Chinese Indonesian, Cultural Strategy and Peace Building: The Case of Solo

Thursday, October 31st, 2013, 08:23 WIB

wedforumIt has become truism to remark that combination economic inequality, social polarization, and other cultural factors are significant. In the case of conflict between ‘indigenous’ Indonesian and Chinese Indonesian, the combination has often provided fertile ground for racial unrest and political violence. For instance, there was Solo riot in May 1998 that is one of the worst riot for Indonesian Chinese throghout Indonesian modern era. Factors and actors of 'the  riot engineering' are complex, which include political interests, authorities, military, or certain groups in society. In this regard, economic factors are not the only one behind the occurrence of violence, but there are cultural factors that also very important.

The riot in Solo is the second worst riots after Jakarta. It caused Rp 457.534.945.000 financial loss, 31 died, 16.000 underemployments, and mental sufferings. In the Indonesian context that is over laden with the history of violence, up to now there are many failed efforts from the government to stop ‘cultural’ conflicts by using of conventional approaches. For instance, the government try to disclose the truth regarding who were the dhalang (initiators) behind the evil acts. Additionally, the riot prolongs the list of violence in the history of Solo and stamps the city as ‘sumbu pendek’ (short wick) and political barometer which can be easily ignited to do violence.

Yoachim Agus Tridiatmo, a PhD candidate of ICRS Yogya, presented this interesting topic. On Wednesday, October 30, 2013, he became a speaker on the Wednesday Forum. He hold Master of Arts in Theological Studies of Ateneo de Manila University, Filipina. He wrote some books and articles including Masalah-Masalah Moral (2000); together with Dr. Wening udasmoro Spiritualitas Warga Merapi. Agency dan Survival Strategy dalam Merespon Bencana (2012); contributor of Kembali ke Rumah Pancasila (2012), Menggugat Harmoni (2000) and Multikulturalisme. Membangun Harmoni Masyarakat Plural (2005). He is lecturer of Atma Jaya Yogyakarta University.

Yoachim brilliantly compared and contrasted between Yogyakarta and Solo, especially in term of peaceful coexistence among their people. He explained the relatively peaceful condition in Yogyakarta by mentioning its ‘branding label,’ like: City of Tolerance, City of  Education, City of Culture, City of Tourism, and Special Regency (Daerah Istimewa). These are completely different with Solo whose several notable riots, like: Kartasura Riot (1742); Solo Chinese v.s. Muslim Traders (1912); Japanese Occupation (1943-1945); September 1965 Move (1965-1966); and Riots on November 1980 and May 1998.

He explained that in the situation of transition from post-violence to peace, the Chinese Indonesians in Solo and Solo people at large are struggling to remove the dark face of the city with cultural strategy. Therefore, some cultural events are continously and consistently conducted to build the peaceful Solo. His study proves that cultural strategy is more effective than the political one. Then, he convincingly argued that it is relevant to use culture as media for Chinese to integrate into Indonesians/Javanese society. In this regard, he uses Gungwu (1991) theory that political approach should be secondary after the cultural approach.

After that, Yoachim, critically argued that cross-cleavage organizations in Solo are relevant for peace building. In this regard, he refer to associations, forums, and corporation, such as: PMS (Perkumpulan Masyarakat Surakarta/Association of Surakarta Society); Solo Bersama Selamanya (Solo Together Forever), an association of social organizations in Solo working together for helping those who need; Garebeg Sudirapraja (Sudirapraja Carnival), a combination between Javanese Kraton tradition to bring in procession of agricultural products with Chinese tradition of Imlek; Yayasan Pendidikan Warga; Konimex, Roti Ganep and other Chinese Indonesian’s enterprises. For these reasons, he concluded that cultural strategy is very potential for peacebuilding. (admin,che)