Thursday, May 20, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (16 of 40)

Indonesia to amend discriminative law on citizenship
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (Friday, April 16, 2004)

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.

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