Statement to Asian regional expert seminar, Bangkok, Thailand
by: Ester Jusuf on behalf of Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa
Ever since the rise of the New Order regime 35 years ago, many
minorities in Indonesia have had to face the racism and
discrimination of Indonesia. This is achieved through many pieces
of legislation. Some of them are specifically targeted at the
Chinese ethnic community. A minimum of 62 such enactments are
currently known to be valid law in Indonesia. These enactments
regulate various sectors such as religion, economy, education,
custom and culture and have the effect of restricting the rights
of the targeted ethnic group in those fields. However, we are
glad that President Gus Dur has eliminated one of the regulations
by Presidential Decree, even if this is far from being adequate.
As a result, racial violence has become a common phenomenon in
1998, women of Chinese descent were targeted for rape, and the
rest of the ethnic Chinese community for assault, looting, and
murder. Such atrocities occurred in major cities such as Medan,
Makassar, Jakarta and Solo. Racial riots occurred also between
the Dayaks, Malays and Madura in Kalimantan in 1997.
More recently in Maluku, mass-killings have occurred between
civilians belonging to two different religious groups. On a
smaller scale, anti-Christian violence also occurred in Mataram
and anti-Chinese riots in Pekalongan.
The military has been passively involved in all racial crimes
by having failed to give protection to Indonesian citizens of a
particular ethnic group, and the above-mentioned racial riots
serve as blatant examples of such omission by the military. There
has never been serious prosecution for racial crimes nor has
there been any sort of protection scheme for victims and
witnesses. The few remedies, which were only rarely offered, were
in the form of show-arrests or superficial, symbolic
This racial division and violence in Indonesian society are
based on a well-supported and well-nurtured sense of hatred and
stigmatization of the ethnic Chinese. The use of officially
approved words and terms with very strong negative racial
connotations to describe Indonesians of Chinese descent have the
effect of building a thick dividing wall between the citizens of
Chinese ethnic and all other ethnic groups.
This stigmatization of the Chinese ethnic group is also
further supported by the assimilation policy adopted by the
government, which implies that being Chinese
is something which should be hidden, condemned and as much as
possible minimized in order to blend in with the rest of the
society. This in turn detrimentally effects the Indonesian ethnic
Chinese in a psychological, as well as a physical way.
Religious affairs have been a highly regulated aspect of the
Indonesian society. Government intervention in this sector is
most significant in the restriction to only five officially
recognized and legally accommodated religions: Islam, Catholic,
Protestant, Hindu and Buddhism. Segregation based on religion is
obvious from the restraint placed on inter-religious marriage.
Further, many religions are seen as undeserving of official
recognition. The Chinese belief, Confucianism, for instance, is
one such religion. Again here discrimination targeted at the
ethnic Chinese comes into play.
Unsurprisingly, this is also a base on which many riots and
atrocities have occurred in Indonesia, most markedly during 1999
when racial and ethnic issues triggered much mass-violence.
Discrimination at its most extreme took the form of warfare
between religious groups, mass-killings of civilians of a certain
religion, destruction and burning of places of worship. These
riots seemed to be well organized, but have also occurred
spontaneously. Again, in a number of cases, the active role of
the military and sometimes provocateurs has not been
insignificant, for instance in the riots in Maluku all through
1999, in Mataram in the latter part of 1999, and previously in
Ketapang in November 1998.
We urgently call for the United Nations Human Rights
Commission to pressure the Indonesian government, to enact
legislation against Racial Discrimination to protect all
Indonesian citizens from all forms of discrimination, and to
investigate all cases of racial and religious discrimination in
Indonesia. We also call for the UNHCHR to campaign for the
elimination of all racial and religious discrimination
regulations. Specific attention should be given to the resolution
and prevention of racial conflict, as well as to the prosecution
of those who have initiated and incited racial conflict.
Furthermore, the Indonesian government should refrain from
interfering in religious affairs.
Only after these issues have been resolved can reconciliation
and the establishment of a peaceful society free of terror,
violence and human rights violence be established in Indonesia.
We support the result of special
Investigation report from the United Nations Human Rights
Commission Special Rapporteur to eliminate racial and ethnic
discrimination in Indonesia. Thank you.
Bangkok, September 5-7, 2000
Ester Jusuf, SH
Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa
Posted on 2001-08-10