Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
Updated: February 28, 2018 09:32 AM GMT
Chinese Indonesians in Yogyakarta say a local edict banning them from owning lad is discriminatory. (Photo by Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP)
An ethnic Chinese lawyer is to appeal after failing in a court bid to overturn a "racist" edict issued by an Indonesian provincial governor more than 40 years ago prohibiting people of Chinese descent from owning land.
The ruling by a district court in Yogyakarta province upheld an edict issued by the governor in 1975 — and which is still in force — which allowed only indigenous Indonesians the right to own land in the province.
Discrimination against ethnic Chinese people remained very strong at the time following the massacres of Chinese Indonesians in 1965/1966 over their alleged links to Communist China.
Communists were blamed for an alleged plot that resulted in the murder of several Indonesian generals.
More than 40 years on, Handoko, an ethnic Chinese lawyer, filed a lawsuit recently trying to overturn the edict.
Last week the Yogyakarta district court dismissed the lawsuit, saying the edict was imposed to protect the interests of indigenous Indonesians who it said were economically less well off.
Handoko rejected the ruling and vowed to take the case to the High Court.
"I will fight on, because it's racist," Handoko said, adding that it was nonsense to say that non-indigenous people were richer.
"There are also poor people of Chinese descent," he added.
National ID cards do not distinguish ancestry and an agrarian law asserts that all citizens can own land, he said.
As Indonesians, ethnic Chinese should be afforded the same rights as everyone else, he said.
Complaints against the edict have been long running and in 2015 a petition was filed with the National Commission on Human Rights. The commission recommended repealing the edict.
"This discriminatory policy will ultimately only hinder development in the area," the commission said.
Zaelous Siput Lokasari, 62, who bought 2,125 square meters of land in Yogyakarta in 2015 said he did not get a certificate of ownership.
"The [local] government says I'm Chinese so I don't have the right to own land. I only have usage rights," he told ucanews.com.
Suyitno, an advisor to the present governor, said the edict would probably be repealed if the wealth gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people was significantly reduced ore removed.
"The aim of the edict was to alleviate and reduce this gap," he said.