Erase Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and related Intolerance in Indonesia

Joint Statement of Indonesia NGOs Forum, 16 February 2001


Where Colonialism began… Let’s have a coffee at Amsterdam’s VOC Building Photo: Alex Flor

The history of racism coincides with the economic exploitation through slavery. It all began when the rulers felt the need of cheap and loyal labour. This slavery developed towards conquest of one country by another, conquered people would then become slave labours for the conquerors. In the 16th century slave commerce began to flourish. Those slaves were imported from Africa to England or America. The slave-traders spread the notion that the slaves were from an inferior class and deserved their fate. Although the slave trade has been declared illegal, the exploitation persists. So, come around a new racialist practice, with the advent of imperialism. This racialism did not just hover around old issues but gave forth other racialist policies such as Nazism, developed by Hitler in Germany, and the advent of a special form of imperialism in South Africa, the Apartheid. In Indonesia, racism began its development in the 16th century with the introduction of European colonialism. Indonesians, at the time totally alien from such racial differentiation, were transformed totally by policies and racial system introduced by European colonialists. To preserve their privileged position, they invented a devide-et-impera system by granting special right towards certain groups, in this case especially Tionghoa. Nevertheless, racism employed by colonial rulers was in fact intended towards the whole-conquered nation. At present, Indonesia had been freed from the colonialism, but racism is still practiced in Indonesia by the New Order government. Using laws inherited by its colonial predecessor, New Order succeeded in reproducing racialist and segregationist policies as much as possible, in order to defend its privilged position. Policies of the New Order thus far have clearly been based on racialist doctrines. It is marked by the passing of racialist legislations, giving forth segregation of citizens based on ethnical, racial, religious, descendancy and other issues. These in turn gave rise to differentiation between groups in society. These legislations thus gave rise to prejudices, suspicions, among peoples, which in turn manifested itself in extremes such as racial conflicts. These conflicts assumes many forms, such as expulsion of people considered “outsiders”; such as what happened in Buton, Bugis and Ambon; acts which provoked racial riots in aforementioned places; not to mention other riots such as the ones in West Kalimantan; May 1998 Riot in Jakarta; Solo; Medan; and other places. The State, the one responsible for protection of its subjects, especially minorities, has neglected its duty; whereas in spheres it’s not supposed to interfere, it meddles heavy handedly by means of racialist legislations. Although Wahid presidency has renounced one of those racialist legislations (i.e. Presidential Decree no. 14/1967) through Presidential Decree no. 6/2000, the act doesn’t have any significance what so ever as an attempt of solving racial discrimination in this country. Precisely because the state wouldn’t grant any security whatsoever for its citizens from racially discriminating acts. The fall of Soeharto’s formal power, and the ascent of Abdurrahman Wahid, doesn’t otomatically end to the problem of racism in Indonesia. This is the easiest thing to understand given that the fall of Soeharto from his presidency didn’t involve the fall of his racialist New Order system, given the immense power still possesed by New Order people in the present parliament, TNI/Polri and state bureaucracy. Besides, Wahid government has inherited the racialist and segregationist New Order system deeply rooted after 32 years. This is apparent by the persistance of New Order racialist legislations. Currently there are at least 62 racialist legislations still in effect. The sheer number of racialist and religious violence in this country has shown how deeply rooted is the racial and religious prejudices among Indonesians. Thus, it’s not an exaggeration when we claim that racism has its grip not only on the state apparatus, but also among the people themselves. Racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance are not exclusively Indonesian, but also proliferate in other parts of the world. No wonder that all countries in the United Nation specially devised an agenda to fight all forms of racial discrimination. This can be seen clearly from important intenational documents such as: Universal Declaration of Human Rights 10th December 1948, articles 1 and 2; Cairo Declaration 5th August 1990, articles 1(a) and 1(b); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, articles 2(1), 4(1), 20(2), 24(1), 26; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, article 2(2); International Convention Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1966; ILO Convention No. 111 on Discrimination, article 1(a); Convention Against Discrimination in Education, article 1(1); Convention of the Rights of Children, article 2; Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudices, articles 1, 2, 9; and also collection of principles of protection for every person in any custody or prison. After three decades since 1973, the struggle waged by the UN to erase racial discrimination, xenophobia and other intolerances based on racial, religious and other issues seemingly inadequate to completely eradicate all racialist practices and policies throughout the world. This abolition of discrimination in all spheres must be completely supported and warranted by governments of all countries under UN’s banner. So that the process to abolish all discrimination based on race, ethnics, religion, gender or political convictions and ideology can be made hasten. herefore, Indonesian government, whose country has long been a member of the UN must come to realize, as soon as possible, that the discrimination and prejudices that