Racism conflict and Discrimination in Indonesia

56th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Item 6

Geneva, 2000
Ever since the rise of the New Order regime 35 years ago, many minorities in Indonesia have to face racism and discrimination of Indonesia. This is achieved through many pieces of legislation. Some of them are specifically targeted at the Chinese ethnic minority. 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 are to the effect of restricting the rights of the targeted ethnic 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 Indonesia. In 1998 women of Chinese descend were targeted for rape, 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 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 particular ethnic, 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 reconciliation. These racial division and violence in Indonesian society are based on a well-supported and well-nurtured sense of hatred and stigmatization on 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 is also further supported by assimilation policy adopted by the government, that 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 both 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 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, having ratified CERD, to fulfil its obligation and to enact legislation against Racial Discrimination to protect all Indonesian citizens from all forms of discrimination. We also call for the UNHCHR to campaign for the elimanation of all racial and religion 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, reconciliation and the establishment of a peaceful society free of terror, violence and human rights violence can be established in Indonesia. We support the result of special Investigation report from Special Reporter United Nations Human Rights Commission to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination in the Indonesia.