Monday, August 30, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (29 of 40)

Chinese Participation in the Acceleration of Reform of Indonesian Political Culture
by lichun 2003 (2004-08-11 22:29)

As a consequence of the political repression and discrimination as well as the cronyism instituted by the new Order Regime, there has been a stereotype in Indonesian society that the ethnic Chinese are simply egoistic "economic animals" who do not care about the well-being of the people and the country. This stereotype is one of the stigmas borne by the ethnic Chinese. Another stigma that has been extremely effective in repressing the ethnic Chinese so as to make them avoid politics is the Baperki/Communist stigma.

In the aftermath of the G30S/PKI so-called abortive coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI: Partai Komunis Indonesia) during which all leftist elements were brutally purged in Indonesia, the new Order military regime carried out repressive measures to arrest and persecute political figures, activists, party cadres and members of various Chinese organisations accused of having Baperki/Communist affiliations. The same applied to various organisations, associations and foundations linked to the Chinese that were dissolved and banned. Thousands of ex-Baperki and Chinese schools as well as buildings owned by Chinese organisations were confiscated and converted to military lodging facilities or state schools, there were even those turned into homes for military officials or shophouses and other commercial complexes.[1]

The anti-Chinese repressive measures implemented by the military regime was in fulfillment of the China Containment Policy of Capitalist Western countries to counter the so-called "Communist threat" from the North that was identified as the People's Republic of China. From an early stage during Sukarno's presidency elements of the Indonesian military, particularly the army had been attempting to carry out anti-Chinese/China activities to divert the attention of the Indonesian people from their struggle against Anglo Saxon (US and Great Britain) imperialism. One of their main activities was to spread anti-Chinese/China propaganda actively and intensively. They tried to manipulate Indonesian public opinion by trying to convince the Indonesians that their true enemy was not the West but Communist China and that the Chinese in Indonesia were a fifth column of the PRC.[2] It is important to remember that at that time the Vietnam War that the Americans started was at its peak.

In the meantime, LPKB (Lembaga Pembinaan Kesatuan Bangsa: Institution for the Establishment of National Unity), an army-sponsored organisation set up by Dutch-educated Peranakan Chinese to foster assimilation of the Chinese into indigenous Indonesian society, regarded the G30S incident as a starting point for which to deal their political rivals a final blow. LPBK played an active and important role in scapegoating the Socialist Chinese organisation Baperki and carried out a systematic campaign to eliminate it. In accordance with the CIA and MI6 programme to eradicate all leftist and left-leaning elements in Indonesia, Baperki had been accused of being an extension of the Indonesian Communist Party. All of a sudden in 1965, the entire Indonesian mass media which had passed through screening by the army was authorised to republish and carry out anti-Chinese and anti-PRC propaganda.

All members of the Baperki leadership and other Chinese political figures were pursued and arrested by the army which extorted a great sum of money from them. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese, perhaps over a million Chinese, were massacred by the army along with army-backed vigilante squads consisting of armed civilians, this massacre costing over a million lives and which was not limited to the Chinese would have not been possible without CIA and MI6 death lists of suspected Communists, Leftists and miscellaneous groups linked to the Indonesian Communist Party and/or mainland China supplied by the local American and British embassies. Many forms of restrictions were imposed on the ethnic Chinese, starting from the prohibition on Chinese culture, rituals, religious beliefs in public as well as the ban on Mandarin and Chinese characters. A most effective measure to psychologically emasculate the Chinese was the enactment of a governmental order replacing the respective form of address for China and the Chinese as Tiongkok (Zhongguo) and Tionghoa (Zhonghua) with the perjorative term "Cina", as a result of this the military regime succeeded to make the Chinese politically and psychologically helpless. All these developed into longstanding traumatic symptoms which was why during the new Order Era (1965-1998), the ethnic Chinese in general avoided politics at all costs. Even now, after five years since the fall of the new Order Regime, most Chinese are reluctant out of traumatic fear to be involved in practical politics.