proliferate throughout the country must be given serious considerations, and solved in the most democratic manner. The right to religious conviction and rituals is one of the basic rights of all people, which must be recognized irrespective to the choice of religion or belief. Therefore, everybody is entitled the right to choose his or her own religion (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 18). Restraints put by Indonesian government by means of only recognizing five religion, namely Islam, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu and Budha, has effectively curb any potential development of all religion outside the official ones. The legislation has brought forth-discriminatory actions against diciples of all religions whose fate was not fortunate enough to be legalized by the state. Under the protectorate of the legislations, the frequent ban on attempt to erect worshipping temples or other holy places of certain religions or faiths is a common feature in Indonesia. Just recall the ban to erect Konghucu temples; the difficulties in obtaining permissions to erect any worshipping place. The illegality suffered by Konghucu faith makes difficult for its disciples to carry out its rituals. The illegality also has impacts on their civil rights, whereby their marriage cannot be registered in Civil Registration. Whereas adults without conduct all marriage, in principles, any discrimination based on nationality, citizenship or religion (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 16). Racial and religious discrimination is also conducted against the disciples of the so-called Beliefs in The One and Only God, which is many. The coercion to embrace any one of the officially recognized religions proliferates. For instance against Kaharingan faith, which is categorized as Hindu, whereas there are many differences between the two. This, in effect, has coerced its disciple to convert into religions officially recognized by the government. The state, notwithstanding the diversity ini ethnicity and nations within Indonesia, frequently neglected the needs of indigenous people regarding their social, cultural and economical rights. High prejudices between ethinics are getting from bad to worse. The prejudices surfaced more clearly, provoked by frictions in sosio-cultural spheres, which in turn gave rise to conflicts and riots? The racialist policies, which gave rise to those prejudices, also have impacts in ethnicity life, especially in minority ethnics. They have no room for socialization among the society, and being barred from appreciating their own culture. The state also fails to give appropiate accomodation for the diversity of cultures. In the social life, a barrier has been erected to segregate between ethnics. Therefore, it happens also in respect to their religions. Their religions are curbed because they are not one of the five officially recognized by the government. The sixth article of the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights declares that every state must recognize the right of every person of acquiring a life by means of their freely chosen or accepted occupation. Therefore the division of labour must not be based on ethnicity, race, nationality, colur, sex, political opinion, social or religious belief of the aforementioned person (ILO Convention no. 111), but based on their capability and free choice. As happened thus far, there are frequent discriminatory actions in occupation based on ethnics, race or religious beliefs. The division of labour based on ethnicity inevitably produces discriminatory wages. The ownership of the industries also perpetuates the discriminating habit. This we undoubtedly need to abolish, the state must need to reconsider its role in this matter. The state must also open up that occupation formerly closed for certain ethnics, for instance, the civil service for Tionghoa. Unreasonable and exaggerated hatred and fear against everything considered “foreign”, which include against persons, goods or opinions; is a specialized form of racism known as xenophobia. The newly elected self-autonomy has every probability of bringing forth the rise of regional egotism; and, thus, practices and policies based on ethnics, race, religious beliefs or colour, provided the government ignores the problems of racial and ethnic and religious prejudices still rooted within our society. Regional autonomy without anti-racist policies will only worsen the already seething racial, ethnic, and religious conflicts everywhere. The civil service recruitment systems, either in public or private companies, must be carried out in full transparency. It frequently happens that nepotism based on ethnicity, race and religion plays an enormous role in such recruitments. The government must hasten to give an end to all discriminatory bureaucracy. For instance, the population of Tegal Alur, most of whom are Tionghoa, are denied the legal documents such as ID Cards, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate; Household Registration Cards and the likes, and thus their citizenship rights. They have difficulties in conducting marriage, education or occupation. Formally, there is no restriction, but in practice, the processes are so complicated and expensive they effectively provide a barrier to such documents. Many among them were compelled to renounce their own religious belief in order to get hold of any document. The bureaucracy must not be based on ethnicity, race or one’s religious conviction, but on state responsibility to service its citizenship. One significant means of propagating racism is the military, institutionally or as individuals. The military has been deeply involved in racialist practices throughout Indonesia. The involvement of TNI in the social-political sphere making use of racialist issues has frequently occurred. The Paraku case, which left 42,000 Tionghoa dead, carried out by provoking ethnical sentiments between the Dayaks and the Tionghoas; is one of the instances of racialist practices they carry out to preserve their privileged position