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Teaching Of Indonesian Language

11 February, 2001

University Criticised For Move To End The Teaching Of Indonesian Language

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is appalled at the proposal that the University of Auckland may end the teaching of the Indonesian language. (As revealed by Professor Emeritus Nicholas Tarling Acting Director of the New Zealand Asia Institute in a letter to the Herald on 9 February, 2001.)

"This would be a serious set-back for better understanding and communication between Indonesians and New Zealanders. While our group is often highly critical of actions of the Indonesian government and its military, we are absolutely in favour of close links between people and organisations in both countries."

"People to people contacts are the building blocks for a more peaceful world."

"We have a high admiration for the work of the Indonesian Studies department at the University and the contribution its lecturers have made to New Zealanders' knowledge and understanding of the rich culture, traditions and language of our neighbour."

"It is very worrying to hear that Indonesian is also being phased out at secondary schools in Auckland. Students, business people, our own members and many others wanting to learn or refresh Indonesian language skills will be seriously disadvantaged."

"Our letter to the University Vice Chancellor is appended."

for further information; Maire Leadbeater 09-376-9098 or 025-436-957

February 11, 2001.

Dr John Hood, The Vice Chancellor, University of Auckland, Private Bag, Auckland.

Dear Sir,

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has been very concerned to hear that the Indonesian language programme at Auckland University may be discontinued.

Indonesian is one of the major South-east Asian languages and the language spoken not only in the Indonesian archipelago, but also - with minor variations in Malaysia and Brunei-Darussalam. It is also the language of a significant migrant community in Auckland.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is a relatively new organisation but many of our members, including myself, were previously involved in the East Timor Independence Committee.

We were delighted to meet the lecturers of the School of Asian Studies when they approached us in 1995. We have developed a helpful level of co-operation and sharing despite our different roles and perspectives. We have been invited to attend seminars organised by the School and have been pleased to welcome lecturers and students to our events especially those that included a visiting speaker.

The teaching staff of the School of Asian Studies have helped us with translation on many occasions. The young people of East Timor were until recently educated in the Indonesian language, and there were times when we needed translation help to communicate. Now we have members who are Indonesian speakers and this is less of a problem, but we were very pleased recently to have some impromptu assistance from Dr Tim Behrend at a recent seminar when one of the participants preferred to speak in Indonesian.

I have personally also consulted with the Asian Studies lecturers over matters of culture and protocol. We are aware that many people make use of the courses and resources offered by the Asian Studies Department when they are preparing to visit Indonesia for business or study. It may be understandable that New Zealand students feel less inclined to study Indonesian in the wake of the tragic events in East Timor and human rights crises in several Indonesian regions. However, this response is one that must be challenged. It does not make sense to turn away from over 200 million people and from their rich culture and language because of the crimes of an undemocratic government and its military.

We would advocate that students take just the opposite approach, and welcome the chance to learn the language and begin to understand the culture so that they can forge personal ties to their counterparts in Indonesia. After all Indonesian students were in the forefront of the movement which toppled former President Suharto , and many continue their active involvement in the pro-democracy movement. People to people ties are the building blocks of a more peaceful world.

We are particularly alarmed at the prospect that the teaching of Indonesian may not be available in any educational institution in New Zealand. This would be an appalling and retrograde step for our future relationships with Indonesia and its people.

Please reconsider the decision to phase out the study of Indonesian language and culture.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

Copies to:

Professor Doug Sutton, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Auckland University.

Dr Richard Phillips, Director, School of Asian Studies.

Hon Mr Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Hon Mark Burton, Minister of Defence.

Hon Steve Maharey, Associate Minister of Education.

Hon Matt Robson, Minister for Disarmament.

Keith Locke, M.P. Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

Tim Groser, Chair of the Asia 2000 Foundation.

Cr Richard Northey, Chair of City Advocacy Committee, Auckland City Council.

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