Decree ready to implement citizenship law
Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post
Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin said Wednesday that a ministerial decree would be issued this weekend to effect the implementation of the Citizenship Law passed in July.
He said the decree contained the mechanisms to apply for or pursue Indonesian citizenship, including granting Indonesian citizenship to offspring of transnational marriages and clarifying the status of Indonesians who have resided abroad for an extended period.
Included in the decree, he added, were the necessary forms and other technical requirements.
"A transnational marriage couple only need fill in the form to confirm their children's citizenship. The form can be signed by either of the parents," he said on the sidelines of a seminar.
Previously, children born of a foreign father and Indonesian mother automatically received his nationality, but the new law allows children of such unions to hold dual citizenship until they reach maturity at age 21. When the child turns 18, he or she has three years to choose the nationality of one of the parents.
Hamid said the forms would be available next week at Indonesian embassies and consulates abroad, enabling Indonesian-born people who were stripped of their citizenship to regain it.
Hundreds of Indonesians studying abroad during the attempted 1965 coup blamed on the communist party lost their rights, with the Soeharto government linking them to subversive movements.
Other Indonesians, mostly migrant workers, also have become stateless after failing to report to Indonesian missions abroad.
Hamid said people from these groups should report their intention to retain their citizenship at Indonesian embassies or consulates, but they would not have to undergo a naturalization process.
"They only need to fill out the form, and we will process it within a maximum of three years. If there is no Indonesian representative office in the country they live in, they can just write to us," he said, adding that he would visit the Netherlands and France, where many of the ex-students live, to promote awareness of the decree.
The law, passed on July 11, was hailed as revolutionary by legislators in helping end discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians and Indonesian women married to foreign spouses.
Other key elements of the law include revising the definition of "indigenous Indonesian" to include all citizens who never assume foreign citizenship; enabling foreign spouses to seek Indonesian citizenship after living here for five consecutive years or 10 accumulated years, and entitling the spouse to permanent residence under the same conditions.
Despite the goodwill to eradicate discrimination, there are doubts it will be able to completely do away with the entrenched exploitation of Chinese-Indonesians by elements of the bureaucracy and the perception of them as foreigners.
Many ethnic Chinese say they continue to face difficulties when applying for legal documents, even though the law on citizenship certificates was scrapped in 1996, and a 1999 presidential decree specifically abolished the need to present the certificate.
Wealthy Chinese-Indonesians often use the services of brokers to help them in dealing with the bureaucratic web. But lower-income ethnic Chinese end up with no legal identification, like those living in West Jakarta, Surabaya and South Sumatra.
Hamid said there would be criminal sanctions for officials who were ignorant about the regulations or hindered people wishing to become Indonesian.