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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

Immanuel Kant posited that not all humans are considered as persons. He argued that being a human isn’t sufficient to make one and to be considered as a person. A human being is considered a “person” when he or she possesses more than rationality, but more importantly a community in which he or she has a place to experience consciousness, reason, motivation, communication, and presence of self.

Arguably, in Indonesia, being a member of minority groups, based on faith, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and political affiliation oftentimes places one in a difficult position where he or she is “discounted” person, even a “discounted” human being.

The recent clash between poverty-stricken Chinese-Indonesian community called Cina Benteng, which is an assimilated minority group, in Tangerang, West Java, with the authority evicting their homes on the basis of 2000 bylaw on cleanliness, orderliness and beauty by erecting permanent buildings along the river bank, is allegedly believed as a form of legalized persecutions done by the government of Indonesia towards minority groups, especially the ethnic Chinese.

Another incident in March, the government has been allowing violent acts to be suffered by those belonging to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer) minority group. The recently cancelled The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) conference in Surabaya is a strong indication of Indonesian government’s impotence, ignorance, and unwillingness to protect this minority group, among others.

By allowing the police to bow down to Islam Defenders Front (FPI) by allowing violent acts and declaring the conference didn’t have a permit –which is not required by law as quoted from Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Indonesian government has failed minority rights, human rights, and humanity.

Both incidents underscore Indonesian government’s ignorance on equality before the law and equal rights for minority. After all, human rights should be adhered to all human beings, regardless of their acceptance by other groups as “persons” or not.

Assuming the allegation of “orchestrated eviction” can be proven, the clash between government authority with the Cina Benteng minority group is a form of direct (active) persecution because it is done by the government or a government body. According to Article 7 of The Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court, “persecution is defined as the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law, which is committed against an identifiable group by reason of its politics, race or culture.” Persecution is a form of crimes against humanity.

Three important elements of “persecution” are: serious attack on human dignity, not isolated incidents but done or condoned by government authority, and widespread systematic practice. These three variables can be found in the Cina Benteng incident, assuming the allegations can be proven. In a weak democracy like Indonesia, it is always a challenge to prove wrongdoings of government and its officials, especially pertaining to human rights.

In March incident of cancellation of ILGA conference in Surabaya, the hands of government were not directly involved, instead they simply condoned the violence performed by an Islamo-fascist group named FPI. This incident, thus, is a form of persecution, not merely a “hate crime.”

Many people confuse “hate crime” with “persecution.” There is a fine line between the two.
Hate crime occurs when the motive of a violent or not-too-violent crime is hatred towards the victim’s membership in racial, religious, political, sexual, and other orientation(s) groups. A hate crime is an isolated incident and is not approved, condoned, or performed by the government or governmental bodies. A hate crime is not a systematic practice, but done to satisfy the doer’s satisfaction.

Thus, in a robbery targeting victims of a particular group, then it is a “hate crime.” However, whenever the visible or the invisible hands of government take part in a particular incident, then it is a “persecution” for sure.

Alas, in Indonesia, “hate crime” is something foreign, and “persecution” is oftentimes considered “normal” due to Suharto’s administration that had been systematically persecuting minority groups using legal and non-legal measures.

We should educate ourselves to identify and to stop spreading forms and seeds of persecution and hate crime.

One of the most common forms of ignorance by the majority is “rational discrimination.” According to Dinesh D’Souza in The End of Racism, “rational discrimination” is based on generalized group conducts, not biological inferiority. Examples of “rational discrimination” can be found in usage of certain terms in the media when referring individuals belonging to certain minority groups, such as identifying a person as a Chinese-Indonesian or “a man with slanted eyes.”

“Rational discrimination” itself should be distinguished from racism, because one is possible to become a racist without being discriminatory. What we disapprove is “rational discrimination,” in which membership of belonging to a particular group is used to generalize, hence persecute.

In Indonesia, all human beings are persons. No one is better than the others.[]

The Jakarta Post, April 16, 2010

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