Indonesia has come a long way since the anti-Chinese riots of 1998, but there are apparently some relics from the old days of ethnic tension and discrimination still embedded in Indonesian law.
A woman in Yogyakarta named Eni Kusumawati was recently denied land ownership certificates for two areas of land by the Bantul Land Agency.
The reason she was denied the certificates was simply because she is Chinese-Indonesian.
The Bantul Land Agency justified their decision by citing Yogyakarta Regional Head Instruction Letter No. K.898/I/A/1975 on the Unification of Land Rights Issuance Policy for Non-Pribumi (non-native) Indonesians. The law was signed by Yogyakarta Deputy Governor Paku Alam XIII in 1975 and says that all regents and mayors in Yogyakarta are not allowed to issue land ownership certificates to non-natives.
Eni, through her lawyer Willy Sanjaya, filed a protest with the Ombudsman office in Yogyakarta regarding the decision. The office said it would consider it.
“The letter of instruction was addressed to all heads of regions in the province. We will investigate why non-indigenous citizens should not have land ownership rights,” Ombudsman Assistant Representative Dahlena said on Thursday as quoted by MetroTV.
Mardiyana, the chief of the Bantul Land Agency, said his office was simply following the existing laws. “She is better off complaining to [Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengku Buwono X], we are just carrying out the regulation,” Mardiyana said as quoted by Tempo.
Indeed, if the Ombudsman Office does not do anything to help Eni, she and other Yogyakartans discriminated against by the outdated law may have no choice but to appeal to the Sultan himself.
Another citizen of Yogyakarta, Handoko, filed an appeal against the law with the the Supreme Court, but the appeal was rejected by the court on the grounds that regulation was based on a letter of instruction and was not a product of legislation.
The Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has also twice appealed to the Yogyakarta government not to enforce the regulation. But the Ombudsman’s office has previously said it would respect the Supreme Court’s decision.
It is simply unbelievable that such a blatantly discriminatory law could still exist and be enforced anywhere in Indonesia in this day and age, let alone Yogyakarta. It’s wrong and it needs to be overturned immediately.