart but also to work for the betterment of society as a whole. For the sake of human progress, we also aspire that the ethnic Chinese are more proactive in participating in all walks of life as it was in the past, to not only encapsulate themselves in the business world. Ultimately, for the general good of all let us all expuragate ourselves of all prejudices within us.
 To know more about the new Order Regime’s policy in dealing with the ethnic Chinese organisations as well as their assets including association buildings and ex-Chinese and Baperki schools, as well as a list of names of ethnic Chinese organisations all over Indonesia, see: Financial Department of the Republic of Indonesia, Budgetary Directorate General “Guide on Handling Exclusive Racial Orhanisations”, National Treasury Establishment Directorate, 1997.
 See Lashmar, Paul & Oliver, James, Britain’s Secret Propaganda War, Sutton Publishing, London, 1999 page 7-9.
 To know more about the role of the Chinese in Indonesia’s history, see: Benny G. Setiono “Chinese in the political Whirlwind”, ELKASA, Jakarta, 2003
 Pertaining to the number of Chinese residents in Indonesia, there is no valid data until this point in time, as there has never been conducted a census or research which is really is of no use to the Indonesian government. The last census was carried out by the Dutch East Indies government in 1933 which stated that there were around 1,2 million Chinese in the East Indies. Thus all attempts to determine the exact number of Chinese in Indonesia are based on approximation, there are sources indicating 3,5 million, 6 million, 10 million and even 15 million Chinese. In 2003, INTI held a seminar regarding this problem and it ended without a certain conclusion.
SKBRI unnecessary if Chinese-Indonesians have birth certificate: Minister
Surabaya, East Java, Aug. 11, 2004 (Antara): Indonesians of Chinese descent no longer need a certificate of Indonesian citizenship (SBKRI) if they have a birth certificate, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said here on Wednesday.
“The SBKRI is only for foreigners who enter Indonesia for the first time and not for their offspring. It is unnecessary for Indonesians who have an identity card, a driving license and other kinds of certificate. There are 24 kinds of certificate besides the SBKRI,” he said.
Yusril made the statement during a meeting with 30 members of the National Unity Communication Forum (FKKB), led by chairman Eko Sugitario.
The government did not discriminate against Chinese Indonesians, the minister said, stressing that the certificate of Indonesian citizenship was imposed after Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong declared in 1949 that all Chinese people, whether or not they lived in mainland China, remained Chinese citizens.
The Indonesian government issued the SBKRI to prevent Chinese people in Indonesia from having double citizenship, he said, adding that Indonesians of other descent would also be asked by the immigration office to show a certificate of Indonesian citizenship if they did not have an identity card.
Yusril said Chinese-Indonesians should show their birth certificate or an identity card if immigration officials ask them to present a certificate of Indonesian citizenship.
Chinese Indonesians could inform the police of unscrupulous immigration officers who insisted on seeing the certificate of Indonesian citizenship, the minister said.
The FKKB has lodged a strong protest against continued reliance on the SBKRI with the immigration office in East Java province, stating that it went against Presidential Decree No 56/1996, which scrapped the certification of Indonesian citizenship.
The Jakarta Post
Friday, August 13, 2004
New hotline to mark No-SBKRI campaign next week
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta
The government will launch next week a campaign in 105 offices across the country in hopes of preventing local bureaucrats from demanding from Chinese-Indonesians a controversial citizenship document when applying for passports.
It has also has a new hotline number (021) 522-5038 for people to complain about officers who do ask for the certificate, known as the SBKRI.
“Our policy is clear. The SBKRI is no longer a necessity. An ID card or a birth
certificate is sufficient,” Ade E. Dachlan, the immigration directorate’s spokesman, announced on Thursday.
The Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra — which oversees the immigration directorate — is expected to launch the campaign early next week at the West Jakarta immigration office.
Ade admitted that some immigration officers still requested the SBKRI from Chinese-Indonesian when applying for passports.
“But self-styled immigration agents are also involved as they tell their clients to give them the SBKRI before they go to apply for passports on their clients’ behalf,” Ade said.
The SBKRI is often required for Chinese-Indonesians to get official documents including ID cards, passports and business licenses. It is not required of indigenous Indonesians or people who trace to ancestry to India or the Middle East.
“SBKRI is no longer required for making passports for Chinese-Indonesian citizens. Only the first generation of foreigners who relinquish their citizenship in favor of Indonesian citizenship are obliged to present an SBKRI to our officers,” Ade said.
Since 1996, the government has actually announced that the SBKRI was no longer necessary for those who already have legal citizenship.
However, the decree has not been implemented in many of the government offices, particularly at immigration offices. They are reluctant to implement the decree due to what they claim is a lack of technical instructions.
One recent example is the East Java immigration office, which issued a circular announcing that the SBKRI was a requirement for passport applications.
“We are disappointed with the issuance of the (East Java) circular as we informed our offices about our policy years ago. We will issue another circular today to annul the East Java (immigration office) circular,” Ade said.
