Poll hopeful Rais promises new deal for ethnic Chinese
January 27, 1999

South China Morning Post

Barry Porter

Muslim leader Amien Rais has pledged to end all discrimination against ethnic Chinese if his National Mandate Party wins power in June's Indonesian elections.

He would encourage Chinese Indonesians to become civil servants, join the police or army and fully participate in all aspects of public life - jobs previously almost exclusively reserved for indigenous nationals.

Mr Rais was speaking yesterday at Singapore's Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, during a brief stopover on the island.

"According to the holy Koran, mankind is one," said the Muslim leader turned politician.

Mr Rais said he would make a deliberate policy of appointing some ethnic Chinese to cabinet posts.

He argued that because Indonesia's ethnic Chinese had no career opportunities other than business, it was no wonder they had dominated economic life.

While ethnic Chinese are only a small percentage of the population, it is believed they command about 70 per cent of the country's wealth. This has made them targets during the country's social unrest over the past year.

Mr Rais said he initially had advocated Indonesia adopt a Malaysian-style approach of positive discrimination towards indigenous natives to redistribute the country's wealth.

But he had changed his mind after seeing how it had bred cronyism, corruption and nepotism in Malaysia.