Rabu, 25 Juli 2007

Indonesia's Oppressed minorities


RI(Indonesia)’s oppressed minorities

The Chinese in Indonesia have been well served by the policies of
Indonesia’s post-Independence governments, which have maintained a
discriminatory, emasculating regulatory scheme that deprives
Chinese-Indonesians of basic civil rights.
Now the Chinese live in fear of physical attack from run-amok masses of
pribumi (indigenous Indonesian) looters. Chinese-Indonesians are a
numerically very small ethnic minority in Indonesia and doubly
``minoritized by the fact that they are generally also adherents of one of the minority religions in a country which highly values religious unity. But Chinese-Indonesians are different from minority groups in other countries in a very significant way. Their minority status and the consequent denial of civil rights and privileges has not led to economic oppression as it has for minority populations in virtually every other nation. Usually, political power and economic strength go hand in hand. For minorities in many places, political power has not been so much an end in itself as the means to secure the economic opportunities they have been denied. For Chinese-Indonesians, however, economic opportunities have not been denied. In fact, while privately criticizing the system which has denied them civil rights unlike other oppressed minority groups, Chinese-Indonesians have largely demurred from taking concerted action in pursuit of political rights. Indonesia is atypical in that a minority group which has been denied civil rights has been able to flourish economically, to the point of holding the major share of the country’s wealth. For this reason, the terms minority and oppression as they are customarily used, may not be the most helpful language to use in speaking Indonesia’s situation. Chinese-Indonesians are not typical of oppressed minorities. In many ways the pribumi are more oppressed though by economic deprivation rather than by the absence of civil rights. Many pribumi would, I venture to say, gladly trade their right to government employment, their possession of an uncoded identity card, their access to state universities for the freedom of lifestyle that economic privilege can bring. The Chinese-Indonesian minority might not be as interested in a corresponding trade-off of economic opportunities for civil rights. The reservoirs of resentment within both ethnic groups are deepening. As long as individuals are preoccupied with blaming the other group (The
Indonesians deny us our full rights/The Chinese control all the
wealth’‘) the profounder causes of oppression and violence remain and are
The enemy is not each other. Chinese-Indonesians and the pribumi need each
other. The country needs the capital that the Chinese have built up, their
business expertise and the distribution networks. Chinese-owned businesses
need pribumi manpower and the pribumi consumer market. If the pribumi are
driven to mass violence by unjustified price inflations and substandard
wages, or if the Chinese are driven away by large-scale violence, everyone
Violence. The person whose shop has been looted and burned, the rape victim,
they are obvious, tragic victims of dramatic violence. The persons who labor
in factories, mills and shrimp farms for wages so low they cannot support a
family in dignity, in a work environment where there is no regard for
workers’ health and safety, these are also victims of violence. So are those
whose life savings were wiped out in bank liquidations resulting from
white-collar crimes of corruption.
Who are the oppressed? Who are the victims? The enemy is not each other.
Ordinary Chinese and pribumi are both victims of the collusive partnership
between high-level pribumi officials and Chinese owners of Indonesia’s
megabusinesses. These partnerships and the corruption they spawned have
victimized the country without regard for ethnic identity. This collusive
partnership system is the oppressor. Ordinary middle-class and poor pribumi
and Chinese alike are its victims. Can the two communities now cooperate to
recover from violence and oppression together?
Copyright 1998 JAKARTA POST all rights reserved as distributed by
WorldSources, Inc.

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