Meanwhile, Lieus Sungkharisma of the Chinese community organization Parti, said that the Director General of Immigration Iman Santoso had promised to take stern measures against his officers who defied the order.
“Those whose passport applications are rejected by immigration officers due to a lack of an SBKRI may report it to P.O. BOX 888,” Lieus said, referring to a mailing address used by his organization.
Lieus added that Parti would also put up banners at immigration offices across the country, which inform people that the SBKRI is no longer needed.
Legal observers have said that government officials consider the SBKRI a “gold mine”.
President Megawati Soekarnoputri has called on Chinese-Indonesians to say “no” if officers asked them to show the SBKRI in order to get official documents.
The Jakarta Post
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Megawati calls for social integration
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
President Megawati Soekarnoputri told Chinese-Indonesians on Friday to stop complaining about discrimination against them and open themselves up to other ethnic groups in the country.
Speaking in front of about 100 Chinese-Indonesian intellectuals, the President said that while the government had to revoke discriminatory rulings, Chinese-Indonesians must do more to mingle with other ethnic groups.
“You always have to look at the other side of the coin: There were times when you had economic privileges at the cost of others, or when you excluded yourselves from the wider community,” Megawati said.
She said, as part of the nation, Chinese-Indonesians should show a willingness to build a genuine brotherhood with people from other ethnic groups.
During the meeting, the President related a story about the experience of a friend of hers, who was from Padang, West Sumatra, and who fell in love with a Chinese-Indonesian man.
“They couldn’t get married because the Chinese family refused to have indigenous Indonesian in-laws. You have to pay attention to these kind of issues as well,” she said.
Megawati said that if only both sides were ready to accept each other, discrimination would end.
“If both sides have similar views, I’m sure harmony in Indonesia would much more meaningful,” the President said.
Relations between Chinese-Indonesians and others have always been an issue for the country, especially after decades of authoritarian leadership under former president Soeharto.
During his presidency, Chinese-Indonesians were not allowed to join political parties or observe their culture or religious practices.
Only after the fall of Soeharto in 1998, which marked the beginning of the country’s reform movement, did Chinese-Indonesians dare to enter politics and fight for putting an end to discriminatory rulings.
Chinese-Indonesians held a meeting with Megawati on Friday to express their appreciation of government efforts to scrap the Certificate of Indonesian Citizenship (SBKRI), which is still required from Chinese-Indonesians when applying for official documents such as passports.
Megawati has repeatedly said there is no need for Chinese-Indonesians to present an SBKRI if they already possessed other identification such as an Indonesian birth certificate or identification card (KTP).
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is set to launch a campaign next week on the abandonment of the SBKRI policy and to establish hotlines to receive complaints on the matter.
In the meeting, Megawati promised to carefully assess the implementation of a no-SBKRI policy for those who had Indonesian citizenship.
Also attending the meeting were noted badminton player Susi Susanti, her husband Alan Budikusuma and legislator from the National Awakening Party (PKB) A.B. Soesanto.
“I have once again ordered related ministries to ensure that none of their officials continue to take advantage of the SBKRI issue,” Megawati said.
The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Jusuf Kalla and the Chinese, a Critique of Past Views
By Ivan Wibowo , Jakarta
From the names on the two presidential tickets in the Sept. 20 election runoff — Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Jusuf Kalla and Megawati Soekarnoputri-Hasyim Muzadi — South Sulawesi businessman Kalla’s is the most controversial for Chinese-Indonesians.
Rumors have been circulating among those of Chinese descent of Kalla’s anti-Chinese sentiment, despite his repeated denials. On his official website, www.jusufkalla.com, he says, “Favoritism for pribumi (indigenous) businessmen should be reaffirmed and maintained.”
Kalla also stated his full support for a variety of old government policies that afforded special treatment for so-termed indigenous businesspeople and limited the expansion of the Chinese community.
Economic policies such as System Benteng (fortress system), the Assaat Movement, Government Regulation No. 10/1959, credit for small and medium-sized enterprises and controls over the distribution of staple commodities were among his economic beliefs.
The younger business generation of Chinese descent is not familiar with these terms, but for their older counterparts these policies provide bitter memories.
System Benteng was introduced in 1950 by welfare minister Juanda to provide security for pribumi importers by giving them special permits and other supportive treatment. In practice, it was those of Chinese descent, ultimately, who ran businesses, as the pribumi preferred to outsource the work instead of doing the importing themselves. Haji Kalla and the Bakrie family were two pribumi entrepreneurs that managed to develop their business because of the system. The policy was stopped in 1954.
Assaat Movement was introduced by Indonesian official Assaat in 1956 and called for discriminatory acts against all in the Chinese-Indonesian business community.
PP No.10/1959 stipulated that nobody of Chinese descent was allowed to have a business beyond regental level. The armed forces vehemently supported implementation of the regulation, resulting in 130,000 Chinese-Indonesians leaving this country.
The KIK/KMPK, which began in 1974, was credit schemes only for pribumi small and medium-sized enterprises. The government stopped the scheme in 1988.
