Posted by: mel | June 17, 2009

Chinese Indonesians grill VP candidates

The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Mon, 15 June 2009 |  City

As a way to explore the visions and programs of the country’s presidential candidates, an association of Chinese-Indonesian activists and politicians are planning to invite all the candidates’ running mates to a political dialogue.

Hartono, chairman of the Nationalist Democratic Forum (Fordeka), said he was expecting the dialogue to give the Chinese-Indonesian community “a broader perspective” on all candidates before deciding to vote for any of them.

“Times have changed. Today, there are no reasons for Chinese-Indonesians not to participate in the elections, as voting is a way to decide their and the country’s future,” he told The Jakarta Post Friday.

Hartono said Prabowo Subianto, Megawati Soekarnoputri’s running mate, had agreed to attend the association’s first election dialogue on Saturday. Meanwhile, Boediono, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s running mate, will attend the second dialogue on June 20 and Wiranto, Jusuf Kalla’s running mate, will join the last dialogue on June 27. All dialogues will be held in Jakarta.

Although the dialogue was organized by the country’s minority group, Hartono said it would not only focus on the candidates’ standpoints on protecting the country’s minority groups, but also on other general issues.

“Like other citizens, we also want to know about their strategic plans to develop the national economy, education and also maintain peace and security in the country,” he said.

When asked why the dialogue only invited the vice presidential candidates, Hartono said they were already familiar with the presidential candidates and wanted to know more about their running mates.

Fordeka said there were currently 1.5 million Chinese-Indonesian voters out of the country’s 170 million registered voters. Almost 60 percent of them lived in Jakarta.

In the 2009 general elections, Fordeka recorded 58 Chinese candidates competing in Jakarta for seats in the House of Representatives, the City Council and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

Two of them successfully clinched position among the 21 House seat winners in the city.

After the 1965 “communist cleansing”, many Chinese-Indonesians withdrew from politics, and generations that followed focused more on business.

After the reformasi era, several Chinese-Indonesians began to enter politics again. In the 1999 elections, almost 50 Chinese-Indonesians ran as legislative candidates, with four of them, including prominent economist Kwik Kian Gie, successfully securing seats at the House.

Five years later, the number increased to 172, with candidates running either for legislative seats or positions in the DPD. Among the dozen of candidates who secured seats were the National Mandate Party’s Alvin Lie Lee Peng and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle’s Rudianto Tjen. (hwa)

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