However the business flair of military officers in their efforts to generate wealth following the example of the Dutch colonisers led them to cultivate a group of Chinese business cronies affiliated with the KMT regime in Taiwan who served as the military regime's financial managers in a business environment rampant with corruption, cronyism and nepotism. Many of these cronies with their private armies from their Gongsi (enterprises or conglomerate business empires) abetted the army in tandem with spies sent from Taiwan in the massacre of fellow Chinese who were oriented to the Dalu motherland. Unfortunately, to make matter worse, these opportunistic Chinese capitalists forgot who they were and enriched themselves without any qualms about ethics, morals and compassion, thus came into fruition the negative stigma in Indonesian society that all Chinese are corrupt, rapaciously greedy and nothing but "economic animals".

Moreover, other than making use of a group of American-educated indigenous Indonesian technocrats known as the "Berkeley Mafia" as well as seeking the aid of international financial institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, ADB etcetera and establishing IGGI, the military regime was actually very pragmatic in taking advantage of a good number of Chinese who were as a matter of fact very experienced in trade, commerce and finance and were part of a worldwide overseas Chinese business network, this enabled the military regime to improve the economy in the real sector. The ethnic Chinese in Indonesia were encouraged to enter business and at the same time were restricted to it so as to prevent them from being active in other fields as they were prior to 1965. Explicitly as well as implicitly, they were discouraged (even threatened) to enter politics and restrictions in the form of quotas and glass ceilings were placed on Chinese entering the civil service and the military.

Due to the discriminative anti-Chinese policies of the new Order Regime that lasted for more than three decades, the Chinese gradually distanced themselves from politics and concentrated on the business sector. This was a condition created during the new Orde Regime era which resulted in the public misperception that the Chinese only acted for the sake of self interests by accumulating wealth and sanctioning any means whatsover to achieve an end. Nonetheless, honestly speaking, since many centuries past the Chinese have been playing a predominant and determinant role in all fields of life ranging from politics, the economy, social life, arts and culture, journalism, literature, sports, diplomacy, religion and also in the armed struggle to free the East Indies from the Dutch and guerilla warfare against the Japanese Imperial Army during the Japanese occupation.[3]

The political Role of the ethnic Chinese in the post New Order Period
The 13-15 May Tragedy in 1998 struck another traumatic chord in all Chinese throughout Indonesia and made them realise that they have been marginalised and emasculated for too long. Most of their rights as Indonesian citizens were not accorded to them and as suspected Communists and PRC fifth columnists they were always scapgoated and subjected to extortion to the powers that be. Their sense of self-esteem as Chinese, and even as human beings had been violated. The only freedom they had under the new Order Regime period was in business which helped to increase the living standards and the education of many Chinese, however without political emancipation such material comfort is meaningless. The 13-15 May anti-Chinese pogroms proved that the ethnic Chinese who controlled most of the Indonesian economy, were actually politically powerless and within a matter of hours, they were made helpless.

Immediately after the fall of the new Order Regime in May 1998, various Chinese organisations and political parties were established. The 13-15 May 1998 Tragedy and the new Order Regime's fall from grace was an important momentum for the resurgence of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese in tandem with the Indonesian's people reawakening in their struggle for justice and democracy. Out of spontaneity and spirit, nothing much nothing more, however deficient in political experience and organisation as well as a lack of skilled leaders of high integrity, these organisations and political parties emerged out of the dark with their slogans and jargon of democracy and reformation. During the 1999 general elections, only one Chinese party (PBI) passed the selection test of the General Election Commission (KPU) and took part in the elections. The calculations made by the founders and the leadership of PBI were erroneous, they assumed in confidence that they would receive the support of the majority of the Chinese community in Indonesia whose number amounted to almost 10 million people. Thus, according to their assumption, at least 5-10 seats would be won in the DPR-RI (Indonesian Parliament). In reality, the PBI only attained one seat (L.T. Susanto who represents West Kalimantan where the mostly Hakka Chinese form a majority).

