12 May, 2007

Chinese-Indonesians: breaking taboo of political participation

The chairman of the Chinese-Indonesian Association urged Indonesians of Chinese origin to overcome the segregation they have endured for decades, and to study political history and philosophy to be in a position to eventually form a political party. This party should be based on popular ideology and enjoy a nationwide following.

After decades of discrimination, the Chinese minority in Indonesia has started talking about political participation but for the time being, it has excluded the option of setting up its own party.

Speaking on the occasion of a discussion celebrating the seventh anniversary of the Indonesia Shang Bao daily on 10 May, the chairman of the Chinese-Indonesian Association, Eddie Lembong, encouraged the political participation of Indonesians of Chinese origin, who only last year began to see “light at the end of the tunnel”.

In 2006, the enactment of a citizenship law and a civil registry law, “removed the root cause of all discriminatory treatment against minorities like the Chinese,” said Lembong. Among other things, the new laws defined as “native” anyone who was born in the country to Indonesian citizens and eliminated perks for so-called “indigenous” groups for bank loans and contracts of public works.

The Chinese community makes up between 1 and 2% of Indonesia’s 245 million residents but controls more than half the national economy. Most Chinese immigrants are Christians. The 30-year regime of Suharto segregated Chinese socially and culturally: they were not allowed to be in Jakarta after 10pm and had to return to Chinatown. What’s more, they were forbidden from writing in Chinese script except in Buddhist temples and the community was targeted in violent uprisings in the nineties.

The chairman of the Association said: “Most Chinese-Indonesians still regard politics as a taboo matter. They fear talking about politics, let alone being involved in it." The legal system has discriminated against people on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, territory and social status since the Dutch colonial era.

Eddie Lembong urged the Chinese community to boost its knowledge of “the philosophy and history of politics before establishing or entering a political party.” He said it was necessary to start “political formation based on an ideology supported by the people rather than one based on ethnicity.”

The ex-Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid was also present at the meeting. He is credited with having done away with several racist laws during his brief tenure (1999-2001).

(Source:Asia News.it)



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