Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Black May 1998: 5th Commemoration (5 of 24)

Govt appears to be reluctant to end discriminatory policies
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Moch. N. Kurniawan, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (February 5, 2003)

Despite increasing calls for an end to racial discrimination, the government appears reluctant to eradicate institutionalized discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians.

This reluctance was amply demonstrated by a letter dated Sept. 6, 2002, from Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra to State Secretary Bambang Kesowo, a copy of which was seen by The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Responding to President Megawati Soekarnoputri's instruction to revoke a ministerial decree requiring Chinese-Indonesians to acquire a Republic of Indonesia Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI), Yusril said that the issuing of a ministerial decree revoking the SBKRI requirement would run contrary to Law No. 62/1958 on citizenship and Presidential Decree No 52/1977 on demographic affairs.

Presidential Decree No. 56/1996, however, stipulated that all the laws and regulations on the SBKRI requirement were no longer effective. Nevertheless, according to Yusril, the decree applied only to wives and children whose husbands, fathers, or mothers possessed an SBKRI.

"To avoid legal uncertainty, the revocation of the SBKRI requirement must await the House's deliberation of the new citizenship bill," read the letter.

The House has initiated and is currently deliberating a bill on citizenship.

The SBKRI is required by various institutions, such as the immigration office and state universities for Chinese-Indonesian applicants.

Chinese-Indonesians, who number about six million, have consistently complained about the SBKRI requirement and called on the government to take action to abolish it.

Besides the SBKRI requirement, there are a number of other discriminatory requirements that need to be abolished.

Chinese-Indonesians, however, have recovered some of their civil rights, a development highlighted by the designation of the Lunar New Year (Imlek), as a national holiday by the government.

Director for State Administration at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Ramly Hutabarat said the revocation of the SBKRI rules depended on the House.

"We have not yet included an article on the revocation of the SBKRI requirement in the bill," he said.

Deputy Cabinet Secretary Erman Radjagukguk said that Yusril had sent an official letter to his office regarding the latter's stance.

"He said in his letter that for security reasons and due to citizenship technicalities, it would be difficult to revoke the discriminatory laws at the moment," Erman told the Post.

"His response is a setback to our efforts. We have been involved in repeated debates with him over his letter," the official added.

Erman said that according to Yusril, it would be impossible to revoke the SBKRI ruling as there would be too many citizenship documents that would need to be revised in such an eventuality.

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