Distribution of staple commodities become a matter of hot debate after the 1998 anti-Chinese riots in the capital that made the Chinese take refuge. Kalla said such a policy would provide an opportunity for the pribumi to handle distribution.
For Kalla, this series of policies amounted to affirmative action, “to limit the expansion and existence of nonindigenous Indonesians, and 75 percent of the distribution of staple commodities should be in the hands of indigenous people”.
He disregarded various critics who underlined the failure of these discriminatory rulings, such as late, prominent economist Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, who said, “Of 10 indigenous businessmen only three managed to grow because of these affirmative policies: The rest remained as benalu (leeches).”
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad introduced similar affirmative action, the New Economic Policy, in 1971, to support bumiputera. However, he admitted ultimately that his affirmative action was overdone, resulting in people who were rather laid-back and not willing to make an effort. He admitted that the policy failed to develop a competitive streak among Malays.
The market mechanism will eliminate those who base their business on political patronage rather than competitiveness.
However, it is clear that the durability, in business terms, of traditional food stalls such as Padang restaurants and Warung Tegal is not due to affirmative action.
These criticisms and the failure of affirmative action have been ignored by Jusuf Kalla, who states that his own family business is growing because of this action, disregarding the unsuccessful stories that constitute the mainstream.
He also ignores the possibility that he was able to make it as a businessman not due to the policies, but because he is the distributor of Toyota in eastern Indonesia, which was owned by Tjia Kian Liong (William Soeryadjaya).
In the wake of major industrial development in China such as in garments, textiles, footwear and other commodities, which has sidelined its Indonesian counterparts, it is important to muster all resources for the sake of Motherland Indonesia against global competition.
Indonesian textile association chairman Benny Soetrisno said this is a battle between states, not between companies.
There is no point in creating fear among Chinese-Indonesians in their own homeland: History has sensitized them to detect danger from miles away, and survive.
Now is the perfect time for Jusuf Kalla to make known his ability to build solid economic cooperation between Indonesian entrepreneurs, disregarding race, religion or culture.
Above all, Chinese-Indonesians are also children of the nation. It is far better to maximize their potential than alienate them.
The writer is a lawyer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The Jakarta Post
Friday, August 20, 2004
Susilo Denies Anti-Chinese Economic Policy
By Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta
Leading presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono denied accusations that he and his running mate Jusuf Kalla were discriminatory against Chinese-Indonesian businesspeople, saying his future government would foster unity for the good of the country.
“I’m not in power, so how could they accuse me of not being cooperative with the ethnic Chinese?” Susilo questioned during a press conference at his private residence in Bogor.
“I do not discriminate against anyone… all elements of this country should join hands and work together for a better future in Indonesia.”
Susilo was responding to criticism aired by a number of Chinese-Indonesian businesspeople against statements made by his running mate, who on several occasions said he would fully support the policies of past governments, which put a great emphasis on assisting indigenous businesspeople and putting certain limits on the ethnic Chinese community.
On Kalla’s official website, http://www.jusufkalla.com, he says: “Favoritism for pribumi (indigenous) businessmen should be reaffirmed and maintained.”
Born in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Kalla was raised in a family who successfully expanded to many lucrative sectors, including engineering, infrastructure, automotive and transportation.
The Kalla family has focused on doing business in the eastern regions of the country and they have become one of few major indigenous business conglomerates that are able to compete with Chinese-Indonesian businesspeople.
Critics said Kalla wanted to emulate the discriminatory policies under founding president Sukarno, known as Sistem Benteng (fortress system) that provided privileges for indigenous businesspeople in the form of loans for small- and medium-sized enterprises and gave them control over the distribution of staple commodities.
Under the system, which took effect in 1959, Chinese-Indonesians were barred from expanding their businesses beyond the regency level, which prompted some 130,000 Chinese-Indonesians to leave the country.
Only a few of them survived and were then able to develop a good relationship with Soeharto, an Army general who seized power from Sukarno in 1966.
During his tenure, Soeharto became allies with a small clique of ethnic-Chinese businesspeople who enjoyed certain privileges, particularly loans, to expand their businesses, which ranged from the timber industry and banks to automobiles and basic commodities.
A select group of Chinese-Indonesian businesspeople also built relationships and later business partnerships with the military.
At the peak of the economic crisis in early 1998, Soeharto’s administration provided more than Rp 138 trillion in emergency bail-out loans for a number of banks, many of which were owned by Chinese-Indonesians.
The worsened economic situation led to massive and violent street demonstrations and eventually forced Soeharto to step down in disgrace. Hundreds of Chinese-Indonesians and their shops were targeted and fell victim in mass riots that preceded the fall of Soeharto.
The Jakarta Post
Friday, September 3, 2004
Minority participation and democratization
By Christine Susanna Tjhin, Jakarta
Since the legislative election in April, more Chinese-Indonesians have undoubtedly been engaged in the country’s democratization, and this degree of enthusiasm is a new precedent for their future participation.
