Monday, July 05, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (28 of 40)

The Chinese: Security of family, business comes first
By Eugene Low
The Straits Times (July 3, 2004)

Thirty-year-old Ng Siauw Pheng set up his computer shop in Glodok, Jakarta's Chinatown, in 2000 - just two years after the district suffered some of the worst riots in its history.

He was not directly affected by the racial riots in May 1998, when Chinese businesses were looted and many shops in Glodok were razed.

Nonetheless, when he votes on Monday, the security of his family and business will weigh heavily on his mind.

This is the reason why, he said, he will root for retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

'He is a former military man and is able to maintain law and order. He can also act to stamp out corruption,' he told The Straits Times.

Mr Ng's views are not unique among Indonesia's minority Chinese community, which represents around 4 per cent of the population.

Many Chinese voters want a strong leader who can uphold the law. And they think Mr Bambang, a former security czar, is the best man for the job.

'The Chinese community values security and around 60 per cent of them are likely to vote for Mr Bambang, whom they regard as a strongman but not totalitarian,' said political analyst Andi Malarangeng.

An underlying tension still marks the ties between the Chinese and indigenous Indonesians.

Thanks to the cosy relationship that prominent Chinese tycoons, or cukongs, enjoy with the government, the Chinese are often viewed as controlling the lion's share of the nation's wealth.

This has bred resentment, which sometimes explodes into violence.

Mr Ng believes Mr Bambang can prevent a recurrence of such unrest. And unlike Golkar candidate Wiranto, he has a relatively clean human rights record.

His nationalist platform also appeals to Chinese voters, who are unlikely to favour Dr Amien Rais and Vice-President Hamzah Haz because of their links with Islamic groups.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri is also a nationalist. But the lack of progress under her rule has disillusioned many Chinese voters.

'I don't think she has done enough to solve the country's problems,' said Mr Ng.

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