Congress of Indonesian Diaspora I – Opening Remark


Salam Diaspora!

Sepanjang sejarah Indonesia modern sejak Indonesia modern sejak 1908, 1928, dan 1945 inilah pertama kalinya Diaspora Indonesia dari berbagai penjuru dunia bertemu di satu kongres di Los Angeles. Well-done Los Angeles!

Tapi yang membuat kongres ini historis bukan karena status pertama kalinya, namun karena fenomena yang dikobarkannya. Sumpah Pemuda 1908 hanya dihadiri oleh ratusan orang tapi semangatnya sampai sekarang terus membara. Proklamasi kemerdekaan 17 Agustus 1945 hanya disaksikan sedikit orang di Jalan Pegangsaan, namun semangatnya masih terus membara.

Karena itulah yang paling penting yang kita hitung di kongres ini bukan jumlah orangnya, tapi semangatnya dan konsep yang kita usung. Apa itu? Dua kata yaitu “Diaspora Indonesia”.

Say it with me: “Diaspora Indonesia!” Say it again “Diaspora Indonesia”!

Dalam beberapa bulan belakangan ini terjadi dua hal penting. Satu, Diaspora Indonesia mulai bangkit dan mulai ada proses self awareness. Kedua, bangsa di tanah air mulai juga sadar dan memberikan apresiasi terhadap keberadaan Diaspora Indonesia. Karena itulah kita disini ada Menteri, pejabat tinggi, ada 10 anggota DPR di bawah pimpinan Bapak Priyo Budi Santoso.

Dan ternyata semakin kita korek dan semakin kita buka, semakin banyak yang tidak kita tahu mengenai Diaspora Indonesia.

Did you know that jumlah Indonesian Diaspora is more than we ever thought? We thought it was about 3.5 million people, tapi ada lebih dari 6-8 juta bahkan possibly more than 10 million people. It’s equal to the population of Sweden or Austria.

Did you know that the number of Indonesian Diasporas worldwide is bigger than the Korean Diasporas and Vietnamese Diasporas? The per-capita income of Indonesian Diaspora worldwide possibly 5 times bigger than the per-capita income of Indonesia.

Did you know the median income of Indonesia Diaspora in the US alone is $59,000/year, which is $10,000 more than the annual income of all Americans which is $45,000.

Did you know that every year, Indonesian Diasporas send $7 billion back home to Indonesia? That is slightly larger than the government’s budget for education or public works or defense. It’s a big number.

As President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has just said, you, the Indonesian Diasporas, are an amazing community. You are unique, diverse and extraordinary. You speak many languages. You are more exposed to the world, that’s why you tend to be more open-minded. You have skills. You take risk. You are used to competition because you have no choice but to struggle to blend in to succeed. And you are opportunity driven.

You are a powerful group of people. Not powerful in an opposing way, but powerful in a creative way.

What are the sources of your power?

First, Indonesian Diasporas have brain power. Did you know that 48% of Indonesian Diasporas in the US over 25 year old have Bachelor Degrees or higher, which means MA and PhD? The US average is 27%. So the Indonesian average is almost twice the US average.

And Sehat Sutardja has 260 patents under his name, which is more than future patents produced in Indonesia in a year. And I am pleased to learn that in Qatar there is 6000 professionals.

But more than brain power, Indonesia Diasporas also have heart power. Ada ribuan Diaspora Indonesia di Philadelphia, di Atlanta dan di Califronia yang visanya tidak jelas, kerja 3 pekerjaan untuk menghidupi keluarga, but still have enough money to send back home $200 to their family. These are the people with incredible heart power.

Did you know that Indonesian Diasporas worldwide send in average $2750 back home to Indonesia per month, which is equal to four times of annual income of poor families in Indonesia?

Indonesian Diasporas also have a strong will power. Like Anneke Monscavoir, from France, who fought hard almost singlehandedly untuk menggolkan UU Kewarganegaraan ganda bagi anak-anak hasil mixed marriage.

And also my own father, who is sitting there, who was a Diaspora and became the Law of the Sea expert. He fought for 30 years to double Indonesian maritime territory from 2 million square kms to 5 millions square kms. That’s will power.

Diasporas, you have resources. But even if you don’t have resources, you are resourcesful. Banyak akalnya dan pandai-pandai. Diaspora can do many things. You can beat poverty, you can kill hate, you can crush extremism, you can bring down tyranny, you can cure diseases, destroy ignorance and light up hope.

Tri Mumpuni membuat 65 desa mandiri di Indonesia yang mempunyai independent hydro energy. She’s also working in Rwanda and the Philippines. Danet Suryatama, created thin electric car in 2012 and then hybrid car and now he is in Indonesia to advance his innovation. My brother, Ustad Shamsie Ali, goes to Jewish synagogues in New York, went to Israel and Palestine and connect Jews and Muslims together and preach about the brotherhood of Abrahamic religions.

You know my children, Alexa, Keanu and Chloe asked me: “What is Diaspora, Dad?” well, if you want to know what you are, tonight when you get out, look up at the sky and you, each Diaspora, are a light, a bright star in the sky. You are one but you are also many. You shine the light to the other. Together you create harmony and you shine Indonesia and the world.

But Indonesian Diasporas have also weaknesses as well. What are they? Indonesian Diasporas are not connected. You don’t know one another. Indonesian Diaspora in LA, Seattle, New York, Cape Town and in Tokyo don’t know one another. You tend to underestimate yourselves. You are unconnected and unorganized. And there are a lot of miss-opportunity as a result of that.

This is why this congress is an important meeting point between the government and also the parliament (DPR) yang kini membuka pintu lebar bagi Diaspora Indonesia.

Dan dalam melakukan ini, Pemerintah dan DPR juga memang perlu menyadari bahwa you can actually have 2 identities. You can be like Ebrahim Rasool, who is a very proud South African politician but also proud of his Indonesian connection. You can still be a proud American citizen but you can also be proud of your Indonesian connection.

So this process is not necessarily about loyalty. This is about opportunity. This is about connectivity, this is about cultural affinity. This is about shared prosperity and your success is our success and our success is your success.

As a final word, I want to tell you that the Indonesian Diasporas, although large, is not as big as Chinese or Indian Diasporas. The Indian Diasporas are around 22 million people. The Indonesian Diasporas in the US is around 150 thousands plus-plus. I think the largest ones are in the Netherlands, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Madagascar, Suriname, and South Africa. But despite the fact that maybe we’re a smaller group, I want to quote Margareth Mead who said, “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has changed the world”.

So never doubt that the Indonesian Diasporas, wherever you are, whether you make $5 billions a year or $5 an hour, whether you live in San Francisco or in Santiago, whether you are an Indonesian citizen or citizens of other nationals, never doubt that the Indonesian Diasporas can change destinies, can change the world around them, and in turn can change the world.

Thank you.