Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (24 of 40)

Chinese Fight Open Discrimination on Batam
By Fadli, Batam
The Jakarta Post (Monday, June 14, 2004)

A group of Chinese-Indonesians has opened on Batam a "complaint post" in the city, where ethnic Chinese can lodge complaints on the bureaucratic obstacles.

Anas, a member of the Batam branch of the Chinese-Indonesian Social Association (PSMTI), said the complaint post was opened on May 27, and was possibly the first such facility in the country.

The organization has opened two complaint posts in the city: one at PSMTI Batam headquarters in the Seruni shopping complex and another at Batam International University (UIB).

Anas said the facilities were established in response to frequent complaints from the Chinese-Indonesian community on bureaucratic discrimination they had experienced, especially when applying for passports and identity cards.

It is common knowledge that government officials and civil servants often extort money from Indonesian-Chinese, and that if a Chinese refused to hand over the money, their applications would be delayed indefinitely or would not be processed.

Prior to the 1998 reform movement, public complaints over the practice were rarely heard, due to the bureaucratic system under the Soeharto regime.

After his ouster, however, protests against the practice have been on the rise, with indigenous Indonesians joining the chorus, and have encouraged more Chinese to voice their complaints and experiences.

Indonesians of Chinese descent only comprise about 4 to 6 percent of the national population, but contribute greatly to the economy.

According to Anas, no individual has taken advantage of the new service, but he hoped some would visit the facility soon.

"In opening the post, we hope to see the end of bureaucratic discrimination. We demand equality in public services, like other citizens," he said.

After a predetermined number of complaints had been filed, the group would arrange to meet with the relevant government officials to seek a solution in each case.

Amat Santoso, a local Chinese-Indonesian, said he experienced a difficulty when he recently applied for a passport extension, because he did not have the "required" Indonesian citizenship certificate (SBKRI) for Chinese-Indonesians.

The law on SBKRI requirement was abolished in 1996, but has yet to be enforced.

"I had to bribe the immigration officials in order to facilitate my application. It's ridiculous," he said.

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