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Jakarta Post

Community unit head, staffers in Surabaya apologize over racist circular

  • Wahyoe Boediwardhana

    The Jakarta Post

Surabaya   /   Fri, January 24, 2020   /   02:55 pm
Community unit head, staffers in Surabaya apologize over racist circular

The head and all the staffers of community unit (RW) 03 at Bangkingan village in Surabaya, East Java made a public apology on Tuesday after issuing a circular that contained racist sentiments.

The circular issued on Jan. 12 went viral on social media on Tuesday and received a backlash from people condemning the racial statements.

The circular included the sentence: “Those who want to build a house and are not a pribumi, must give a contribution of Rp 500,000 (US$36) for the community unit and Rp 500,000 for the neighborhood unit”. 

The word pribumi is used to define those who are native Indonesians.

The circular included at least seven regulations on how pribumi must live in the area. 

However, on Tuesday evening the community unit head announced the cancellation of the circular as well as making a public apology.

“I, Paran, the head of RW 03, and neighborhood unit (RT) heads in this village, clarify and apologize for the circular of RW 03 Bangkingan village which contains the racist words pribumi and non-pribumi,” Paran, the head of RW 03 said after a meeting at the Surabaya police headquarters on Tuesday evening. 

“We officially canceled the circular. And we will revise it with further coordination with related parties”.  

Paran said they decided to withdraw it because it contradicted with a mayoral and Home Ministry decree. 

Surabaya Police spokesperson Adj. Comr. Akhyar confirmed to The Jakarta Post that they had summoned the village administrators of RW 03 Bangkingan village on Tuesday evening to clarify the circular. 

“Because there are sentences that sound racist, that’s why we tried to clarify and give them some mentoring,” Akhyar said. 

Josiah Michael, a member of Surabaya Legislative Council Commission A and a politician from the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) said he hoped people would not easily judge the administrators of RW 03 as racist.

“I suspect they had no intention of discriminating against anyone. (…) I think it’s more about the wording of the circular and the education background of the people. But I think we still have to clarify it because it will really disturb the social life and the extortion problems,” Josiah said.

Josiah, an Indonesian of Chinese descent, further said that he also experienced similar discrimination when he moved to Lakarsantri subdistrict four years ago. 

“But when I discussed it with them, I understood that what they meant as native people was those who were born and had lived in the area for generations. And those non-natives are the newcomers in the area that live in the new housing that has been widely developed in Lakarsanti. So, it is more about the wording, not about race. But still we have to clarify it,” Josiah said. 

The Surabaya administration has also summoned the subdistrict head, village head, RT head and RW head to sign a joint agreement to revise the decree.