Jakarta – It is heartening to see how Indonesia is moving to easing restrictions on dual citizenship, although how far reaching and how soon this will happen, we have to wait and see.
The House of Representatives is drafting a bill a law to allow members of the Indonesian diaspora to have two nationalities, while the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights affairs is considering to extend the right to dual nationality for children of mixed marriages, the only group that has such privilege, from 21 years at present, to 30 years, when they have to decide on one nationality.
Both accommodate the reality of the growing number of Indonesians emigrating and taking up citizenship in other countries, and of the rising number of Indonesians marrying foreigners. For the first group, dual citizenship would allow let them dedicate their services to their home country even after taking up a new nationality. For the second group, they would have the luxury of dedicating their live and services to the two countries of their parents.
Since the trend of Indonesians emigrating or marrying with foreigners will continue, then why take a half-hearted measure in allowing dual citizenship. Why not go all the way and impose as few restrictions as necessary to allow these two groups to hold two passports? What have we really got to lose?
The security argument against dual citizenship no longer holds water due to increasing government-surveillance power, thanks to the information technology. Surely abuses would be easily and quickly detected.
The second most often cited counterargument, that of split loyalty, is also questionable. If you are born to Indonesian parents, you are an Indonesian flesh and blood. That emotional link cannot be easily erased, even after you change citizenship.
This argument of split loyalty was used in enacting a law to end the right to dual citizenship for ethnic Chinese Indonesians in 1958. But things have changed today that the argument is no longer valid.
The benefits of allowing dual citizenship for certain categories of people, particularly members the Indonesian diaspora and children of mixed-marriages, far outweigh the risks, which as we have explained, could be managed.
Arcandra Tahar is one example of how the strict rule against dual citizenship had almost cost Indonesia his services. He was recalled home from his cozy job in the oil industry in Texas by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to serve in the Cabinet in 2019, but almost lost it when it was found that he had held both Indonesian and American citizenship. He finally gave up his American passport to be able to serve as vice minister of energy and mineral resources.
Orient P. Riwu Kore was not so lucky. He won the election for the Sabu Raijua regency in East Nusa Tenggara in 2020, only to be annulled because he turned out to have hold an American passport, in violation of the law. We'll never find out whether this is his loss or ours.
But these two episodes show there are many Indonesians as well as former Indonesians, out there who have the potential to serve their home country and contribute to its development. They would too, if given the chance. A law allowing dual citizenship would go a long way in tapping these potentials.