In the past, the only “participation” expected concerned economic activities. The reconstruction of the Chinese-Indonesian identity was shaped much by such economic preferences, which led to the stereotypical stigma that the ethnic group, which comprises 2 percent of the Indonesian population, makes up 70 percent of the economy.
Although no valid proof exists to indicate the precise economic power of Chinese-Indonesians — nor any to calculate the economic power of other ethnic
groups in Indonesia — this “popular” stigma has stuck.
The notion of Chinese-Indonesians holding economic power has held sway for as long as the nation’s history, particularly since the colonial era. However, this stigma was amplified in the late 1990s during the Asian financial crisis by the laziness and bombastic tendencies of some former journalists, who quoted incorrectly Michael Backman’s 1995 work on Indonesian conglomerates.
Backman investigated the market capitalization of 300 companies and found that 73 percent of the companies’ total market capitalization was owned by Chinese-Indonesian conglomerates. Market capitalization, however, is not the national economy, because it excludes state-owned enterprises, multinationals and foreign companies that provide far greater contributions. Still, the damage had been done and attempts to rectify the fallacy were mostly futile, and the effect of this long-held “popular” stigma peaked during the tragic events of May 1998.
In the context of the 2004 general elections, elites who needed funds thought it would be profitable to lure the support of Chinese-Indonesians with trivial promises of enforcing the abolishment of the Chinese-specific Indonesian citizenship certificate, or SBKRI, and of eradicating discrimination — but without appreciating the actual potential of the Chinese-Indonesian community in contributing to democratization.
Speaking of the Chinese-Indonesian community and democratic development in terms of the unproven sums of money they might have and could donate is superficial and potentially damaging. Why not look at Indonesians of Chinese descent with glasses of a different shade?
Since the 1999 presidential election, Chinese-Indonesians have relatively been more confident in expressing their political aspirations. Some encouraging signs are: one, increasing membership of Chinese in political parties; two, an increase in the number of political discussions and seminars hosted by Chinese-Indonesian associations with assertive members; and three, informal presidential campaign teams that generated various social activities in different localities.
Each of these activities showed the physical and public presence of Chinese-Indonesians. This presence, at this early stage of democratic consolidation, has been enough to erode the apolitical stigma, and regular media coverage of their presence has helped greatly in drawing a different picture of the Chinese-Indonesian.
Even if it is not yet comprehensive — at least to the general public — their political participation has increasingly become evident.
However, this presence is not supported adequately at times by quality substance. In an earlier piece (The Jakarta Post, March 29, 2004), I illustrated some drawbacks — in particular the participation of youths. Some of these drawbacks still exist, yet improvements have also emerged, as was evident in an event hosted on Aug. 22 by the Chinese-Indonesian Reform Party (PARTI), which showed Chinese-Indonesian youths’ increasing participation in politics.
If the event covered in my March piece reflected the Chinese community’s mood toward the legislative election — namely, party-oriented debates — the August event reflected their mood toward the presidential election. Encouragingly, many legislative candidates who had failed to win a seat were still willing to campaign for presidential candidates.
In the August event, a pro-Megawati team and a pro-Susilo team were engaged in a debate. Due to variety of factors, the Mega-Hasyim team was bigger — but this may not automatically mean that the Chinese-Indonesian community favors Mega-Hasyim more.
There are issues far more complicated and critical than which candidate Chinese-Indonesians prefer.
The most heated topic raised by youth representatives was the Kalla factor and the possibility of affirmative action for Chinese-Indonesians. This was even more hotly debated than the SBKRI issue. That they are still complaining predominantly about the antidiscrimination and SBKRI issues shows a limited ability to link their arguments to mainstream human rights discourses against all forms of discrimination. Additionally, the debates often slipped into petty arguments over individual style, gestures or word choice.
Beneath the surface of the hot topic of affirmative action is an inherent rejection of all forms and shapes of discrimination. However, most Chinese-Indonesian political figures are either not very eloquent in translating this fundamental issue into their debates and speeches, or are not fully aware of it.
If the first is the case, it is only a matter of experience — of engaging more in and familiarizing themselves with mainstream issues. If the latter is the case, however, then there is little quality in the greater political participation of Chinese-Indonesians.
Some Chinese-Indonesian may cast their votes this September for the candidate who could ensure no more — or the least — discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians and/or who could provide the stability necessary for better economic prospects.
This existing mindset is narrow, but perhaps at this point, this is understandable, given the previous situation and intimidation. Still, this critical lack must be changed.
A greater participation of youths in mainstream political and/or social movements may be the only hope for change.
Fortunately, some of the above-mentioned signs also indicate mainstreaming, in particular among the informal campaign teams — which were initiated by Chinese-Indonesians and became more diverse in the process. Some even have a structured cooperation between different regions, although they are largely based in Jakarta. Such inter-ethnic engagement brings about positive developments in the quality of current and future political participation.
Many issues remain for the Chinese-Indonesian community to tackle, particularly women’s political participation. This, however, does not detract from their readily embracing a greater role in the country’s democratization.
