Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Ambassador to explain Lee Kuan Yew's comments

JAKARTA (AP): Indonesia has asked Singapore's ambassador to explain remarks by the city-state's founding father that ethnic Chinese were "systematically marginalized" in the sprawling archipelago, an official said Wednesday.
Singapore elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew's comments were "inaccurate" and required explanation, said Yuri Thamrin, director of the Indonesian foreign ministry's East Asian and Pacific Affairs division.

What part of Indonesia has treated Indonesian Chinese as second class citizens and continues to, don't you understand?

"We have asked the Singaporean ambassador (Ashok Kumar Mirpuri) for clarification," Thamrin said.
Lee told a forum in Singapore on Sept. 15 that the city-state's neighboring countries, Malaysia and Indonesia, "have problems with the Chinese. They are successful, they are hardworking, and therefore, they are systematically marginalized."

But mostly because they're not Muslim.

He also said the two countries "want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese -- compliant."
Indonesia and Malaysia both have ethnic Chinese minorities, while Chinese make up the majority in much-smaller Singapore.
Several Indonesian lawmakers have protested Lee's remarks, noting that Indonesia's ethnic Chinese were a dominant force in Southeast Asia's largest economy and held several key posts in the government despite representing just 3 percent of the 220 million population.

The Chinese are still not treated like "full" Indonesians. They still face racism, prejudice and unfair treatment from 'pribumi', the indigenous Indonesians. Allowing the Chinese to celebrate Imlek (Chinese New Year) doesn't make up for years of intolerance and poor treatment. Who was targeted during the 1998 riots in Jakarta? Whose businesses and homes were looted and destroyed? Which ethnic group had women raped and beaten during the 1998 riots by lawless Muslims?

Malaysia also has sought an explanation from Lee -- who was Singapore's prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and retains the title minister mentor -- and warned that the comments could strain bilateral ties. Thamrin said Mirpuri was summoned on Tuesday, but did not elaborate on the discussions or the ambassador's response.

Whilst I have observed first hand over the years, numerous accounts of poor treatment and racism by pribumi against the Chinese, none was worse than days after the tsunami in Aceh. I was helping with relief efforts in Banda Aceh when I saw 'pribumi' and military trying to charge Chinese for water and relief supplies. The supplies were free and meant for all Indonesians. The distributors said that the supplies were only for pribumi and if Chinese wanted them they had to pay. Absolutely sickening!! Luckily a Chinese businessman from Medan was able to rescue many Chinese from the area from the devastation and abominal treatment by indigenous Indonesians.

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