in social and political sphere. Other instances are the racial riots, the so-called 10th Mei Movement in Western Java 1963; 13-15 May 1998 in Jakarta; ethnic and religious riots in Molluccas until now have claimed hundreds of thousand lives; racial riot in Pekalongan 5th January 2000, and many more. The military has been proved to be involved in those instances, at least passively, by neglecting its duty to protect the people. The military involvement in racialist practices can also be seen in the closure of Tionghoa temples and schools, including Baperki School; even confiscation of their houses, between 1965-1970. The military also played a crucial role in crushing every attempt at Konghucu religious rituals or festivals. Institutionally, the military, through its intelligence network in BAKIN (The Special Body for State Intelligence) has succeeded in effectively controls every activity of Tionghoas. This was carried out by means of a puppet body dubbed BKMC (Coordinating Body for Chinese Problems). This has proved beyond any doubt that the state is guilty for bulding racial prejudices and maintaining full control over the Tionghoa population. Discrimination also occurs in everyday life in it relation to social relationship with the minorities such as gay and lesbians. The state in principles must protect every person regardless their race, ethnic, religious belief or sex from discriminatory actions. The presence of trans-sexual people, who are minorities at present, is a very common thing and happens in many other countries. Their sexuality does not discount them from being an integral part of the citizenship. Thus, teir rights to participate in social, cultural and political rights must also be recognized regardless of their sexuality. The state undoubtedly must recognize every rights of every minority in relation of their sexual orientation. The state must eliminate every problem, which hinder them their rights solely because of their gender. For instance, no woman may become president; and the wages received by woman workers are lower than those received by their male counterparts. Education, as an effective means for character development should only aspire to the fullest development of human personalities, dignity, and reinforcement of respect towards human rights. We are so concerned that the quality of educations in Indonesia has not been able to cope with fundamental problems under its juridiction, the education circle seemingly has not incoporated the demand to cope with latest change, such as potential conflict which would manifest itself in many form (ethnic, religion, race, etc.). The educational institutions must be able to be the vanguard towards new times through: the use of multi-cultural curriculum, elimination of all barriers to education suffered thus far by great majority of the people (such as the the obligatory birth certificate); development of anti-discriminatory education system (such as through balanced composition of students’ cultural background; preferred access for underdeveloped groups (such as indigenous peoples, the poor). Ever since the independence day, the problems of citizenry have not been resolved satisfactorily. This is the effect of the inconstitency in the law regarding these very problems. An instance is what happened to the population of Tegal Alur caused by ambiguity of the rules, inconsistencies in their practices, and corruption among the officials. In Tegal Alur area there are 106 people up till this moment not being able to get hold of any citizenship documents, whereas these people has participated (read: forced to participate) several times in the elections. These documents are essentials for everyday needs, such as permission to open shops, work, and travel; in case of accidents, health insurance, school, etc.; and it is the duty of the public service to provide such documents for the people. As the effect of poor economic conditions and the free fight system that prevails, added by the lack of opportunity for economic betterments, there appears a phenomenon of migrant workers, workers crossing the boundaries of states. They are very vulenerable to racialism because they are not citizens; they suffer from discrimination, the lack of supervision and protection from their own government. The important issue in regards of the indigenous people is the official recognition of their presence. The recognition must also be implemented in practice in effect to: recognition of indigenous ethnic in certain areas; recognition of their land ownership, cultures and rituals they believe in. It’s important to empower them towards equality of opportunity in economic, political and cultural spheres without annihilating their cultural base. In reality, their lands were confiscated in the name of development; a coercion to embrace one of the five religion officially recognized by the government; a prohibition to carry out their rituals without permission from government officials. The effects of globalization make it difficult for the developing countries to assert their own voice, under the pressure of expansion, and thus exploitation, of foreign capitals ­ this also affects Indonesia. Through the free market supported by high-end technology and sciences, the developed countries guarantees their supremacy over the developing countries. This implicates that resouces from the latter will flow unrelenttlessly toward the first. One of the important means to propagate racism, xenophobia, and intolerance is the mass media, both printed and electronic. In practice, after the freedom of press was granted following the fall of Soeharto ­ the mass media have been moulded to become effective machinery to intensify racial and religious conflicts. Media has provided the fuel for the seething rage already contained within the society. Media has also become an effective propaganda machine to build racial, ethnic, religious or political and ideological hatred. In the reformation era, ironically, the media has become uncontrollable and have been turned away from the needs of reformation itself.


