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Point of View - 2004-02-06


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    Oral statement by 20 Indonesian NGOs to Tehran Prep meeting

    The following statement, supported by 20 leading Indonesian NGOs was not read out at the UN meeting as NGOs were banned by the organisers from mentioning individual states in their oral interventions. This technicality is used to prevent real issues from being addressed at the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which is to be held in August, 2001 in South Africa. Therefore, it is vital to read and publicise this statement as widely as possible in order to prevent these life-and-death issues from being ignored.

    Prepared for oral intervention by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC)

    Asian Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial

    Discrimination and Related Intolerance

    Tehran 19-21 February, 2001


    Mr. Chairperson and distinguished delegates,

    First of all we would like to express our gratitude and deep appreciation to the United Nations for this commitment to combating racism. The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance represents a sign of hope for a new world vision for the fight against racism in the new millenium. Over some years we have wrestled with the racism problem in Indonesia, a multi-cultural country comprised of thousands of different groups based on gender, race, ethnicity and/or religion.

    We have experienced the tragedy of racism through the long colonial period up to the independence period which began in1945. This was followed by the "New Order" period, which continued under Soeharto’s authoritarian regime until the current period of transition to a democratic Indonesian society. Presently, we understand that racism is being practiced as a tool used by the political groups to maintain power, through both hegemonic and aggression strategies. It is a political and ideological system, which directs and controls by the use of legislation, military, education and media.

    A huge number of people have suffered from the ethnic conflicts, religious conflicts, racial conflicts, gender discrimination, ethnic cleansing, statelessness, lack of religious freedom, prejudice, hatred, and many other causes of pain in all aspects of their lives. The existing racial politics has victimized many groups of people, including ethnic Chinese, minority religious groups, indigenous peoples, IDP’s, refugees and workers. And it particularly affects the most vulnerable groups such as women, youth and children.

    In the spirit of the theme "united to combat racism in achieving equality, dignity and justice", we would like to propose a national agenda to be put into action.

    1. As Indonesia has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), it is regretful that there are still 62 discriminative legal regulations in force. Therefore we urge the Indonesian Government:

    1. To pass legislation against discrimination based on race, ethnicity and religion that impose sanction so racial discrimination and violence cannot be committed with impunity.
    2. To repeal all legislation containing discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender and political or ideological convictions.
    3. To fully ratify the ICERD without reservation, and to ratify other UN treaties related to the anti-racism agenda, i.e. ICCPR, ICESCR, Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, MWC, Convention of ILO no. 169 which deals with proportional participation in State institutions, and to support the establishment of the ICC.
    4. To establish a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the above measures, and to create the space for civil society’s involvement in all processes.

    2. As it is now the time for the government to show their commitment to the democratization of the country, we urge the Indonesian Government to purge all the racist bureaucracy that is still being practiced as the heritage of the old regime’s political strategy. The racist bureaucracy includes the access to citizenship and all other aspects of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

    3. Racism is not only structural but also being widely used as an ideological and psychological tool to generate prejudice, hatred and racist sentiment among people including youth and children. Therefore we urge the Indonesian Government:

    1. To actively promote multiculturalism and pluralism by including it into the national education curriculum.
    2. To encourage the mass media to adhere to ethics of peace journalism and promotion of pluralism.

    4. Furthermore, the practice of discrimination and differentiation is often linked to socio-economic motives. Therefore we urge the Indonesian Government to reform the economic system to achieve fair distribution; to combat corruption, nepotism and collusion. Affirmative action is also necessary to help the minority and most vulnerable groups.

    5. The combination of gender-based discrimination with racism affects women, who suffer multiple discrimination. Therefore we urge the Indonesian Government to create a space for political participation and decision-making power at all levels, and to seek recognition for the contribution of women to development, culture and economy.

    6. As we are entering the globalization era, we should recall the history that racism has been used as a weapon of imperialism and capitalism, which now maintains the neo-liberal system. This system mostly affects the indigenous people, migrant workers and other workers. Therefore we urge the Indonesian Government:

    1. To ensure the implementation of the anti-discrimination legislation in order to avoid the anticipated escalation of xenophobia related to the regional autonomy policy
    2. To protect the most vulnerable groups adversely affected by economic policies enforced by the IMF.
    3. To provide adequate protection of basic rights of migrant workers, especially those who work in Middle East and Asia.
    4. To protect the indigenous peoples’ right to keep their identity and reclaim their land and other natural resources.

    7. Many conflicts have been engineered through the exploitation and exaggeration of racial and religious differences to promote violence and terror, e.g. Tragedy of May1998, Ambon conflicts, attacks and bombings of churches and mosques and conflicts between Dayak, Madura and Melayu ethnic groups. These conflicts have caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and homes. But none of the victims have yet found justice. Therefore we urge the Indonesian Government:

    1. To conduct a deep investigation into the root causes of these conflicts and to prosecute all responsible actors and perpetrators.
    2. To provide reparation, rehabilitation and compensation for victims.
    3. To repeal the political, economic and social functions of the military.

    We also request the UNHCHR to send to Indonesia the relevant UN Special Rapporteurs to investigate all conflicts involving racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia or related intolerance, and to also re-conduct the investigation of racial riot in May 1998 to include all sectors, especially the victims.

    We call on the solidarity of the International Community, particularly the Asian Region, to support the Indonesian people by taking all necessary action towards the realization of our recommendations.

    Thank you.


    [1] Summarized from the Joint Statement ofIndonesia NGO Forum, consisting of 20 NGOs present at the Indonesian NGOConsultation for the Asian WCAR Preparatory Meeting in Jakarta, 8 February2001.

    Posted on 2001-08-10
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