Date: Wed, 28 Jan 1998 05:09:10 -0500
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Subject: Fwd: IN: Not-so-happy New Year (SCMP)
Not-so-happy New Year for Chinese fearful they will be targets of violence
By Greg Torode,
in South China Morning Post
27 January 1998
The Year of the Tiger has already lost its roar for Jakarta's troubled
ethnic Chinese community.
Today they will stay indoors and keep off the near-silent streets of
Chinatown to celebrate the coming of what many fear could be the
toughest year of their lives. Security forces will be patrolling the
streets ensuring a wholesale ban of any public celebration is enforced
in restaurants, hotels and parks. Not even dragon dances, banned all
through the year, are allowed.
In policies that have long since disappeared elsewhere in the region,
the Government has prohibited virtually all Chinese cultural
trappings, including Chinese-language signs.
Mounting fears of ethnic violence in the wake of the economic crash
have sparked warnings of tighter-than-usual security over the New
"I guess it doesn't really matter what the Government does, it is
going to be a tough New Year anyway," said Guzmal Wangke, a
52-year-old furniture shop owner who, like many of Indonesia's six
million Chinese, speaks mostly Indonesian and has adopted a local
"There is not much to celebrate. All the talk has made a lot of us
very scared. Everyone says we will be the first to be hit. I just tell
people to remember that we are Indonesian as well as Chinese."
Many of the wealthy elite who control much of Indonesia's commerce
will be staying at home, a plunging rupiah making trips to Singapore
much more costly.
A Chinese stockbroker said: "It is all doom and gloom. We can't even
drive the spirits away with a few firecrackers. Some of us have been
in Indonesia for just one or two generations and we still like to keep
up our traditions. But at the moment you just have to put all these
things out of your mind and get on with your work."
Resentment and suspicion is apparently widespread across Indonesia,
fuelled in part by the vast wealth of a string of Chinese tycoons with
close links to President Suharto. Other Chinese can date families back
hundreds of years before the arrival of Dutch colonialists.
Copyright =A91998 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.