Friday, May 31, 2002

Black May 1998: 4th Commemoration (15 of 17)

Govt denies practicing policies discriminating Chinese descents
By Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (May 30, 2002)

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra refuted the accusation that the government has imposed a discriminatory policy on citizenship for Chinese-Indonesians, saying the regulation requiring non-indigenous people to obtain a citizenship certificate (SBKRI) has long since been annulled.

He, however, said his office could not turn down any application for such certificates because numerous government institutions have frequently required the citizenship certificate in dealing with non-indigenous people.

The minister was referring to the inconsistent implementation of the regulation's 1996 annulment. Many government institutions still require Chinese-Indonesians and Indonesians of Arab descent to show their citizenship certificate when they apply for passports from the immigration office or for places at state-run universities.

"By law, SBKRI is no longer necessary. But in practice, many institutions face the dilemma of either being prudent or abusing someone's rights," he said in an interview at his office on Wednesday.

"The government has no intention of discriminating against non-indigenous people," he added.

The issue of Indonesian citizenship recently rose to the fore after Indonesia's top shuttler Hendrawan, who helped the country retain the Thomas Cup, received his citizenship certificate only days before heading to China for the tournament earlier this month -- thanks to President Megawati Soekarnoputri's intervention -- even though he had already applied for it at Cibinong District Court on November 2001.

Based on several presidential decrees, the ministry had repeatedly issued instructions to remind all government institutions not to require SBKRI any longer from non-indigenous people, but it has been unavoidable when it comes to the delicate situation of whether someone's citizenship is in doubt.

Currently, the government is drafting a law on citizenship to strengthen the decrees.

Citing an example, Yusril said many Chinese-Indonesian businessmen requested the citizenship certificates because banks refused to extend loans without the certificates to prove they were Indonesian citizens.

The Ministry of Education has also required Chinese-Indonesians to show their citizenship certificates when they apply for a recommendation to study overseas.

"The immigration office will not issue a passport if they doubt the citizenship of the applicant," Yusril added.

But are such difficulties only the privilege of Chinese-Indonesians?

Yes, because Indonesians of either Arab or Indian descent are not required to obtain a SBKRI because they don't have dual citizenship imposed by their country of origin.

According to the 1946 law on citizenship, all people living in Indonesia since the country's independence on Aug. 17, 1945, are assumed to be Indonesian nationals.

Indonesia adopts the blood-linked citizenship principle (ius sanguinis), where someone's citizenship is based on their parents, while China -- since 1950 under Mao Tse Tung -- adopted the birth-based (ius soli) principle, accepting the citizenship of those of Chinese descent, including those in Indonesia, no matter where they reside.

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