Despite the shortcomings, the stereotypical accusations of Chinese-Indonesians being apolitical will soon become invalid as their participation continues to grow. Skepticism that rule their political participation as insignificant because of their small numbers will also soon become invalid. Chinese-Indonesian participation will become one of the determining factors of democratization, precisely because they are a minority.
While the country moves toward greater decentralization and consequently, the increasing relevance of local politics, Chinese-Indonesian participation in areas with a bigger distribution of the minority group will provide worthy examples for national politics.
Democratization is not a monopoly of the majority. Lessons learned from minority participation are vital contributions to the overall democratic engagement.
The writer is a researcher of the Department of Politics and Social Change at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Indonesian Pres Front-Runner Aims To End Discrimination
Jakarta, Sept. 7, 2004 (AP)–Indonesia’s presidential front-runner said Tuesday he would end discrimination in the country, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, including the ill-treatment of women, religious minorities and ethnic Chinese, if he wins a Sept. 20 runoff election.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is leading President Megawati Sukarnoputri in
popularity polls, said he would ensure his policies were fair.
“I understand that within a democracy there should be no differences in treating its citizens,” he said in a speech at a gathering of political and media analysts.
“The spirit of nondiscrimination, pluralism a
nd respect for one another has to be upheld,” Yudhoyono said. “We have to end discrimination against women and the Indonesian Chinese. Followers of all religions should be treated fairly with a spirit to ensuring the plurality of Indonesia.”
More than 85% of the country’s 215 million people are Muslim, while the remainder include Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.
Indonesian former dictator Suharto backed laws that kept ethnic Chinese out of politics and banned Chinese writing or other expressions of Chinese culture during his 32 years in power.
However, perceptions that he gave Chinese special privileges to run monopolies and accumulate large wealth fostered widespread resentment.
During 1998 riots that led to Suharto’s ouster, thousands of Chinese-owned homes and shops were burned or looted. There were allegations of mass rapes of Chinese women and girls.
The government abolished the discriminatory laws two years after Suharto’s downfall in 1998.
Indonesian women still have a low representation in business, government and politics.
Polls released last week showed that Yudhoyono is far in front of Megawati with a 58.2% support rating. Megawati trailed with 29.2%, while 12.5% said they were undecided.
Support for Yudhoyono has skyrocketed since he announced his candidacy in March. Voters view him as a clean, strong leader who could battle Indonesia’s widespread corruption, settle its separatist conflicts and revive its moribund economy.
But in recent weeks, polls have shown Megawati closing the gap, partly over fears that Yudhoyono wouldn’t do enough to protect the Chinese minority. His running mate, Jusuf Kalla, has also come under fire for suggesting he would favor Indonesian business executives at the expense of Chinese entrepreneurs.
Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle is endorsed by the country’s biggest Christian-based party.
Yudhoyono has been chastised by some Muslims for including Christians among his advisers while Christians have expressed concerns over his teaming up with the conservative Islamic Justice and Prosperity Party.
Yudhoyono came in first in the July 5 presidential election with 33.5% of the popular vote, while Megawati garnered 26.6%. Indonesian law requires a runoff vote if no candidate receives more than 50%.
Edited by Mary de Wet
Financial Times (UK)
September 15, 2004
Chinese Question Set To Sway Indonesia’s Voters
By Shawn Donnan
Harun Hajadi is US-educated and successful. Pondering the state of the Indonesian economy, he speaks of the need for further measures to attract foreign investment and bemoans a missing sense of urgency among the country’s leaders.
This should put him on the side of the reformers in Indonesia, where many characterise the presidential run-off election next Monday as a battle between entrenched interests. These are led by incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri and the forces for change, championed by her former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
But Mr Hajadi is ethnically Chinese, which means that a more fundamental concern is driving his vote. Like many of his peers in the powerful Sino-Indonesian business community, the 43-year-old property executive says he plans to back Mrs Megawati on September 20, because of what he sees as the anti-Chinese stance of Mr Yudhoyono’s running-mate, Jusuf Kalla.
Mr Kalla advocates affirmative action policies for the majority pribumi, or indigenous Indonesians, and has stubbornly defended that stance in an attempt to appeal to pribumi voters. On his official website (www.jusufkalla.com) he argues that “favouritism for pribumi should be reaffirmed and explicitly maintained”.
Those factors may not prevent a victory for Mr Yudhoyono. The retired general has seen his popularity surge this year thanks to promises to tackle rampant corruption and stimulate an economy caught in a patchy recovery. With the final burst of campaigning having started yesterday, recent polls indicate he is the choice of up to 60 per cent of voters, with 30 per cent favouring Mrs Megawati.
However, Indonesian business is dominated by the ethnic Chinese minority. Should Mr Yudhoyono win, therefore, his government’s relationship with that community will play a key part in his ability to jump-start the economy.
It could also have wider repercussions among the foreign investors Mr Yudhoyono is promising to woo. These have a long tradition of carefully monitoring flows of Sino-Indonesian capital and the community’s sentiment.
