Thursday, May 20, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (15 of 40)

SKBRI not required by Chinese: Mega
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (Thursday, April 15, 2004)

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.

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