Chinese in Lampung Discriminated: Bandar Lampung, Sumatra

I can recall the day my wife, who is Chinese-Indonesian, finally obtained her Indonesian citizenship. She had been living in the country all her life having been born here. But, because she was of Chinese descent she was discriminated against as were other members of the Chinese population.

The laws changed and finally she became what she always wanted to be, recognised as an Indonesian citizen. This is in Java, but in Bandar Lampung in Sumatra, discrimination against the Chinese still continues despite the changing of the law.

Lampung’s Chinese still singled out

The new Citizenship Law has taken effect, but Chinese-Indonesians in Lampung remain subject to discrimination.

They are still required to show their Indonesian Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI) when applying for passports, business licenses and other documents.

The chairman of the Chinese-Indonesian Social Association (PSMTI), Kencana Sukma, blamed the continued discrimination on ineffective efforts to publicize the law, which was approved by the House of Representatives in July.

He said in addition to the new law, Bandarlampung Mayor Eddy Sutrisno had abolished the requirement for the SBKRI during the recent Chinese New Year celebrations.

“However, some of us are still experiencing prejudice,” he said, “especially when arranging bureaucratic matters.”

Many Chinese-Indonesian families have lived in Bandarlampung for generations.

The SBKRI was revoked based on a 1996 presidential decree and a 1998 presidential instruction. With the enactment of the Citizenship Law, all Indonesian citizens, including Chinese-Indonesians, have equal stature before the law.

The mayor earlier pledged to reprimand officers who still demand SBKRI papers from Chinese-Indonesian residents in matters pertaining to civil registry.

Eddy said his office had made strenuous efforts to publicize the law down to the lowest levels of the state apparatus.

“Please report to me anyone who is still asking for the SBKRI when arranging matters at the civil registry office. I promise to take stern measures against them,” he said.

“I haven’t heard any complaints yet from Chinese-Indonesian citizens who are still unfairly treated,” he added.

A Chinese-Indonesian member of the Bandarlampung municipality council, Mungliana, blamed an inadequate public awareness campaign.

“If the administration has conducted awareness efforts, then the mayor should be stern and straighten out this problem.

Discrimination still prevails in a large city (like Bandarlampung), let alone in small cities and regencies,” said Mungliana.

Mungliana said the administration should launch another campaign to familiarize government workers with the law.

“The termination of the SBKRI must be publicized in line with the enactment of the citizenship law, not only in Bandarlampung, but also in other cities in Lampung where many Chinese-Indonesian residents also live,” he said.

The citizenship law stipulates that citizenship must be extended fairly without regard to tribe, race, religion, group or gender. It states that Indonesian citizens include those indigenous to the country as well as those who have been naturalized under the law.

“Indigenous people” are no longer defined by their ethnicity. The law says indigenous Indonesians are those who have been citizens since birth and have never accepted another citizenship.

The director of the Legal Aid Institute’s Bandarlampung chapter, Amaludin, said officials discriminated against Chinese-Indonesian citizens due to deep-rooted corruption that prevails at all levels of the bureaucracy.

“It’s about the custom of ‘why make it easy if it can be made complicated’ within the bureaucracy, which actually means bribery. Corrupt officials are in fact aware of the law and the abolishment of the SBKRI, but they just want to gain their own personal benefits,” said Amaludin.

Oyos Saroso H.N.