Chinese-run businesses were allowed to thrive under former strongman Mr Suharto, even as their owners were the victims of institutionalised discrimination that prevented them from taking part in politics. After the 1998 riots that accompanied Mr Suharto’s fall, however, local Chinese businesses became the targets of popular violence and much of that Sino-Indonesian capital fled to Singapore and elsewhere. The fear of many Chinese is that pro-pribumi comments such as Mr Kalla’s could once again inflame anti-Chinese passions.
When Mr Yudhoyono picked Mr Kalla, a prominent pribumi businessman, as his running-mate earlier this year, he said Mr Kalla would oversee economic policy. That raised fears a new government in Jakarta could veer in a populist direction.
Economic advisers to Mr Yudhoyono now say this allocation of roles is unlikely to occur. Others point to reports of divisions between the two men – and to the fact the bookish former general has been reading up on economics.
He has also done more than his running-mate to address the Chinese community’s fears, which are rooted in the May 1998 riots that led to Mr Suharto’s fall and saw many Chinese-owned businesses targeted.
“The leader of this country must be a pluralist, must be a president for everyone,” Mr Yudhoyono told a special forum earlier this month designed to address the Chinese community’s concerns.
That message has registered with some prominent Chinese Indonesians, in spite of their concerns about Mr Kalla, whose father was a high-profile beneficiary of pro-pribumi economic policies in the 1950s.
“My family evacuated [to Singapore] in May 1998 because of the racial riots,” says Lin Che Wei, a prominent financial analyst and adviser to Mr Yudhoyono on economic policy. “So do you think I would support someone who is actually racist?”
Other prominent Sino-Indonesians are willing to wait and see. “Jusuf Kalla has the reputation of being very anti-Chinese. But I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt,” says Thee Kian Wie, a leading economic historian.
In the last six years, Chinese new year has become a national holiday and constitutional barriers to ethnic Chinese holding political office have been removed. Technically, ethnic Chinese are no longer required to carry special citizenship certificates, but the reality is that they are still often asked for by bureaucrats.
But many Chinese leaders remain convinced Mr Kalla would try to roll back those gains. “Just using the terms ‘pribumi’ and ‘non-pribumi’ is a step back for the country,” says Lieus Sungkharisma, head of the Indonesian Chinese Reform party.
Additional reporting by Taufan Hidayat
The Straits Times [Singapore]
Monday, September 27, 2004
Chinese in Indonesia can breathe easier
By Leo Suryadinata
A senior research fellow at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies
Now the dust has settled, one interesting question is h
ow the ethnic Chinese voted in both rounds of Indonesia’s presidential election.
In the first round, all five candidates – Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, Mr Wiranto, Dr Amien Rais and Mr Hamzah Haz – vouched that they would, if elected, treat the Chinese justly and equally. They would also rescind any existing discriminatory laws and policies.
Responding positively to these overtures, the Chinese were, however, also aware some candidates may be friendlier to them than others. These did not include three of the five: Mr Wiranto, Dr Amien and Mr Hamzah. Mr Wiranto was rumoured to have been involved in the May 1998 anti-Chinese riots; Dr Amien was no longer considered a ‘nationalist’ but an ‘Islamist’; and Mr Hamzah, an Islamist, was least appealing to the Chinese.
By contrast, Mr Bambang, the coordinating security minister in the Megawati Cabinet before he was sacked and de facto leader of the new Democrat Party, had a relatively clean image. Trained in the United States, he was seen as a moderate Muslim who favoured a secular Pancasila state.
However, he formed an alliance with the Crescent and Star Party, an Islamist set-up that advocates syariah law for Indonesia. Also, he selected as his running mate Mr Jusuf Kalla, a rich Muslim businessman and strong advocate of nativist policies that favour the pribumis, or sons of the soil.
Perceived to be anti-Chinese and anti-Christian, Mr Jusuf was quoted during the campaign as saying the new government may reopen debt issue cases involving Chinese tycoons. Mr Bambang, however, insisted he is a pluralist and will treat all ethnic groups equally.
The Chinese were apparently unconvinced. Throwing their support behind Ms Megawati, who is seen as a secularist and one friendlier to the Chinese – she even declared Chinese New Year a national holiday and the Chinese had not been worse off in her administration – it was a case of better the devil you know than one you don’t. Even her running mate, Mr Hasyim Muzadi of the Nahdlatul Ulama, was considered by Chinese to be a moderate Muslim.
Of course, it would be wrong to suggest all Chinese Indonesians voted for Ms Megawati. The older generation, especially businessmen, and those who are culturally more Chinese, did support her, but those who are more integrated into Indonesian society, the better-educated and those who aren’t in big business tended to support Mr Bambang, whom they perceive as someone who will not only improve Indonesian security and economic conditions but is also a nationalist who will be fair to all ethnic groups.
Then came the run-off election on Sept 20. This was quite similar to the first round, except for the Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta on Sept 9. For many, the blast suggested Ms Megawati was unable to handle the security issue.
