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Jakarta Post

Unwelcome regulation

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, April 6, 2019   /   09:04 am
Unwelcome regulation The reality is that Yogyakarta, a de facto sultanate, still bans Indonesians of Chinese descent from owning land. (Shutterstock/khafidmukriyanto)

Another village in Yogyakarta, once seen as a beacon of tolerance and diversity, has grabbed national headlines yet again for the wrong reasons.

In December last year, the villagers of Purbayan in Kotagede cut off the top of a wooden cross on a Christian man’s grave, saying the religious symbol was not welcome in the village. Last week, it was revealed that officials in Karet village, Pleret subdistrict, Bantul, had issued a regulation banning non-Muslims from residing or owning land in the village.

The regulation, which has since been revoked, is unquestionably unconstitutional. Indonesia does not belong to any particular ethnicity or religious community, and there is no legislation stating only people of a certain faith can own land.

We applaud the locals for swiftly revoking the policy, but questions linger over why such a discriminatory regulation was formulated in the first place. Is it unique to the Special Region of Yogyakarta? Or is it a sign of the times?

The policy was brought to light when 42-year-old artist Slamet Jumiarto wanted to move into his rented house in the village. An unaware Slamet, who is Roman Catholic, went to the head of the local neighborhood unit (RT) to report that he was moving in and to hand over copies of his family card, ID and marriage certificate. He was then told he could not live in the village because he was not a Muslim.

It did not take long before Slamet’s complaint went viral, and that is because for many of us what happened to him is just not normal. Anyone should be able to move to or own land in any place they like as long as it is legal to do so and they have acquired all the legal permits. But, is that really the case?

The reality is that Yogyakarta, a de facto sultanate, still bans Indonesians of Chinese descent from owning land. Last year, the Yogyakarta District Court rejected a second petition to cancel the policy, enacted in 1975. If they can live in Yogyakarta why are they not allowed to own land?

Outside Yogyakarta, the idea of living in a Muslim-only community has also piqued the interest of many Muslims in Greater Jakarta. In recent years, Muslim-only housing complexes have proliferated in Jakarta’s satellite cities.

For property companies, such a trend is good business. And private entities can legally choose who they want to do business with. Thus, this exclusivism trend has not stirred much controversy, though it was criticized by some people who believe that the rise of gated Muslim, Christian or Chinese communities is a setback for Indonesia’s pluralism.

Indonesians have long bragged about being a friendly and diverse nation as clearly stated in its founding motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Indonesia should be a place where everyone, regardless of their faith, is welcome, and where discriminatory policies are not.