Mon, 30 Oct 2000

Chinese, indigenous pledge

The Mitra Museum Indonesia Foundation and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) are to hold a seminar entitled "Indonesian-Chinese: People and Culture" from Oct. 31 up to Nov. 2 at the LIPI building. Experts on Indonesian Chinese from the United States, the Netherlands, Germany and France as well as local scholars will address the seminar which is to have as the general theme "Indonesia, the cultural melting pot."

Organizers have explained how, during the last years of the Sukarno administration and those of Soeharto, people stressed the last part of the motto Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity), leading to a greater threat of conflict.

Two trends have developed among Indonesians of Chinese descent. The first is the growing wish of some of them not to be racially lumped together as "Tionghoa" but only as "Indonesians" as they have been part of the Indonesian grassroots for a long time.

But there is another group who wish to be called a Chinese- Indonesian or Indonesian-Chinese ethnic group without being stamped as belonging to only certain regions -- they wish to be a territory-less ethnic group. They group themselves in some organizations based upon this specific characteristic and either exclude people who are outside of this "ethnic group" or make them "honorary members."

This certainly has opened the door to controversy. On the one hand, these friends of ours refuse to be treated as "special" Indonesians -- because they reject racial discrimination. On the other hand, they discriminate against other people.

We have to respect the two groups mentioned above.

Let the people freely express their aspirations and their feelings in this era of reform and democratization. This is why we welcome the coming seminar so that we can know each other better. But we need to pay serious attention to the matters mentioned above.

In this case, our friends of Arab descent are wiser. Following the dissolution in 1934 of the Arab-Indonesian Party, they refused to be categorized as Arab-Indonesians or Indonesian-Arabs for whatever reasons and purposes. They have succeeded.