Nevertheless, terrorism was not the main issue. The economy, corruption, education and unemployment took centrestage. Again, both candidates campaigned for the Chinese vote.
Mr Jusuf went to Glodok, Jakarta’s Chinatown, last month to talk with some Chinese businessmen, during which he insisted he was not anti-Chinese, but to no avail. Moreover, Mr Bambang’s alliance with the radical Islamic parties, Partai Bulan Bintang and Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, coloured his candidacy.
Then there was his military background, which worried those who recalled the May 1998 anti-Chinese riots many believed were supported by the armed forces.
This is not to say Mr Bambang was without Chinese supporters. A young and respected economic analyst, Mr Lin Che Wei, openly endorsed his candidacy. In fact, Mr Bambang’s party even included a newly-elected Chinese Member of Parliament.
However, Ms Megawati had more Chinese supporters. In her party were at least four newly-elected Chinese MPs, including big businessman Murdaya Poo. A few days before the run-off election, a Hakka organisation even went to visit Ms Megawati to express support.
In the event, the Chinese vote wasn’t enough to improve Ms Megawati’s fortunes. She still lost.
Some Chinese are now worried a Bambang administration may introduce affirmative action policies stacked against their interests.
But many observers feel that since his immediate task would be to create more jobs and draw in foreign investment, Mr Bambang will need the full cooperation of Chinese business. It’s probably fair to surmise that, in the short term at least, he is unlikely to adopt any policy inimical to his objectives and programmes.
The Chinese can breathe easier – for now.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
SBY Through Chinese Eyes
By Jeffrey Robertson
An ex-military, US-educated president may seem like a stroke of strategic luck for Washington. But looking at Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or SBY, through Chinese eyes reveals a different story.
Yudhoyono, Indonesia’s first president chosen through direct elections, has a staggering popular mandate. After a gruelling eight-month campaign marked by tempestuous debate, the odd intrusive interview and no less than three electoral contests, Yudhoyono has the confidence of the Indonesian people – but what are his policies?
The majority of commentators have noted that the election campaign was run largely on character rather than policy detail. And indeed, few details exist beneath the catch-phrases of fighting corruption, restoring economic growth, invigorating job creation, improving education and enhancing security. Even fewer details exist regarding foreign policy.
Foreign policy for Indonesia, like other regional states, is growing more and more difficult to perform. It is an increasingly treacherous high-wire act that necessitates balance between an economically important China and a demanding, security-focused United States. With China laying down the foundations of what may become a future regional dominance, and the United States interested in the region only as an extension of an overt focus on the Middle East, where does Yudhoyono stand?
The election of a US-educated military stalwart in Indonesia conjures up images of happy faces in Washington, salivating at the chance to further squeeze the links of al-Qaeda hidden in the world’s most populous Islamic state. Yudhoyono has visited the US no less than five times for military education and maintains good relations with political and military leaders in Australia.
Indeed, on the face of it, Yudhoyono seems to be everything the US could have hoped for. He graduated at the top of his class at the national military academy, trained with US forces – including a stint in jungle warfare in Panama, commanded an infantry battalion, served as a chief military observer with the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia, and impressed the US with his stern condemnations of terrorism as President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s coordinating minister for politics and security. To an analyst in Washington, Yudhoyono holds all the punch of a 1970s military strongman a la Pinochet, with the decorations and trimmings of democracy to boot.
However, there is evidence to suggest that unless US diplomacy can be revived from its recent fit of unilateralism, Yudhoyono may yet prove to be a feather in China’s strategic cap.
Throughout the election campaign, Yudhoyono touted foreign policy as an extension of domestic policy. Key domestic policies of fighting corruption, invigorating job creation and fixing the education system were expressed in foreign policy terms, such as the attraction of greater foreign direct investment, Indonesian competitiveness and the promotion of trade.
Importantly, Yudhoyono also has focused on security as a domestic problem – not one specifically requiring international cooperation. For a country such as Indonesia, this makes sense. From Jakarta, the perc
eived threat to Indonesian security does not come from international terrorist groups with limited local support but from long embedded, regionally popular secessionist groups, which threaten the very territorial integrity of the archipelago state.
For countries such as China and Indonesia, where the threat to security is often domestic in nature and political violence remains on the mind as a recent phenomenon, the threat of international terrorism cannot be accorded the same status as it is in the West.
Indeed for many Indonesians, the Bali and Australian Embassy terror bombings, both of which focused international attention on the country, do not compare to the threats they face every day, including communal violence fanned by regional, ethnic and religious tension, secessionist violence, or the lingering potential of a military coup.
It is this level of understanding that is absent in US approaches to combating international terrorism in the region. It is a level of understanding that may prove crucial in improving China’s role in the region – along with its near-equal ability to offer economic incentives.
From all accounts, Yudhoyono is above all a pragmatist. His learned, academic nature, and his military experience, combined with his humble, devout Islamic background make him a man unlikely to embrace bold change. This gives China the upper hand.