Does one seat in parliement ensure that one can realise the aspirations and the interests of the Chinese in Indonesia? There are actually several Chinese who have become MPs as a result of the 1999 General Elections, among others : Alvin Li Lingpiao (PAN), Candra Wijaya (PDI-P), Enggartriasto Lukita (Golkar) along with L.T. Susanto (PBI). Except for Alvin Li Lingpiao who is very vocal, the other Chinese MPs are mostly the obverse of his vocalness. However it remains to be seen whether Alvin Li Lingpiao is actively serving the interests of the ethnic Chinese in parliament.

After the formation of parliament following the 1999 General Elections, various recommendations, petitions and even consitutional amendment plans to revoke discrimination have been proposed in parliement by various organisations and NGOs under the coordination of the National Solidarity group (SNB) led by Ester Indahyani Yusuf. It is still a question whether those Chinese brothers of ours will fulfill these aspirations in their capacity as MPs? Are they actively lobbying within and outside their cirlcles in order to bring forth these recommendations during parliamentary sessions?

During Abdurrahman Wahid (himself an ethnic "Hui" Chinese) or Gus Dur's presidency, a noted economist Drs. Kwik Kian Gie was appointed Coordinating Minister for Economy and Industry, his appointment to such a a strategic ministerial post made the entire Chinese community proud. During the thirty two years of rule under the new Order Regime, only once was a Chinese appointed as a minister, namely Timber tycoon Muhammad "Bob" Hassan alias The Kian Seng, a close friend of former President Suharto, his tenure did not last long for two months after his appointment Suharto resigned. Nevertheless it has been a great disappointment to the people of Indonesia that Kwik Kian Gie was not able to apply a quick therapy to save Indonesia's ailing economy due to friction between him and other ministers. Now under Megawati Sukarnoputri's presidency, Kwik Kian Gie serves as State Minister of National Development/Bappenas head, however his integrity and uncompromising nature when it comes to principles has made him unable to get along well with the other ministers, which is why he finds himself in a difficult position and seemingly he has been 'nonactivated" with the effect that he is not as vocal as he used to be.

Ever since the inception of Chinese political parties it has been predicted that they were bound to go blunderbust due to the non-homogeneous nature, different political interests of the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. To make things worse, these political parties were established out of the blue without adequate preparation. A political party needs vision, a mission, platform and a programme, all of which has to be clear and in accordance witht the interests of the respective constituents as well as possess solid, skillful leadership of high moral integrity. A sectarian and primordial pollitical party will find it difficult to gain support from outside its own group. Support hoped for from Chinese businessmen and conglomerate bosses which if garnered would be of much significance in developing these political parties, came to no avail in many cases. Businessmen simply have their own interests to reckon with, they only support political parties which according to their reckoning will emerge victorious, so as to protect their business interests.

In the 1999 General Elections, most Chinese who voted chose other parties not affiliated with Chinese ethnicity, in general they gave their support and voted for Megawati's PDI-P which at that time symbolised all those repressed by the former regime. In several areas, there were those who voted for Amien Rais' PAN (Central Java, Yogyakarta and North Sumatra), Gus Dur's PKB (East Java), Golkar (Chinese businessmen who support the status quo) and PDKB (a Christian party).

Besides political parties which have mushroomed in the post-Suharto era, there are many NGOs, clan associations, associations, organisations as well as foundations involving Chinese which have different visions and missions, however most of them are socio-cultural organisations. There are those whose membership is based on place of origin in China, dialect group, clan etcetera. In general terms, these organisation are very paternalistic and tend to avoid politics.

In addition to that, many Chinese scholars, students and youth are actively involved in various organisations and NGOs which are Chinese-based but also integrate well with other activists from different ethnic groups to work together to bring about what they aspire in common for Indonesia to be. Most of these Chinese who are nationalistically Indonesian in aspiration are Peranakans, most of whom are Christians. For example, Frans Hendra Winata has been appointed member of the National Law Commission (KHN), Candra Setiawan is a member of the National Human Rights Commssion, Ester Indahyani Yusuf from the National Solidarity Group and Surya Chandra who is a coordinator of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institution. Not to mention too, those active in professional organisations such as Anton Supit and Sudhamek AWS. In the post-Suharto period many analysts have emerged in the political, economic, social and other fields and these analysts are actively expressing their opinions in articels published by mass media. In the journalistic world, many young journalists have also appeared both in printed as well as electronic media.

