The Jakarta Post
These two letters refer to an article titled 'From exclusion to celebration of diversity,' (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 29, p2).
The New Order assimilations policy was a mere cover up for its devide et impera (divide and rule) tactic, a tactic they borrowed from the colonial Dutch, a tactic that made any authority look nice to everyone but benefited only the ruler of the country the most.
The New Order knew that the Chinese, the minority, was the easiest target for the bully. Any threats against the incumbent Soeharto could be easily deflected to the Chinese, plain and simple.
Any expert in cultural anthropology knows that in practice, the most effective ways for a successful assimilation is two-way assimilating. Both the majority and the minority must actively engage in the process wherein the government provides a conducive environment. Not only a one-way road, as forced by the old regime.
The Chinese never dutifully closed all the schools and organizations. The old regime forced them to do so by all means. No sane Chinese would rebel with a government who preferred to negotiate through bullets instead of arguments.
Also, they were hindered in chasing political dreams and they couldn't advance in the military. This is true until today.
There is no worse feeling than not knowing who you really are. I assume you've heard the story of an eagle egg lost in the chicken farm. The eagle doesn't know that he is an eagle because he is conditioned that he is a chicken. Until the eagle dies, he still thinks that he is a chicken.
Some excellent points made in this article regarding the resilience of the ethnic Chinese population in Indonesia, despite efforts during the New Order to limit cultural expression.
While one may choose to see the limitations as some sort of bigotry, the truth is that Soeharto was merely expressing his natural paranoia regarding any single identifiable group becoming too powerful or a challenge to his rule.
The same effort was made by Soeharto to severely limit overt Islamic culture as well. While the publicly stated enemy of the New Order was 'communism', the real fear was always a strong Islamic movement. The move to restrict Chinese culture had a similar basis in paranoia. For those who remember back then, it was rare to even see women publicly wearing a headscarf.
Despite the restrictions, however, Soeharto was always intimately friendly with many ethnic Chinese businesspeople and realized the need to have them as integrated agents of development.
Despite the cultural limitations on the ethnic Chinese community, the economy flourished with their participation and there was also a harmonizing degree of intermarriage and economic partnerships between pribumi and ethnic Chinese.
There has been discrimination. But, most educated Indonesians have never had a problem with this assimilation.
As in all nations, bigotry is nearly always strongest among the least educated. Indonesians should tip their hat to the ethnic Chinese community, which has helped build the burgeoning economy of the country. Everywhere you travel in the archipelago there are hard-working ethnic Chinese communities which are integral and often well-assimilated parts of the local economy.
Imlek is a good time for all to celebrate and reflect upon this great collaborative achievement and their positive role as a pillar of the Indonesian economy