Election Day in Indonesia

I rarely write about politics in Indonesia these days mostly because I have a hard time keeping track of what’s going on with all of the instability in my own life (selling houses, retiring, moving back to Bali, going back to work again, moving back to Sumbawa, etc.) over the past year. But, I keep track of as much as I can, and I do spend quite a bit of time discussing Indonesian politics with my Indonesian friends and family.

My wife has gotten involved in politics for the first time this year, and I’ve written a bit about that. She’s campaigned for SBY (the current president for those of you from around the world) in the neighborhood, and she’s been a big supporter of his for one main reason – she sees him as being the least xenophobic of the presidential candidates.
With four children here, their legal status has been a major concern of ours for years. In the past the Indonesian government recognized them only as foreigners. (One particularly nasty immigration official once told me that my children had no rights in Indonesia because they were just like me – foreigners.) We used to have to pay for their annual KITAS so that they could continue to live with their mother (an Indonesian citizen) in the country where they were born. We spent a good deal of money over the years in order for them to live here.

A few years ago, the law was changed, and children of Indonesian mothers received Indonesian citizenship just like they would have if they had had an Indonesian father.
Besides saving us some money, our children were finally legally recognized by the country of their birth. A country, by the way, where they will probably live for the rest of their lives. My wife still can break into tears when she remembers all the worries that she had in the old days about what would happen to them if I had died suddenly. The granting of citizenship to our children was one of the major events of our 19 years of marriage.

Should Expats Be Allowed to Discuss Indonesian Politics?

I only mention this because it actually is an issue here, at least certainly on some expat forums. It seems that there are Indonesians who think that we should not be allowed to comment on Indonesian affairs. In all fairness, no one has ever said that directly to me. (Well, an Indonesian government official did once during my years of campaigning for rights for Papuans when I was in what was then Irian Jaya, but no regular citizens have actually told me that.) There seems to be only one response to the question above that makes sense, and that is, of course, yes we should.

Why shouldn’t we? We live here, a lot of us pay taxes, we support the economy, we raise children, and some of us contribute in other ways to Indonesian culture and society. I would expect foreigners living in the United States to take part in political discussions, so why shouldn’t the same apply to me – an American living and working in Indonesia? As I said, it just seems to make sense.

Foreigners have been commenting on other cultures throughout recorded history. Some of most insightful comments about a culture, often come from people who are actually outside that culture in one way or another. Of course, as an anthropologist, this is what I was trained to do so there’s my disclaimer. It’s a tired cliché to say that we live in a global society. Is there anybody who doesn’t recognize that these days?


~ by drbrucepk on July 8, 2009.

One Response to “Election Day in Indonesia”

  1. Campaigning for rights of Papuans? That probably resulted in some backlash regardless of how nasty the officials were! I do hope SBY wins it again – I like the path Indonesia is on right now!

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