The Chinese lanterns were gone from some main streets in Semarang on Monday 13 August 2007! At first, those lanterns were put there to celebrate three events at the same time: SPA (Semarang Pesona Asia), the anniversary of Central Java province, and the independence day. They would hang to decorate the main streets until August 18. Unfortunately, the plan was canceled. Those lanterns were gone. Instead, people can see small red and white flags. Compare the pictures of Pemuda street below. The one with lanterns were taken on Saturday August 11 2007, the other ones were taken on August 16, 2007.
Why were they gone? You can refer to my previous post I entitled ‘Semarang. Djawahir Muhammad, as one representative of the expert in culture said the objection of people from some walks of life because those lanterns showed the dominance of one ethnic group in Semarang, Chinese. Semarang does not only consist of Chinese ethnic group. There are two other dominant ethnic groups, Javanese and Arabian. Djawahir was worried if the lanterns would hurt people from different ethnic groups. Djawahir also said that it would be better if the municipal government put Javanese lanterns rather than Chinese ones.
Professor Eko Budiharjo suggested that those lanterns could be used to decorate Chinatown, while some other areas could be decorated by using ethnic-free decoration.
Yesterday I interviewed some students of mine about this. Some said that they didn’t pay attention to it. They didn’t recognize there were new decorations in their city. Some others said that they were questioning too, “Why this big event—SPA—event had closely related to Chinese culture?” Some others agreed with what Djawahir Muhammad said that it hurt people from other ethnic group, especially Arabian. Some other students said that the lanterns indeed made Semarang more beautiful and they didn’t mind it at all that it was Chinese culture. “Chinese culture is a part of Semarang culture. Why should I mind?” The fact that those lanterns were hanging only temporarily and not permanently made them think that it was really okay. “It will not out of the blue transform Semarang into one Chinese city anyway,” one student said.
Talking about the suggestion of Professor Eko, along Pahlawan street, there have been decoration that shows some puppets characters for many years, such as ‘Semar’, ‘Petruk’ until ‘gunungan’. This decoration can be said as the representative of the Javanese ethnic group in Semarang, and this decoration is permanent. Pahlawan street is also one main street that will lead people coming from the South area to Simpang Lima, the downtown of Semarang. Does this decoration ever make other ethnic groups jealous or create ethnic gap? I don’t think so.
If Chinese lanterns are only put in the Chinatown—far from the downtown, how can people see the multiculturalism in Semarang?
I assume that the Javanese as the majority don’t like the Chinese decoration because Chinese is just the minority? While other ethnic group (read it Arabian) feels more marginalized because there is no decoration showing their ethnic yet in Semarang.
Well, indeed this is a very crucial issue. I personally mind the ethnic snob of the Javanese.
Next time if the government wants to decorate the main streets to welcome another big event, in order not to hurt one ethnic groups, the government had better put various lanterns, Chinese lanterns on one rope, Javanese lanterns on another rope, and Arabian lanterns on another one; if there is Arabian-style lantern. LOL. And they are all hung on the same street so that no ethnic groups will feel marginalized.
To end this article, I want to remember again what happened in 1998 where there were riots everywhere in Indonesia, Semarang was the only big city in Java island that was peaceful, we didn’t have any riots. Some students from some universities indeed did some demonstrations but no massive killing, no massive looting, no massive raping. I always want Semarang to be as peaceful as that without social gap due to various ethnic groups living in Semarang.
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