Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (27 of 40)

Ethnic Chinese set criteria of anti-discrimination
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (Monday, June 28, 2004)

For much of the Chinese-Indonesian community, a commitment to ending discrimination and ensuring security will be the determining factors when they cast their ballots in the July 5 presidential election.

Decades of discrimination and being the target of public anger have led many ethnic Chinese residents to form their own criteria for the next president.

"The most important thing is for a candidate to be committed to ending discrimination against us, both in the economy and politics," the chairman of the Modern Market Supplier Association, Susanto, told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

He said that to make sure they made the correct choice in the election, Chinese-Indonesians were going over the records of every candidate, especially their records on the ethnic Chinese community.

"We are definitely not going to choose a controversial candidate because there will be rallies against them every day if they are elected. As a result, we won't be able to run our businesses," Susanto said.

Another key point is whether the candidates have ever made statements or put forth opinions detrimental to the economic rights of Chinese-Indonesians.

Susanto said some candidates might have in the past expressed a desire to restrict the expansion of ethic Chinese-owned businesses, justifying such moves by saying 60 percent of the country's economy is controlled by such businesses.

"That is unfair because we are Indonesian citizens and should not be treated differently," he said.

Several Chinese-Indonesian businesses grew into conglomerates under former president Soeharto, who also treated the conglomerates as cash cows for his political objectives.

David, a representative of retailers at the International Trade Center in Jakarta, said the ethnic Chinese would vote for candidates with clear anti-discrimination records.

"Support for our cultural existence is another point... Although all of the candidates have attended our holiday celebrations, we know not all of them truly support us," David said.

He said that to better understand the true motives of the candidates, his association had looked into their records to make sure they did not vote for the wrong person.

However, such opinions do not represent the views or wishes of all Chinese-Indonesians. Some ethnic Chinese tycoons want a candidate who is capable of maintaining security, regardless of his or her commitment to eradicating discriminatory policies.

"Many of the tycoons support certain candidates or figures who are out to maintain security. For tycoons their choice is linked to business interests and they will vote for whoever can make things easier for them," an ethnic Chinese businessmen said.

He said most of the tycoons who enjoyed numerous privileges during the New Order regime wanted a president whose policies would resemble those of former president Soeharto.

"They miss the special privileges they used to enjoy," he said.

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