In comparison to the new Order Regime period, there has been much progress in the political life of the ethnic Chinese. Unlike before, more and more Chinese discuss politics and other national-related issues with much anthusiasm. They diligently attend discussions or seminars which among others are often organised by INTI, a prominent Chinese organisation. Unlike in the past when they usually listened passively or put forth questions solely related to Chinese issues with much shyeness, they now have no misgivings about asking questions and also expressing personal opinions concerning Indonesia in general. In anticipation of the 2004 General Elections, all Chinese political parties are in danger of imminent collapse. There is not a single party which has met the requirements of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry and no verification has been done by the General Elections Commission to be able to have right to participate in the general elections. Indeed, thousands of supporters as well as party cadres in various regions of the country who spent many months working hard and raising funds to take part in the 2004 General Elections are very disappointed. Ironically, without the slightest sense of duty and responsibility leaders of these political parties have become turncoats by changing allegiance by joining other political parties which are predominantly indigenous Indonesian, abandoning their cadres and supporters in confusion and disappointment. However things are not so bad as they seem, according to research done by several Chinese language newspapers, there are 92 Chinese electoral candidates for parliament spread out among various political parties which will contest the coming elections, there are even more Chinese candidates for the regional parliaments. It is still unclear whether they were recruited as vote getters or as fund raisers, but this is testimony to the progress of the political life of the ethnic Chinese. Thus it is obvious as is evident from the hundreds of Chinese throughout Indonesia who have registered themselves as electoral candidates for the regional parliaments.

A general Layout of the political Strength of the Chinese in Indonesia
Interestingly, there has all along been an impression in Indonesian society as a whole that the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia as well as the Chinese the world throughout are homegeneous, that the Chinese in Indonesia are united as one entity due to the injustice they suffered under the new Order Regime. However in reality, this is not the case, the ethnic Chinese are very heterogeneous, not only in their political views, but also in the social, cultural, religious, belief, traditional, business and other fields, and this shows just how wrong the indigenous Indonesians are in regarding their ethnic Chinese counterparts as homogeneous, regarding bad acts done by certain Chinese as representative of the Chinese mentality.

In general, the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia can be categorised as "Totok" and "Peranakan", the Totok Chinese are those who are unmixed with native Indonesian blood and are often descendants of recent arrivals from China, this group of Chinese is very much oriented to their place of origin in China. Generally speaking, they still adhere to the original Chinese culture, traditions of the mainland and the older generation is fluent in Mandarin or the dialect of their place of origin in China. On the other hand the Peranakan Chinese are mostly those whose ancestors came to what is today Indonesia centuries ago, during that time many Chinese male immigrants came alone and thus they married native Indonesian women are mixed Chinese-Indonesian women. This group of Chinese is thus of mixed Chinese-Indonesian blood and consequently their culture is a blend of old Chinese customs syncreitised with local Indonesian cultures, however the Chinese characteristic remaining predominant. They do not speak Mandarin or any Chinese dialect and are not anymore oriented to their place of origin in China because their is no more link between them and the mainland. Most Peranakan Chinese do not even know where their forefathers came from in China.

