Indonesian Diaspora Still Underrated

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  • All members of the Palestine National Orchestra is a Palestinian diaspora throughout the world. TEMPO / Wisnu Agung Prasetyo

    All members of the Palestine National Orchestra is a Palestinian diaspora throughout the world. TEMPO / Wisnu Agung Prasetyo

    TEMPO.CO, Berlin - The potential of Indonesian diaspora is still undermined as of now, especially by bureaucrats in the country. During the Indonesian Diaspora Forum held at Indonesian Embassy in Berlin on Saturday, May 25, a sad story of LT Tan, an Indonesian diaspora who was rejected when he offered his skill in Indonesia, was revealed.

    However, it was more than just because of bureaucratic reasons. Many heads of local governments often refuse to deal with Indonesians who have changed their citizenship and consider them astraitors.

    LT TAN is a plastic surgeon expert from Surabaya, who is now a Dutch citizen. He recounted his experience when he was scorned by doctors in PematangSiantar, West Sumatera when he offered a free harelip operation. "They think I'm giving out useless help," said Tan during a conference. The conference was opened by Indonesian Ambassador for Germany, Eddy Pratomo. 

    With patience and right approaches, Tan finally managed to give free harelip operations to the local people although the doctor team, all of whom were Dutch citizens, were initially arrested by the police. "I managed to perform a surgery to 16 children per day and my fellow Dutch doctors, although they were not paid, were pleased with the hospitality of the people and they also loved Indonesian cookies," Tan said.

    Wahid Supriyadi, Expert Staff for the economic, social and cultural affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is also Head of Indonesian Diaspora Desk, acknowledged that it’s important to change the perspective about diaspora citizens. "Nationalism cannot be measured by legal aspects such as passports, but also by cultural aspects," he said. 

    He said that he once met an woman of an Indonesian descent in a remote region in Australia during his posting as a diplomatic consular in Canberra. The woman persistently gave an Indonesian language class for free, making the language even more popular than Italian in the region. 

    "To me, that woman has a bigger nationalism than those corruptors in Indonesia," he told the forum, which was attended by dozens of Indonesian academicians from all over Germany. 

    To date, diaspora is categorized as Indonesians living abroad, despite of their legal status, origin or ethnicity. However, it also includes foreign nationals who love Indonesia and give contributions to the development of Indonesia.

    Indonesian Ambassador to the US, Dino Patti Djalal, who initiated the first Diaspora Congress in Los Angeles last year, also cited an example of the wife of former US Ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Wofowitz.  His wife always wore Batik and spoke Javanese as a reflection of her love for Indonesia.

    Unfortunately, as of now, Indonesian government has not calculated the potential of Indonesian diaspora, despite the fact that from almost 5 millions of Indonesian diaspora from various skills living in 167 countries, most of them are professionals in their respective skills.

    Ambassador Dino said that according to a US demography and social research, the average income of Indonesian diaspora in the country reach US$ 59 thousand per year, US$ 10 thousand higher than the average income of US citizens, which is only US$ 49,777. "Diaspora can be a new economic force and a global phenomena," he added. There are 150 thousands Indonesian diaspora and it can be a potential human capital.

    It is undeniable that Indonesian diaspora is still translated as a desk in the Foreign Affairs Ministry. In China or India, they have a special ministry overseeing diaspora matters. Remittance from diaspora in those two countries is very high. However, Wahid was convinced that Indonesia would be soon acknowledged as a new economic force. He also mentioned the possibility of dual citizenship and multi-entry visa, which will be an important agenda to be discussed in the upcoming Indonesian Diaspora Congress in August this year.

    L Sri Pudyastuti Baumeister