Ethnic Chinese will get ‘even-handed’ treatment

THE new Indonesian government will be even-handed in its treatment of ethnic Chinese businessmen and avoid the racial discrimination they faced under previous administrations, Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman said.

He told The Straits Times in an interview that Jakarta would take firm action against Chinese conglomerates if there was evidence of corruption but it would do likewise if pribumis or indigenous Indonesians were involved.

“There is no reason to single out the Chinese because they are part of the social fabric,” he said.

“The sense that I am getting from the Chinese conglomerates is that they want us to be tough. If one of their compatriots is involved, then they would expect us to crack down and pursue the matter to the end. It won’t scare them off if we treat others the same way.”

He observed that the Habibie government was not “even-handed” in the way it dealt with ethnic Chinese businessmen. “Some of the policies adopted in the past weren’t fair and were misused to meet certain political objectives. That is the main reason the Chinese community reacted so negatively by taking their money out of the country,” he said.

He cited in particular efforts by government officials in the previous administration in targeting selectively ethnic Chinese-run banks on a hit list for closure. “Once the bankers were found guilty, they would be banned for life,” he added.

Another area of concern, he said, was the imposition of bans on ethnic Chinese from leaving the country in a move to block them from taking their money out.

He said that the current government would not push to extradite those who had left Indonesia. “Legally, they did not transgress the law, so we can’t fault them.

“There was a lot of hue and cry previously because government officials were jumping on the bandwagon of nationalism.” The Habibie government, in an effort to get them back, had pushed for an extradition treaty with countries like Singapore where, it said, many “economic criminals” were taking refuge.

But Mr Marzuki was more circumspect on the treaty issue.

He said the government would consider it sometime in the future but it would be used only for “the aim of capturing people who have committed real crimes”.

He said there had been cases before where Jakarta had difficulty apprehending Indonesians under investigation and in Singapore.

He said: “We will have to be specific on the cases. We won’t want to extradite them if they take money out.

“But if they are involved in narcotics and embezzlement of funds and choose to escape, then it would come in handy.”

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