Thursday, May 20, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (1 of 40)

Another compilation of articles, papers, and thoughts about ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. This year also marked Chinese Indonesians representatives in legislative election, memorial monument for May 1998 tragedy and hotline for concerns and complaints on SBKRI.


Chinese-Indonesians Long for End to Discrimination
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (Wednesday, January 21, 2004)

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.

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