Sent Wed, 14 Feb 2001 to Bahtera <> and 
Bahasa <> lists in response to an input 
by Tim Behrendt  deploring  summary accusations against Indonesian
Muslims in a letter by a Mike Subritzky placed in the  NZ Herald of
Wed, 14 Feb. 2001, on p. A16.
(reeditted to eliminate typos and mounted 16-Mar-01)

          > There are currently about 250 Chinese Indonesians in Auckland seeking 
          > refugee status on the grounds that they would be subject to violence, rape, 
          > even murder if they were to return to Jakarta. In support of this they cite 
          > the May '98 riots and other anti-Chinese incidents over the past 5 years.
          > I am quoting below a letter to the editor in today's New Zealand Herald 
          > (14/02). Anyone who would like to respond to the New Zealand Herald may 
Dear Tim,
Thanks for so promptly coming to the rescue of Indonesia's good name. But I'm afraid, the matter may perhaps be a bit more complicated than meets the eye.
First, what the country's reputation is concerned: those crimes (and countless more) were indeed committed, and the perpetrators are still walking around free, protected by influential persons in influential official posts. There is ample evidence sugesting this was either state terrorism or very close to that. The Indonesians have meanwhile managed to overthrow the nominal leader of the regime, but the apparatus, including elements directly implicated in the alleged crimes, is still very much intact, and actually blackmailing both democratic government as well as the pro-democracy public.
That is to say, it is still very much of a stalemate between perpetrators and Indonesians trying to save their country's reputation. Sympathisers abroad are beginning to wonder, whether they shouldn't upbolster their support of the democratic movement in Indonesia by applying force from outside against the perpetrators (formerly trained and armed by them, themselves). I understand, an international warrant of arrest has just about been decided upon against the responsible for the killing of five Australian and British TV-men in the Indonesian-occupied East Timorese town of Balibo in 1975. It seems, being a white victim still carries more weight in our enlightened 21st century. The countless more brown, black, and yellow victims are still waiting, if and when the perpetrators of the crimes against them get brought before a court or tribunal.
Second, the present refugees in NZ (and elsewhere): these are poor wretches facing up to challenges from both sides. Many fled Indonesia right after the May 1998 violence. They are deeply traumatized, regardless of whether they were immediately assailed or not. Already the anxiety of days and weeks of defencelessness, where not getting raped or your throat slit was a matter of luck, accidentally not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For many, they've lost most if not all their hard-earned belongings when fleeing for their dire lives (the super-rich Indon-Chinese don't need to apply for refugee status, these are the hardworking hardly-making-ends-meet variety we're dealing with). For all of them, it is a dilemma of which is stronger, homesickness for their land of birth, Indonesia, or terror of posttraumatic stress. So those who want to remain in NZ, indeed as a rule need to remain.
But there they face a coldhearted burocrat whose superiors want him to get rid of as many as possible of these troublesome refugees, and give him some slick legal formulas to hit them with (I'm quite sure it's not different in NZ than in highly civilized and democratic countries here in Europe). So the refugees answer in kind, and fight for their lives with all sorts of stories to fit the correct data input provided for by those slick formulas. Killing in self defence is not a crime anywhere, I think, so Indonesians shouldn't feel insulted. I mean these aren't people who came to NZ for the fun of it, or to bring damage to the Kiwis, and they'd probably love nothing more than being able to return to Indonesia in peace. But for many, the peace in their minds will never be restored again, and they have to make with exile in a far, unfamiliar, cold country, instead of the comfort of their homeland. Let's not make life even worse for them than it already is.
Now this NZH journalist is perhaps just riding the gravy train, making use of their plight to jazz up his story. Or perhaps he's just helping them by getting their story in the papers (looks good in a court proceedings). It's not worth our getting ourselves excited about it. I don't feel he's damaging Indonesia any. The damage is not from such stories, but from those criminals still walking around free and gloating even over the president. There's hardly anything more damaging, I think, than criminals walking around demonstratively showing their impunity.
But thanks for your well-meant concern for our reputation. Also to the others who responded either here or to the NZH. And apologies to all for this long and non-linguistic input.
Salam, Waruno
See also: My own letter to the New Zealand Herald; 
Mike Subritzky's clarifying reply.