Thursday, May 20, 2004
Chinese Indonesians Ready for Elections
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (Tuesday, February 24, 2004)
Chinese-Indonesians are ready to participate in this year's legislative and presidential elections after the New Order regime shut them out for 32 years, a seminar concluded.
Lee Cho Hui, the chief editor of the International Daily News, said Chinese-Indonesians were not only prepared to vote but also become actively involved in campaigning for certain political parties.
"The political awareness of Chinese-Indonesians has been increasing," he said through an interpreter.
Lee was referring to some Chinese-Indonesians who had been named legislative candidates, either for the House of Representatives (DPR), provincial legislatures (DPRDs) or the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).
The International Daily News is a Jakarta newspaper that compiles news related to Chinese people from around the world.
Lee presented his paper in Chinese before more than 700 participants at a seminar titled Ethnic Chinese and the 2004 elections held by the Chinese-Indonesian Organization (INTI) in Jakarta.
On the sidelines of the seminar, a Chinese-Indonesian participant told his friends proudly of his brother who became a campaign manager of a political party in North Sumatra.
Several other participants discussed the nomination of fellow Chinese-Indonesians in the legislative election.
INTI chairman Eddie Lembong said Chinese-Indonesians, who account for 3 percent to 4 percent of Indonesia's population of 216 million, would play a significant role in the upcoming elections.
"A single vote counts," he said, adding that voters would determine the future of the country.
However, Eddie called on Chinese-Indonesians not to vote along ethnic lines.
"If there are 100 Chinese-Indonesian candidates, should we vote for them? I would say no. We should vote for the people best able to serve the country," he said.
Eddie suggested that the Chinese community take into account party platforms and track records as well candidates' integrity and track records.
"If the Chinese-Indonesian candidate is a crook, don't vote for him," he said.
In his keynote speech, economist-cum-activist Faisal H. Basri said Chinese-Indonesians should vote for parties and legislative/presidential candidates who would fight against discrimination.
"I understand Chinese-Indonesians face state discrimination. You were exploited by political parties during the previous elections. Now, make sure that you vote for the right president who can guarantee to put an end to the SBKRI," he said.
SBKRI is a citizenship document required by Chinese-Indonesians before they can be officially recognized as Indonesian citizens. An SBKRI is needed before many other documents can be processed, including passports, business licenses, credit applications and even applications for university enrollment.
Indonesia banned anything related to Chinese culture in the country following the aborted coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party, which then had ties with the Chinese communist party.
Former president Abdurrahman Wahid revoked in 2000 the presidential decree on SBKRI, but the government has until now failed to repeal its operational regulations.