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Another New Year

Jakarta Post Editorial - January 21, 2023

Jakarta – Now that the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have become manageable, if not under control, people and businesses are looking forward to another joyous celebration of the Lunar New Year on Sunday, less than one month after they reveled in the turning of the international year.

To liven up the festival, shopping malls, e-commerce platforms, restaurants and hotels are offering special discounts. The government also aims to benefit from the celebration, declaring Monday a collective holiday in a bid to boost consumer spending, the backbone of gross domestic product growth.

The long weekend policy has shown its desired impacts, at least in the increase in train ticket sales according to the state railway company PT KAI. Tourist destinations, as well as the entire tourist sector and its ecosystem, are also expected to welcome more visitors, hence more revenue.

We may regard this phenomenon as sweet revenge for more than two years of mobility restrictions the government imposed to contain the COVID-19 transmission. But considering the fact that the pandemic is not over yet, compliance with health protocols should continue. Chinese New Year should be a time to share happiness and hopes for good luck with loved ones and friends, rather than a source of anguish and disease.

According to the Chinese zodiac calendar the celebration on Sunday will usher in the Year of the Water Rabbit, while in Vietnam it is the Year of the Cat. In Chinese astrology, water symbolizes longevity and peace, while the rabbit is a representation of vigilance, wit, caution, deftness and self-protection.

Whatever the horoscope says about the Year of the Rabbit, we hope the new year will bring in health, prosperity and peace. The disasters resulting from COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and environmental degradation have caused suffering to millions, if not billions, across the world.

In Indonesia Chinese New Year was only acknowledged by the state as a national holiday in 2002 during the administration of president Megawati Soekarnoputri, although it was her predecessor Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid who restored the rights of the minority Chinese-Indonesians as part and parcel of a pluralist Indonesia.

The end of the New Order in 1998 marked the beginning of a new era of inter-racial relationships, in which the state took action to eliminate discrimination against minority groups. From that year on, we have witnessed more and more Chinese-Indonesians playing a bigger role in politics and government, either as regents, mayors, governors, ministers or lawmakers.

Admittedly, the inter-racial assimilation remains a major work-in-progress. The Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017 to some extent proved that the founding fathers' vision of a melting pot Indonesia as fulfillment of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity) remains a challenge. The dichotomy of pribumi (indigenous) versus non-pribumi (ethnic groups from outside of Indonesia, in particular Chinese-Indonesians) is a phenomenon in society that is not going to end anytime soon.

For a diverse country like Indonesia to progress, perhaps it is time to do more to promote national identity: the Indonesian people are those who contribute to or fight for the nation. After all, nobody can choose their ethnicity or race, but everyone has the right to their nationality.

Gong xi fa cai to all Indonesians.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2023/01/20/another-new-year.htm