Jokowi brings change to Independence Day ceremony
The Jakarta Post
This year's flag-raising ceremony commemorating 70 years of the country's independence had a different atmosphere this year with President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo inviting around 2,000 locals from the neighborhood and members of poor communities outside Jakarta to the ceremony at the Merdeka Palace on Monday.
The local attendees, who came from the working-class community around the palace, included fishermen, farmers, street vendors, orphans and street vendors from Tanah Abang market.
Alongside the local community members, 7,000 individuals from various backgrounds from Cabinet members, lawmakers, hundreds of state officials, war veterans to foreign envoys, also joined the annual celebration.
'There are many guests who did not wear a suit [and tie as set in the dress code], but batik instead, because they simply do not have those clothes,' State Secretary Pratikno said on Monday.
Also invited for the ceremony were five members of Baduy Dalam tribe and two from the Baduy Luar, two indigenous communities from West Java, probably the only barefooted members of the audience at the event. For Baduy people the use of footwear is forbidden in their daily lives.
'It [the ceremony] was very impressive,' Mursyid, one of Baduy Dalam from Cibeo village, said and later expressed hopes for the President to recognize their indigenous rights, particularly their Sunda Wiwitan faith.
Also joining the celebration were junior high student Erlangga Abyantara and elementary school student Maria Rosana Lintang Christiani who took turns in delivering speeches to express their seven dreams and hopes for Indonesia in the next 10 years.
'I hope in the next 10 years, there will be no more corruption in Indonesia so that the funds for education will not decrease,' Erlangga said.
'I dream of Indonesia becoming a champion in the Olympics,' Maria said, to applause from the audience.
The pair also read out their wish that all regions in the country could have a fast internet network and free WiFi in the next 3 years and that all citizens have access to clean water.
'We are proud to be Indonesian children!' the two said in unison to wrap up their speech.
The Merdeka Palace also looked modest during this year's celebration. The only decoration were motifs from traditional boats which could be seen in several areas including one at the Palace garden where a dinner reception was held in the evening and attended by ministers, high-ranking officials and ambassadors.
'Well, we indeed [want something] more modest, without reducing the [ceremony's] solemnity,' Pratikno said.
Last year, the Palace was decorated with a lavish Javanese theme, which served as a tribute to then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani, both of whom are Javanese, as the country bid farewell to them.
Unlike celebrations under the administration of Yudhoyono, former president Megawati Soekarnoputri turned up for Monday's celebration. Megawati, who was absent from ceremonies following her defeat to the former Army general in the 2004 election, could be spotted at Monday's event among other dignitaries such as former vice presidents Boediono, Try Sutrisno and Hamzah Haz.
Yudhoyono himself was visibly absent from the ceremony.
The former president staged his own Independence Day celebration at his hometown in Pacitan, East Java, according to Democratic Party politician and lawmaker Ruhut Sitompul who was among the guests at the Palace.
'He is very busy,' Ruhut said. 'But don't worry, he has good communication with the current President,' Ruhut said.