Item 15: Indigenous issues

(Note: The following oral presentation was made by Ms. Ester Indahyani Jusuf of ALRC and Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa (Indonesia) on April 12, 2001, at the 57th meeting of the 57th session of the UNCHR.)

Presented by: Ms. Ester Indahyani Jusuf

Mr. Chairperson,

The multiple problems of ethnic and religious minorities, political segregation and xenophobia, which have plagued Indonesia for so long, still continue.

There are still 62 discriminatory regulations that remain in the Indonesian legal system. Most of these are specifically targeted at the Chinese ethnic group. These regulations cover virtually all sectors of life, including economic, social, cultural, educational and religious life (for example, Confucianism remains an unrecognised religion). Although President Abdurrahman Wahid has abolished some regulations, these efforts have not gone far enough.

One serious case involves the ethnic Chinese people from Tegal Alur in West Java. Most of these people did not have legal documents because the Indonesian bureaucracy and discriminatory regulations robbed them of their citizenship. Presently, more than 98,000 ethnic Chinese in Indonesia have the same problem. The impact of these regulations seriously impairs their legal rights, their access to education and their ability to marry as well as other civil and political rights.

Another problem is the lack of government protection. It is approaching the third anniversary of the Jakarta racial riot in May 1998, and we are still awaiting an outcome from the government. During this riot, thousands of people died, many others became victims of torture and rape and hundreds of buildings were destroyed.

During the same year, ethnic Chinese became a target of racial riots in Solo, Kebumen, Medan, Tanjung Balai, Tangerang, Bekasi, Karawang, Pontianak and Bagansiapiapi.In January 2000, ethnic Chinese became the victims again in Pekalongan, Central Java, and most recently, ethnic Chinese were the target of a riot in February 2001 in Selat Panjang, Sumatra. All of the riots have had the same feature: no protection from the government. Hundreds of buildings and property have been destroyed, and thousands of people have become victims. The government has a silent policy to relegate each incident to history without any active response.Until now, all of the victims are awaiting legal action from the government.

The Indonesian military has a special section for monitoring and controlling ethnic Chinese called Coordination Council of Chinese Affairs (BKMC/Badan Koordinasi Masalah Cina). This section is to ensure that ethnic Chinese obey racial laws enacted by the bureaucracy. They also keep a database of ethnic Chinese population.All of the civil documents of ethnic Chinese are different than those of the rest of the Indonesian population, including birth certificates, identity cards and family cards.

The stigmatization of ethnic Chinese is another dangerous problem.The assimilation policy encourages xenophobic sentiment towards ethnic Chinese people. The Chinese are expected to change their culture and identity to assimilate into the dominant culture.The Indonesian legal system, bureaucracy and media often promote prejudice using generalisations that portray the Chinese as strangers, non-Indonesians, exclusive, rich, etc. These have given ethnic Chinese a bad reputation.

The Indonesian ethnic problem not only affects those of Chinese descent. Another immense problem involves the riots of West Kalimantan between the Dayak, Malay and Madurese ethnic groups between 1997 and 2001. More than 50,000 refugees from these riots are suffering a lack of nutrition and education as well as poor health, including those still living in the refugee camp in Pontianak.In the recent riot in Sampit and Palangkaraya alone, hundreds of people have been tortured and killed with thousands of homes destroyed.

Mr. Chairperson,

We would like to make the following requests.

1. The High Commissioner to urge the Indonesian government to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

2. The UN to urge the Indonesian government to enact and implement anti-discrimination laws, particularly legislation targeting ethnic and racial discrimination, in order to eliminate the practice of political segregation and racism in Indonesia.

3. The UN to urge the Indonesian government to protect its citizens from all forms of discriminatory practices in order to fulfil its obligation and to enact legislation against all forms of discrimination.

4. Urge the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism and Racial Discrimination (Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination Xenophobia and Related Intolerance) to investigate the 1998 May riots and all other racial riots in Indonesia.

Thank you.

 

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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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