1. Realizing that racism is one of the crimes against humanity affecting a large sector of social, political, economic and cultural lifes; 2. Condemning any policy of racism and segregation, and all practices of racial violence, direct or indirect; 3. Demanding abolition of all state intervention in the sphere of religious beliefs of all citizens; 4. Urging the state (the government and the parliament alike) to recant all legislations containing discrimination based on race, ethnic, religious beliefs, gender, and political or ideological convictions; 5. Urging the state to pass legislations on safeguarding the rights of all working peoples; 6. Urging the state to pass legislations of anti-discrimination based on race and religious beliefs, which penalize heavily any action involving racial, religious, ethnical and other discriminations; 7. Demanding the state to open any access in political, economic, civil, and cultural spheres for minority and indigenous peoples; 8. Urging the state to fully recognize all civil, political, economic and cultural rights of indigenous peoples; 9. Urging the state to recognize and practice plurality of religions and diversities of indigenous peoples, 10. Urging the state to ratify the ILO Convention no. 169 and ICCP Conventions; 11. Urging the state to guarantee that its bureaucracy does not impelement any dubious practices in every spheres, especially in the sphere of citizenry, which can cause removal of citizenship status of any person; 12. Urging the state bureaucracy to halt any coercion towards formal and informal school toward embracing certain religions; 13. Urging the state to ratify the international conventions on migrant workers; 14. Urging the state to guarantee freedom to practice religions, especially for minorities; 15. Urging the state to conduct campaigns to promote pluralism and against xenophobia and intolerance amongst the people; 16. Urging the state and security apparattus to uncover and bring to justice all past racial and religious violence; 17. Urging the state to include the anti-discrimination education in its nasional curriculum; 18. Urging the state to nullify the Dual Function of the Military and disband Coordinating Body for Chinese Problem (BKMC); 19. Urging the state to strife for economic equality; and conduct affirmative actions in the fields of occupation and education to uphold the principles of justice and equality; 20. Appealing to owners and editors of mass media to realize their role in promoting pluralism and anti-racism, to promote peace journalism, and to avoid publishing as far as possible bare facts that could in any way provoke discriminatory sentiments; 21. Appealing to all citizens to boycott mass media that promote racism, xenophobia and intolerance; 22. Appealing all elements in society to go hand in hand against every form of racial, ethnic, religious and gender discrimination; 23. Requesting special rapporteur from the United Nation to investigate the racial riot in Jakarta, May 13-15, 1998. Committee Anti Racism in Indonesia, Australia; Forum Anti Rassismus in Indonesien e.V, Jerman; Forum for Human Rights, Bandung; Gaya Nusantara, Surabaya; HAM Nusantara, Medan; International Commission for Religion and Peace, Jakarta; Institut Studi Persatuan Etnis dan Ras, Surabaya; Institut Dayakologi, Kalimantan Barat; Kepercayaan terhadap Kebatinan Perjalanan, Jakarta; Komnas Perempuan, Jakarta; Lembaga Studi Pers Pembangunan, Jakarta; Majelis Tinggi Agama Konghucu, Jakarta; Perhimpunan Indonesia Keturunan Tionghoa Jakarta, Jakarta; Perhimpunan Kebangsaan Anti Diskriminasi, Surabaya; Perserikatan Solidaritas Perempuan, Jakarta; Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa, Jakarta; Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa Medan, Medan; Watch Indonesia, Jakarta

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