Victim And Witness: Riot In Jakarta May 1998’s

The May 1998 riots were biggest disaster racial riots against ethnic Chinese that occurred in Indonesia on May 13 – May 15, 1998. It happens mostly in the capital city of Jakarta but occurred in other several regions. This riot was anticipated by the Asian Financial Crisis, and triggered by the Triksakti tragedy in which four Triksakti University students were shot and killed in a demonstration on May 12, 1998. My family and I are Chinese descents that were targeted by the mobs during that time. During this time, I was fortunate that my mom, my older brother, and I were in Singapore. My brother and I were having our education in Singapore, and my mom as lovely mother was looking out after us. However, my dad as the breadwinner of the family was living in Indonesia, Jakarta and he was a victim and a witness of the Jakarta May 1998’s Riot. In this essay, I would like to tell the experience that he went through during that chaotic and disaster time.

Almost twenty years have passed, but the memories of the event still imprint in my dad’s memory. During the May 13 1998 riot, my dad was in Indonesia, Jakarta. At that time, my dad was 49 years old; in the morning, he was still at home and ready to go work at his shop house in the Glodok area until the telephone rang. He received a call from his worker who apparently worked at his shop house. He mentioned that his worker told him that his shop was raided by the mob. The mob violently opened the locked shop door and took everything, our merchandises, computer, office appliances, printer, air conditioner, chair, tables etc. It was a tragic moment especially when my dad had just restock our import goods and merchandises just the day before. My dad experienced huge financial lost due to this tragic event. My dad’s shop was ruined, windows were broken into with stones, doors were smashed, and everything was a mess.

My dad told me that our shop next door neighbor had armies guarding their shop, so our next door neighbor shop’s goods and merchandises were safe, however our shop didn’t. Even though our shop was raided and had many of our goods taken, my dad said he was fortunate that our shop wasn’t burn down like many other shop houses since our next door neighbor had armies guarding his shop. If it wasn’t for our neighbor, our shop would have been burned down like many other shop houses in the Jakarta area. In addition, my dad also told me that there was a shop nearby my dad’s shop that was called “Gampang Ingat” which mean “Easy to Remember”. The shop was burned down and had everything broken into. For years, the shop wasn’t repaired due to financial issues. Today the shop remained there, and when I pass by, the shop was not called “Gampang Ingat” anymore, but “Ingat Terus”, which mean “Always be Remembered”. My dad told me that it was a nightmare for the owner that he chose that name for his shop. It shows how the tragic event had stuck in his mind and never been forgotten. My dad mentioned that he witnessed armies of troop guarding the Pantai Mutiara area, which was the location of where my family lives in. There was a tank and had many armies guarding at frontal gate of the Pantai Mutiara resident. My dad said he was lucky that the neighborhood that he was living in was guarded. If it wasn’t for the armies, the neighborhood that we lived in would be raided by the mob.

Many Chinese residents around the area would be killed and women would be rape. During that time, my dad was not able to do anything, but to only stay at home and watch the chaotic news on the television of how peoples’ houses, shops, and buildings were broken into and things were looted. He mentioned the news on the television regarding how the Chinese were killed and women were rape. The mob destroyed malls, burned buildings, cars, and shop looting was ongoing. My dad was really worried about this incident; he was confused whether our family could ever live in Indonesia ever again. He was worried whether how he can make a living in Indonesia if this tragic event keeps happening. While thinking of a solution out, he was able to receive a call from the factory he had in the Tangerang area. My dad was scared and anxious at that time, but the call was good news. My dad was always nice and humble to the people around living in factory that he had (Tangerang area). He mentioned that he received a call from one of his loyal worker (the manager) that the factory was safe and sound. There were mobs who wanted to target my dad’s factory in the beginning, however the person who lives around that area mentioned to the mobs that the factory was abandoned, and nothing was inside. Due to that reason, the mobs decide to leave that area, and go elsewhere. If it wasn’t for the benevolent act of the people around that area, my dad’s factory would be broken into, machinery and many other goods would be stolen, and even worse, it could have been burned down by the violent mobs.

My dad could have suffered a huge financial loss, and my brother and I would not have able to study abroad in Singapore since our family’s main income comes from the Indonesia. Even though this event had happened two decades ago, the horrific memories still remembered. I am thankful that my family was unharmed during the riots, especially my dad. My family wishes that a tragic and chaotic event like this would not happen again. Not only were the Chinese affected by this event, but as well as the locals who live with us. This had impacted the Indonesia economy and brought embarrassing news to the rest of the world. We as a nation should live in peace and harmony and should not judge each other by the color of our skin. We want our nation to grow like many other developed countries such as America, Singapore, Europe and Hong Kong etc. It’s a disgrace for our nation to go through an event like this. It shows how cruel and inhuman of how we treat each other. I hope Indonesia; my beloved country where I call my home can grow in harmony.

15 April 2020
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