Welcome to rainbow troopers 2013

a blog dedicate for the movie Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops)

Ethnic Diversity in Laskar Pelangi

on July 3, 2013

Instead of the cathartic self, molten rage, absurd fantasy, and encyclopedic movies without clear story line, Laskar Pelangi brings a fresh air for Indonesian literature. It takes place in Belitung Island in Indonesia that is formed from 2 other major ethnicities beside Indonesians, they are: Malayan and Chinese. Also, there are numbers of ethnic local immigrants such as Batak, Minangkabau, Palembang, Sunda, Java, Madura, Banjar, Bugis, Manado, Flores, and Ambon.

According to Hoon (2006), Indonesia as the most ethnically and culturally diverse country has more than 206 million people with more than 1000 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups inside. The Pancasila national identity was establish under the regime of President Soeharto from 1966-1998 in order to respect other ethnicities, religions, races, and inter-classes. However, the May 1998 anti-Chinese riot was seen as Pancasila failure and Chinese’s right to expand the nation’s economy were discriminated in all social spheres, such as culture, language, politics, entrance to national universities, public service, and public employment.

In short, Hoon also added that the downfall of President Soeharto regime is the turning point of Chinese identity, since the regime of President Abdurrahman Wahid has endorsed multiculturalism as a policy for rebuilding the nation and consistent with the Indonesia’s national motto: “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” which means “Unity in Diversity”.


A Kiong – a Chinese boy in Laskar Pelangi

Laskar Pelangi has described vividly the fusion of cultures that thrive in the Pacific Islands. The combination of local culture, Islamic culture, and the culture of China has become its own wealth for the people of Belitung, Indonesia in particular and society in general. In Laskar Pelangi, ethnic diversity can be seen from a Chinese boy character named A Kiong. A Kiong is a Chinese descent who lives together with other Indonesians and study in Muhamadiyah Muslim School without feeling to live in “another planet”. Since teenager, A Kiong became a Muslim and changed his name to Aman, while it is not common for Chinese Indonesians to become Muslim. A Kiong was never discriminated by his class mates or the teacher, so he has the same right to study at the same school with other indigenous Indonesians and the same right to get an access for education. A Kiong was able to open a coffee shop in a corner of Pasar Gantung which is the largest market in East Belitung province. It also proves that he got the same right with other Indonesians to open a new business.

So, there is no more discrimination at some levels against Chinese Indonesian nowadays. They are given the same right with other ethnicities to pursue the same level of education in Indonesia. While the discrimination issues of Chinese-Indonesian somehow still exist in the society.


Himawijaya (2010, August 28). Laskar pelangi: laskar warna-warni. Retrieved June 29, 2013, from http://himawijaya.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/140/

Hoon, C. (2006). Assimilation, multiculturalism, hybridity: the dilemmas of the ethnic chinese in post-Suharto Indonesia. Asian Ethnicity7(2), 149-166.

Sugiantoro, H. (2012, August 4). Laskar pelangi dan kaum muda. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://pena-profetik.blogspot.jp/2013/01/laskar-pelangi-dan-kaum-muda.html


3 responses to “Ethnic Diversity in Laskar Pelangi

  1. Claudio C. says:

    I am sorry to say that Laskar Pelangi is a very biased novel. It is a vision mixed with lots of childood poetry and often ends up depicting unequal social development as a nostalgic memory of the past, while the reality is sometimes much worse. I read the book and I am still wondering what was the point in the storytelling. What started as a social message, seems to turns too often into an intellectual self-celebration (digressions on many scientific and philosophic themes make up half of the book)…
    When you close your article with: “So, there is no more discrimination against Chinese Indonesian nowadays. They are given the same right with other ethnicities to pursue the same level of education in Indonesia.” you deliver a very simplistic assumption. Are you sure that everyday life around you is free from discrimination?

  2. vaniafardeli says:

    Thank you for your comment, and I think I should be more specific in the conclusion.
    Regardless of the past where ethnic-Indonesian’s education is different from other Indonesian, the condition has changed. Ethnic-Chinese people used to struggle acquiring Indonesian citizenship. Therefore, their presence in the public life was extended into higher education. Nowadays, everyone gets the same right to access education even people from different races are able to enter the same school. However, when it comes to the higher education, particularly university, the chances between Chinese and non-Chinese students are still different. When students apply for the university, they have to declare their ethnicity in the application form. It proves that discrimination towards race is still not completely eliminated from the society. As a result, in the public universities, students with Chinese descendants are noticeably less than others or even none. Consequently, those Chinese-Indonesians tend to choose and be admitted to Christian or private universities instead. Also, some of those students are going abroad for their further education.

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