Sat, 11 May 1996

On racism

In response to Masli Arman's response (Racism revisited, The Jakarta Post, April 23, 1996) to Arief Budiman's April 19 article in the Post, I would like to stress -- as Masli Arman did -- the right of self-determination, especially for Indonesia's indigenous population.

Especially striking to me was his comparison between indigenous American Indians and Indonesia natives.

If I understand Masli Arman right, he wants to warn of further decimating, or better, outnumbering of indigenous natives in the borders of the Republic of Indonesia by "relatively new guests".

Indeed, it doesn't call for a celebration to watch how local traditions in the so-called "outer provinces" are sucked up and wiped out by the leveling lifestyles of the incoming new "guests".

Masli Arman continues with a very true sentence when he states: "The indigenous and nonindigenous people of Indonesia are not equal." The relevance of this statement can simply be seen by the stream of resources between center and periphery, by differing income levels between Javanese officials and people from the "provinces". It can also be seen by the differing "side costs" for indigenous people living in "nonindigenous" surroundings.

By and large Masli Arman's letter shows the power of the motto, which I, as a foreigner, came to love in Indonesia: Unity in Diversity. The question remains: Who are the indigenous and what happened to diversity?"


Bandung, West Java