The Totok Chinese are not homogeneous either, they are distinguishable from their place of origin on the Chinese mainland, there are those from Fujian (Hokkiens), Guangdong (Cantonese), Zhejiang (Wu), Yunnan (Han), Hubei (Han), Shandong (Han), Henan (Han) etcetera. Most ethnic Chinese in Indonesia are Hokkiens and they are further divided into several distinct subgroups, ther are the Minnan from Xiamen and environs and Hokiciu, Hokchia, Henghua etcetera. From Guangdong there are Si Yip and Sam Yip Cantonese , Moyan (Meixian) Hakka, Tapu and Teochew from Shantou. Chinese from Fujian, Guangdong, Zhejiang and environs along the south east coast prefer to call themselves Tangren (people of Tang) rather than Tang while many from Yunnan, Shandong, Henan, Hebei and environs are Han-Hui (Huihuiren or Muslims). Their political views and orientation are also very diverse, there are those whose loyalty is to the mainland (PRC), while others pledge their alliance to Taiwan (ROC or Taidu separatists). They are also differentiated according to the respective regions in Indonesia where they live such as for example the Medan Chinese (mostly Hokkien), Java Chinese (mostly Hokkien), Bangka Chinese (mostly Hakka), Kuntian or West Kalimantan Chinese (mostly Hakka) and often these labellisations have negative connotations. Different dialect groups are also identifiable by profession or trade, for example Hokchia are prominent in banking and the textile industry, Henghua are active in transportation, Hokkien control much of the agricultural produce and the salted fish trade, Hakka excel in peddling, Cantonese control a substantial portion of the restaurants, furniture production and trade and photography, Hubei people are well known as dentists or supplier of dentistry tools/equipment, Shandong people produce and sell their famous Shuijiao (dumplings) and Lamian (hand made noodles). Thus it comes as no surprise if one goes to the Mangga Dua commercial district in North Hakarta, most peddlers there are Hakka, most photography shop owners are Cantonese, most sparpart sellers and distributors in Sawah Besar are Henghua and most businessmen in Pintu Kecil are Hokchia.

There is no real sense of unity among the Totok Chinese, in addition to fierce business rivalry along dialect lines, many are very fanatical as to their place of origin in China. That is why there are multitude of dialect associations when all Chinese should rather unite as one single entity. There is a huge gap between Hakka and Hokkien as well as Hakka and Cantonese, an even larger one between Southerners and Northerners, the latter of which many are not pork eaters by virtue of their Islamic faith, anathema to the Southerner for whom pork is part of his daily joie de vivre. The fierce rivalry between the leaders of different dialect groups is cause for much intercenine conflict at all levels between them, this is why many Chinese organisations are primordial, paternalistic and ultratraditional. Leaders tend to be those successful businessmen who cultivate close relations with indigenous Indonesian leaders. This is nothing new because in an immigrant society whose sense of personal security is precarious, success in business as well as good political connections are often taken as a measure to deterimine who is fit for leadership.

Meanwhile the Peranakan Chinese consist mainly of those from the middle and lower classes who are varied according to the respective local environments in which they live. They have far and large integrated and even assimilated with the natives. Most of them are not traders and the majority of them work as blue or white collar workers in local or foreign companies or are consultants, lawyers, notarists, lecturers, teachers, artists, designers, bakery owners, saloon owners, photomodels, social workers, Christian missionaries, workshop owners etcetera. Unlike the Totok Chinese, there are not many Peranakan Chinese organisations because in general they tend to congregate in predominantly indigenous Indonesian national organisations, ranging from political parties to social, religious, professional, cultural organisations and NGOs. They feel wholly Indonesian and loath to have any links with China or be identified as such.

The political views of the Peranakan Chinese do not differ with those of the indigenous Indonesians in general, however they are still very diversified. They voice out their political aspirations through political parties of their choice which is why there has never been any intention among the Peranakan to establish a Chinese political party. Unlike PBI which was founded by a Hakka notable, several Peranakan political figures took part in the establishment of PAN and other political parties.

In anticipation of the 2004 General Elections, it is certain that the ethnic Chinese will be some sort of "pretty woman" which various political parties will vye for. The number of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia is now approximated to be at more than ten million[4] and this is a significant segment of Indonesia's population especially in terms of financial support and vote getting in the coming elections. Nonetheless most Indonesian political parties have misjudged the situation for the Chinese have learned much from the lesson of the 1999 General Elections. They now realise that their lot does not lie with such political parties who can only but pay lip service to the aspirations of the Chinese, especially with their loads of empty promises during the campaign period to gain Chinese support. For example the conceptors and the founders of the Vicepresidential Center certainly did not except such a response from the Chinese which was the obverse of their expectations. Therefore we hope that political parties that wish to recruit Chinese cadres and electoral candidates do not do so merely for money.