The US seeks immediate change in Indonesia’s efforts to control international terrorism within its borders. This potentially includes the outlawing of Islamic fundamentalist group Jemaah Islamiyah, greater controls on religious schools and action to ensure the conviction of prosecuted terrorists. US and Australian approaches in these areas have in the past placed undue pressure on Indonesian governments, essentially weakening their position to carry out the desired changes.
China’s aims in the region are more long-term. It seeks to promote China’s position on territorial integrity – specifically regarding Taiwan, continue pragmatism regarding the South China Sea territorial disputes, establish a secure and stable regional energy resource and more closely integrate the economies of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). These aims are conveniently congruent with Yudhoyono’s policy aims and, if anything, will empower him and China to achieve more.
Without a change in US diplomacy, the choice for Yudhoyono will be between the immediate and unpopular dogmatism of the “crusade” on terror, or the long-term pragmatism and shared understanding of a rising China.
After the appointment of his cabinet early this month and a formal acceptance speech during his inauguration on October 20, the next indicator will be which way Yudhoyono heads on his first major foreign visit – East or West?
Jeffrey Robertson is a political-affairs analyst focusing on Australian relations with Northeast Asia. He currently resides in Canberra, Australia.
October 21, 2004
INDONESIA: Ethnic Chinese Fear Discriminatory Economic Policies
As Indonesia’s new leadership team confronts the challenge of revitalising the country’s moribund economy, concern is being expressed in some quarters about how the government plans to implement reform. Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese are especially worried that they could be the victims of discriminatory economic policies. Changes have been foreshadowed by the new vice-president, Jusuf Kalla.
Presenter/Interviewer: Marion MacGregor
Speakers: Edi Lembong, Chairman of the Chinese Indonesian Association; Sofyan Wanandi, Indonesian Chamber of Commerce.
MacGregor: Jusuf Kalla is no stranger to controversy. He was kicked out of the Indonesia’s biggest party Golkar for running alongside Golkar rival Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Now as the president’s second in command, the 62-year old businessman will have plenty of opportunities to stir the pot.
In the weeks before the September poll, Jusuf Kalla made it clear in his typical direct style that Indonesia’s Chinese minority simply wasn’t big enough to make it onto the election campaign radar.
Kalla: The Chinese community is only three or four percent in this country. In economics they are very important, but in elections three percent I mean not so important compared with the others.
MacGregor: What’s worrying many Chinese Indonesians now is how that approach will translate into policy over the next few years. They’ve become especially jittery since the Jakarta daily, ‘Sinar Harapan’, quoted the vice-president last week saying he was considering changes to lending policies, that would lower interest rates on loans to a group mainly comprised of Pribumi or majority Indonesian businesspeople. As Jusuf Kalla explained in that pre-election interview, he wants a level playing field.
Kalla: We need affirmative action to increase the SMEs, Small and Medium Enterprises, to get a balance in economy, harmony in economy. Chinese community don’t like that policy.
MacGregor: Not true, according to the chairman of the Chinese Indonesian Association, Edi Lembong.
Lembong: We, the Chinese Indonesian association genuinely and wholeheartedly would like to support the facilitating of weaker economic group, but without making any distinction based on ethnicity. Practically we have to admit, the truth that most of the weaker economic group belong to the so-called pribumi people, but we reject the idea of based on ethnicity.
MacGregor: So if the weaker economic group that was predominantly made up of indigenous or pribumi traders were offered soft loans, you wouldn’t be against that?
Lembong: No, because there are also many many poor Chinese business people.
MacGregor: Even though by Jusuf Kalla’s own admission, it would be ‘pribumi’ Indonesians who would benefit most from the changes, he denies that they’re ethnically-based. At the same time he says the policy would reduce discrimination against Chinese Indonesians, whose economic success he says was what led to riots in 1998 in which over a thousand Chinese Indonesians died.
Kalla: Because this is important see for Chinese, if too many gap between small and medium usually Chinese, every five years there are firing, there are conflicts. This means for the security of Chinese, needed affirmative action.
MacGregor: That’s a position that the Indonesian Chinese Association strongly rejects.
Lembong: We certainly will not agree with him about his analysis that the May riots of ’98 was a direct cause of the gap between the wealthy and the poor people. We don’t agree with his vision.
MacGregor: Some of Jusuf Kalla’s critics are also concerned that he’s trying to re-introduce a variation of the so-called Sistem Benteng, created by founding president Sukarno… a system that provided direct loans to pribumi business people and gave them control over the distribution of food.
But Sofyan Wanandi, who chairs the economic recovery committee of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce says those claims have no basis.
Sofyan: During Sukarno time there was policies that the government is doing against discrimination against the Chinese community, and giving a lot of facilities to the pribumis. You know the problem now what everybody is talking about Jusuf Kalla according to me is not true, that he would like to come back to that old process. You know he’s a businessman sometimes he is too direct, but cannot explain that in the right way and that creates a misjudgement also from the Chinese community about him. And according to me it’s quite fair enough, but I don’t believe there will be a policy from the government to discriminate and have a racial policy specially against the Chinese, I don’t