Thursday, May 20, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (9 of 40)

PDI-P Faction Slams Govt for Racist Policies
By Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (Friday, February 27, 2004)

Departing from its usual passivity, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction at the House of Representatives criticized the government of President Megawati Soekarnoputri on Thursday for failing to put an end to racial discrimination.

The faction said numerous discriminatory practices, especially against Indonesians of Chinese descent, continued to be committed and condoned by state officials at all levels.

"There is no excuse; the government of Megawati must stop all kinds of discrimination," PDI-P faction member Sukowaluyo Mintorahardjo said.

The criticism comes as the Constitutional Court reinstated the civil rights of former Indonesian Communist Party members earlier this week, which consequently sparked calls for an end to all discriminatory policies against them.

Megawati chairs the PDI-P, which is aiming for majority votes in the April general election for a chance to contest the July presidential election. Megawati is the only presidential candidate put forth by the PDI-P, which has yet to nominate her running mate.

Many parties have been wooing the Chinese-Indonesian electorate, who account for 4 percent of the 216 million-strong population.

Sukowaluyo said many officials had maintained discriminatory practices by requiring Chinese-Indonesians to produce Indonesian citizenship certificates, known as the SBKRI, for all administrative processes.

The practice stems from the now defunct 1978 decree issued by the Minister of Justice that required Chinese-Indonesians to submit their SBKRI when applying for ID cards or passports.

The decree was revoked through a 1996 presidential decree, which also annulled all other discriminatory regulations against Chinese-Indonesians. A presidential instruction was issued in 1998 as operational regulation of the decree.

Article 4 of the 1996 presidential decree says that ID cards, family certificates or birth certificates can be used instead of the SBKRI.

Eight years after the revocation, however, discriminative practices prevail, Sukowaluyo said.

"I believe the discriminative practices are retained for under-the-table money," Sukowaluyo said.

PDI-P legislator Dwi, however, jumped to the defense of Megawati, saying that her government had been doing its best to stop racial discrimination.

"All that we can do is to improve control over discriminatory practices. The government must take punitive measures against those who violate the regulations," she said.

Responding to speculations that the criticism was simply aimed at winning the hearts of Chinese-Indonesians during election year, fellow legislator Didi said his faction had been studying the issue for some time.

"We made the statement today because we needed time to study this issue," he said.

The PDI-P faction also announced its hotline at 5756161 for the public to report any discriminatory practices they experience. They are also welcome to file a report at the faction's office, Room 525 at the House.

The faction also called on other factions to resume discussion of the draft revision of the Citizenship Law, which would provide a strong legal basis to end discrimination.

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