Posted by: mel | January 27, 2009

Parties Embrace Chinese Candidates

January 26, 2009  | Camelia Pasandaran

The number of politicians of Chinese descent in Indonesia is increasing, a prominent Chinese-Indonesian politician has said.

Alvin Liem, a lawmaker from the National Mandate Party, or P, said that since the end of Suharto’s discriminative New Order period, more Chinese-Indonesians had become involved in politics. “I don’t see any formal problems for [ethnic] Chinese becoming involved in politics now.”

Alvin said that during the New Order period, most Chinese-Indonesians were pushed to work in the business sector.

“Political parties are becoming increasingly aware of [the need] to have candidates from all ethnic groups,” he said. “Even political parties that are based on religion. These religion-based parties have recruited Chinese candidates who are Muslim.”

Anas Urbaningrum, the head of the politics division for the Democratic Party, said that Chinese-Indonesians had traditionally been shunned by political parties and many had never voted.

However, that situation is changing and the party has been inviting more and more Indonesians of Chinese descent to become party members, hoping to secure the support of the community, which makes up about 3 percent of the total population.

“We have around 30 legislative candidates that are [ethnic] Chinese,” Anas said. “The number is even bigger for regional legislative elections, especially in West Kalimantan [Province],” he said.

According to Anas, the discrimination displayed toward Chinese-Indonesians, including not being fully recognized as Indonesian citizens by many people, often hampered their ability to play an active role in politics.

“Most of them have been traumatized by their previous experiences. They had to deal with a long bureaucratic process to become citizens,” he said.

The situation improved after the House of Representatives, or DPR, passed the citizenship bill in 2006, making it easier for ethnic Chinese to be recognized as Indonesians and allowing easier access to correct documentation, he said.

“We give them plenty of opportunities for the candidacy,” Anas said.

At the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, the number of Chinese-Indonesians participating in politics is higher than the average. Arif Wibowo, secretary of the party’s team formulating the strategy to contest the upcoming elections, said that there were many ethnic Chinese actively involved in the party’s internal affairs.

“Some of them even want to pay for their candidacy,” he said. “However, we could not accept all of them as legislative candidates. We see it proportionally. In strong Muslim areas, we will not nominate a Chinese candidate, as there are not only ethnic differences but also differences in religion,” Arif said.

Jeffrie Giovanie of the Golkar Party said that the number of ethnic Chinese in the party was high. “As we have established a long time ago, differences between Indonesians and Chinese-Indonesians is no longer a hot issue.

“One of our most well-known Chinese politicians is Basuki Purnama, or Ahok,” he said. “He was a successful district head in Bangka Belitung [Province] and now is one of our legislative candidates. As the number of [ethnic] Chinese in our party is high, he’s not really exceptional, compared to other parties that only nominate a limited number of Chinese.”

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Responses

  1. what are your trying to say – that the picture of Taman Angrek represents the closed off world of the Chinese Indonesian?


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