Indonesia (see also Malaysia)

Women rescued from sex ring

Malaysian police and the staff of the Indonesian consulate have rescued 13 Indonesian women allegedly forced into the sex trade in the interior Keningau district. The rescue came a week after two of them escaped from the hotel.  The women, aged between 14 and 24, were sent back to Indonesia through Tawau.  The Keningau police are reportedly questioning the alleged pimp and three of his assistants. 


Extradition of people smuggler suspect

Egypt and Australia have demanded the right to extradite Abu Quassey, the alleged people smuggler, from Indonesia.  Quassey, who holds an Egyptian passport, was arrested on immigration charges in Jakarta in November 2001, a month after the sinking of a boatload of asylum seekers traveling from Indonesia for Australia.  He remains in an Indonesian detention center after serving a six-month jail term for overstaying his visa.  Australia said it wants to try Quassey for the passengers’ death and has issued international warrants for his arrest. 


Indonesia’s extradition treaty with Australia does not cover smuggling; Indonesia might likely send him to Egypt. As of 14 February, Indonesia’s Minister of Justice and Human rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said that it is better to send Quassey to his country of origin. He said that Australia has no legal right to demand the extradition as the sinking occurred in international waters, not in Australian waters as claimed by Canberra. 


Citizenship bill still racist

For the first time, the Lunar New Year or Imlek (also known as the Chinese New Year) was declared a national holiday. However, Frans Winarta said the elimination of discrimination against Chinese Indonesians would take a long time. It would require not only the revocation of about 60 discriminatory laws but also the commitment by all sides to promote tolerance, assimilation and equality. He said revoking the discriminatory regulations would not guarantee equality unless all groups in society were committed to accept Chinese Indonesians as part of a pluralistic society. 


The call to end institutionalized discrimination against Chinese Indonesians has fallen on deaf ears as both the government and the House have moved to reinforce existing discriminatory laws. In the citizenship bill that is to be deliberated in the House, the government has not attempted to reverse regulations requiring Chinese Indonesians to obtain the Republic of Indonesia Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI). The Citizenship Law No. 62/1958 requires Chinese-Indonesians to obtain the SBKRI; many had hoped the new citizenship bill would scrap this requirement.  Article 39 of the new bill, which was submitted to the House in 2000, provides that every one is required to prove their citizenship. President Megawati Soekarno reportedly asked Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra to revoke the SBKRI ruling, but the latter said this would go against the 1958 citizenship law. Chinese-Indonesians are the most affected by the SBKRI ruling as institutions like the immigration office and state universities still require them to present an SBKRI if they want to get a passport or enroll. The government has actually scrapped all laws and regulations on the SBKRI requirement through Presidential Decree No. 56/1996, but many institutions have been reluctant to implement it.


Indonesians of Chinese descent account for about three percent, or around six million, of the country’s 215 million population. 


Sources:  Muguntun Vanar, “13 Indons rescued from forced prostitution," The Star, 1 February 2003; Zakki Hakim, “Political will needed to eliminate racial discrimination," Jakarta Post, 3 February 2003; Moch. N. Kurniawan and Berni K. Moestafa, “Citizenship bill maintains institutionalized racism," Jakarta Post, 6 February 2003;  AP, “Egypt, Australia demand extradition of alleged people smuggler," 6 February 2003;  AP, “Alleged people smuggler unlikely to be sent to Australia," 14 February 2003