Monday, August 30, 2004

Black May 1998: 6th Commemoration (32 of 40)

Megawati calls for social integration
By Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (Saturday, August 14, 2004)

President Megawati Soekarnoputri told Chinese-Indonesians on Friday to stop complaining about discrimination against them and open themselves up to other ethnic groups in the country.

Speaking in front of about 100 Chinese-Indonesian intellectuals, the President said that while the government had to revoke discriminatory rulings, Chinese-Indonesians must do more to mingle with other ethnic groups.

"You always have to look at the other side of the coin: There were times when you had economic privileges at the cost of others, or when you excluded yourselves from the wider community," Megawati said.

She said, as part of the nation, Chinese-Indonesians should show a willingness to build a genuine brotherhood with people from other ethnic groups.

During the meeting, the President related a story about the experience of a friend of hers, who was from Padang, West Sumatra, and who fell in love with a Chinese-Indonesian man.

"They couldn't get married because the Chinese family refused to have indigenous Indonesian in-laws. You have to pay attention to these kind of issues as well," she said.

Megawati said that if only both sides were ready to accept each other, discrimination would end.

"If both sides have similar views, I'm sure harmony in Indonesia would much more meaningful," the President said.

Relations between Chinese-Indonesians and others have always been an issue for the country, especially after decades of authoritarian leadership under former president Soeharto.

During his presidency, Chinese-Indonesians were not allowed to join political parties or observe their culture or religious practices.

Only after the fall of Soeharto in 1998, which marked the beginning of the country's reform movement, did Chinese-Indonesians dare to enter politics and fight for putting an end to discriminatory rulings.

Chinese-Indonesians held a meeting with Megawati on Friday to express their appreciation of government efforts to scrap the Certificate of Indonesian Citizenship (SBKRI), which is still required from Chinese-Indonesians when applying for official documents such as passports.

Megawati has repeatedly said there is no need for Chinese-Indonesians to present an SBKRI if they already possessed other identification such as an Indonesian birth certificate or identification card (KTP).

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is set to launch a campaign next week on the abandonment of the SBKRI policy and to establish hotlines to receive complaints on the matter.

In the meeting, Megawati promised to carefully assess the implementation of a no-SBKRI policy for those who had Indonesian citizenship.

Also attending the meeting were noted badminton player Susi Susanti, her husband Alan Budikusuma and legislator from the National Awakening Party (PKB) A.B. Soesanto.

"I have once again ordered related ministries to ensure that none of their officials continue to take advantage of the SBKRI issue," Megawati said.

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