Independence Day celebration is less merry
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Flag bearers hoist Indonesian national Red-White flag during a ceremony commemorating the country's independence day at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Friday. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
The Independence Day celebration on Friday caused little hype in Jakarta and other parts of the country, but it coincided with the exodus of millions of people from Jakarta and other big cities who wanted to celebrate Idul Fitri, expected to fall on Sunday, in their hometowns.
But for inmates who received sentence reductions as a part of the celebration, Independence Day meant that they were closer to their release from prison.
President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono led the state’s flag-raising ceremony at Merdeka Palace, which was attended by hundreds of high-ranking officials, former state leaders and envoys of foreign states.
The decorations at the presidential compound were styled to reflect traditions from North Sumatra. Guests were welcomed by dancers performing the tortor dance, and the sounds of the gondang sambilan musical instrument from North Sumatra’s Batak Mandailing ethnic group upon entering the compound. Ulos, the traditional fabrics from the North Sumatran Batak ethnic group, were also hung on trees.
Despite the North Sumatran dominance, the audience was also given a chance to observe performances of traditional dances and songs from other regions.
The audience at this year’s ceremony also witnessed 10 Indonesian Air Force F-16 and Sukhoi fighter jets flying over the city in a double-V formation. “From 1,500 feet, we congratulate the country on the 67th anniversary of independence. Always be glorious, Indonesia,” said one of the pilots, whose voice was channeled to the palace’s loudspeakers, resulting in the audience’s applause.
Outside the palace, Jakartans failed to share the festive mood of the occasion, which was marked by the local Indonesian domain of Google with a colorful doodle.
The capital saw yet another low-key Independence Day, as it fell during the Ramadhan fasting month.
An underwater flag-raising event was held in the Shark Aquarium at Sea World Indonesia in Ancol, North Jakarta.
The government also granted an Independence Day sentence remission to thousands of inmates across Indonesia, including some high profile prisoners such as Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby, tax graft convict Gayus H. Tambunan, and murderer and former pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.
Corby was among those who enjoyed a six-month sentence reduction. In addition to a five-year clemency granted by President Yu-dhoyono earlier this year, she may be eligible for parole within the next few months.
Other foreign national inmates would also receive reductions during the Independence Day momentum, including Achim Franz Grabmann from Germany, Gary Matin Turner from the United Kingdom and Renae Lawrence from Australia, who have received six-month, four-month, and two-month sentence reductions respectively.
Meanwhile, in Yogyakarta, members of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities joined activists from non governmental organizations and religious leaders under the Network for Human Rights and Diversity (Jamgaman) and held a modest commemoration in Ndalem Notoprajan.
“The government never invites us to attend ceremonies, therefore we hold our own,” Budi Wahyuni, one of the activists, said.
Andreas D. Arditya and Bambang Muryanto contributed to this story.