Acceleration of Reform of Political Culture
It is undeniable that the ethnic Chinese have much potential that can be relied on in Indonesia. With the largest overseas Chinese population in the world, they can partake a very significant role in bringing about progress in Indonesia. In general, they are highly educated and have an excellent work ethic and last but not least, the worldwide Chinese commercial distribution network which they are part of. Many of them have hundreds of years of experience in international trade and commerce, and they are well versed in recognising opportunities and taking advantage of them.

According to Christianto Wibisono's Indonesian Business Data Center, in 1998, the amount of funds stored in Singapore ACU by Indonesian nationals amounted to 110 billion US dollars. Say if half of that amount belongs to Chinese from Indonesia, thus such an amount is already a very huge amount. If only half of that financial reserve would be returned to Indonesia, it will therefore not be necessary for the Indonesian government to beg for aid from the CGI, IMF, World Bank and the ADB. It is the same thing if we look at our neighbouring countries, are we not amazed by the progress attained by Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand? Why are those relatively smaller countries with much less natural resources performing better than Indonesia? Other corruption, collusion, nepotism and political instability, it is also because the people and the governments of those countries treat all their citizens equally and with impartial justice. Each and every citizen has his rights and responsiblities guaranteed by the constitution. In determining who is to be appointed to what position in government, selection is carried out based on merit and not corruption, collusion, nepotism, race, religion or other primordial differences.

In order to bring progress and prosperity to Indonesia, whether we like it or not we have to enable the participation of all potential available, not excluding the ethnic Chinese for they are part of Indonesian society. Open as wide as possible the doors to anyone who has commitment and ability to help us attain our common goals, and its positive results we will see. PM Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand is a Chinese, so is former Philippine President Corazon Aquino as well as former President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia. Malaysia's cabinet is also filled with Chinese.

All discriminative laws and regulations must immediately be revoked so that there are no more stipulations that an ethnic Chinese must possess a document to prove that he is an Indonesian citizen. Government insitutions such as BKMC (Body for Coordination of the Chinese Problem) have also to be dissolved and not nonactivated. The Law has to be implemented without discrimination. Do not simply regard the anti-corruption campaign as a slogan but it has to be a top priority carried out firmely and consistently. If all along, for the sake of several billions of US dollars we are always subservient to all conditions set forth by the IMF, why do we have to have second thoughts and postpone the revocation of all the discriminative and racist laws and regulations?

Henceforth we hope that there will be acceleration in reform of Indonesia's political culture which will ultimately bring is out of this crisis which we all face. It is hoped certain ethnic Chinese will abandon their bad business practices, to not only seek profit without listening to one's heart but also to work for the betterment of society as a whole. For the sake of human progress, we also aspire that the ethnic Chinese are more proactive in participating in all walks of life as it was in the past, to not only encapsulate themselves in the business world. Ultimately, for the general good of all let us all expuragate ourselves of all prejudices within us.

[1] To know more about the new Order Regime's policy in dealing with the ethnic Chinese organisations as well as their assets including association buildings and ex-Chinese and Baperki schools, as well as a list of names of ethnic Chinese organisations all over Indonesia, see: Financial Department of the Republic of Indonesia, Budgetary Directorate General "Guide on Handling Exclusive Racial Orhanisations", National Treasury Establishment Directorate, 1997.

[2] See Lashmar, Paul & Oliver, James, Britain's Secret Propaganda War, Sutton Publishing, London, 1999 page 7-9.

[3] To know more about the role of the Chinese in Indonesia's history, see: Benny G. Setiono "Chinese in the political Whirlwind", ELKASA, Jakarta, 2003

[4] Pertaining to the number of Chinese residents in Indonesia, there is no valid data until this point in time, as there has never been conducted a census or research which is really is of no use to the Indonesian government. The last census was carried out by the Dutch East Indies government in 1933 which stated that there were around 1,2 million Chinese in the East Indies. Thus all attempts to determine the exact number of Chinese in Indonesia are based on approximation, there are sources indicating 3,5 million, 6 million, 10 million and even 15 million Chinese. In 2003, INTI held a seminar regarding this problem and it ended without a certain conclusion.

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