Jakarta govt ‘is not against Chinese’

Minister says ‘gross misperception’ was fuelled by government action against Chinese-owned banks.

THERE is a “gross misperception” that the Indonesian government is targeting the ethnic Chinese minority and trying to drive them out of the country, said Minister for State Enterprises Tanri Abeng.

“There are a few people against the Chinese in the country but they do not reflect the government line,” he told The Straits Times in an interview.

“This government does not have a stated policy of being anti-Chinese. If there is such a perception, then it is very wrong.”

He said reports of government action against Chinese-owned banks like Bank Central Asia, Bank Danamon and Bank Dagang Nasional Indonesia for misappropriation of funds, fuelled speculation that Jakarta was conspiring to victimise Chinese businessmen.

“The fact of the matter is that these people misappropriated funds. We had to act against them because they did something wrong. It is just unfortunate that all of them are Chinese.

“But if pribumis had done the same thing we would have punished them as well. We will not draw a line between the Chinese and pribumis because all of them are Indonesians.”

He said that President B. J. Habibie was working hard to include all ethnic groups in deciding the country’s future directions.

Asked about Dr Habibie’s recent comments that Indonesia could do without the ethnic Chinese in the economy, he replied:

“As a politician he had to make that statement. If the Chinese do not want to return, what else can we do but to turn to existing resources. We cannot depend solely on any one group.

“But that does not mean he is anti-Chinese as some have misconstrued.”

Mr Tanri also downplayed claims of systematic rapes of Indonesian-Chinese women during the May riots.

“I would say that the whole thing has been exaggerated. There may be a few cases but certainly not on a large scale.”

Last week, Indonesian military chief and Defence Minister General Wiranto said no evidence had been found to support allegations of mass rapes.

According to Republika Daily, Gen Wiranto said police had checked some 20 hospitals in Jakarta and several others in Singapore and Perth, where rape victims were reported to have sought treatment following their ordeal, but found no evidence to confirm the reports.

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