The Jakarta Post Wed, 10/29/2008
The House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that terms ethnic and racial discrimination as serious crimes.
Deputy Speaker Muhaimin Iskandar, who presided over the House's plenary session to approve the draft law, said Indonesia no longer had any room for any form of racial or ethnic discrimination.
Chairman of the House's special committee deliberating the bill, Murdaya Poo, said the endorsement of the bill should put an end to the long-standing dichotomy between indigenous and non-indigenous people in the country.
"A man cannot choose to be born as part of a certain race or ethnic group, and therefore discrimination must cease to exist," said Murdaya, who is Indonesian-Chinese.
He said the House proposed the bill as part of its effort to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, which has been enacted since 1999.
Under the new law, leaders of public institutions found guilty of adopting discriminatory policies would face jail terms one-third more severe than those stipulated in the Criminal Code.
Citing an example, Murdaya said the governor or government of Aceh could not ban a gathering held by Javanese ethnics in the province.
He said the deliberation process had been delayed by a disagreement on whether imprisonment should be made the minimum punishment.
Jail as a minimum sentence is typically sought for serious crimes, such as corruption, terrorism, money laundering or drug abuse.
"We decided to set prison as the minimum sentence to deter people from committing racial or ethnic discrimination," said Murdaya, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
The bill was passed on the same day Indonesia celebrated the 100th anniversary of Youth Pledge, which Murdaya said should encourage Indonesians to uphold the diverse nature of the nation. -- JP
p/s photos: Coco Chiang