Just as the flow of Idul Fitri travelers is beginning to quiet down and normal life resumes, the government is already busy with preparations for yet another celebration — the 68th commemoration of Indonesia’s independence, on Saturday.
On Thursday, during a speech at the inauguration of this year’s Paskibraka — a squad of young people chosen to raise the national flag at the presidential palace — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on members of the squad to observe and uphold tolerance and harmony as citizens of Indonesia.
He called on Indonesia’s diverse groups and cultures to unite. “It can almost be guaranteed that all of you come from different religious backgrounds, races, ethnicity, regions and other different identities attached to you,” he said.
Yudhoyono emphasized that despite such differences, all members of the squad should respect and observe loyalty to one another.
“This is an example. How beautiful it would be if such unity can exist everywhere across this beloved country of ours,” he said. “Remember to create love, friendship and harmony among one another.”
The Paskibraka comprises 66 high school students from all of the country’s 33 provinces, who have passed a strict selection process for the privilege of raising the national flag during the independence day ceremony at the State Palace.
Tjahjo Kumolo, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), echoed the president’s speech, saying the commemoration of independence day should signify tolerance.
“Indonesia, as a big, sovereign and independent country, needs to reignite the spirit of tolerance. There must be a deep appreciation of the foreword of the 1945 Constitution,” said Tjahjo, who is also a legislator from the House Commission XI, which oversees banking, development and financial affairs.
As many organizations and institutions across the country plan for their own independence day ceremonies, Tjahjo confirmed that his party would be holding its own at its central executive board’s (DPP) headquarters in Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta.
“Yes, as usual, PDI-P will be holding a flag ceremony on the DPP’s front yard. It is likely that the secretary general will lead the ceremony,” Tjahjo said.
To anticipate traffic in Central Jakarta during Saturday’s ceremony, the city’s transportation office has called on citizens to avoid the area surrounding the State Palace as it plans to close down roads, including Jalan Merdeka Barat, Jalan Merdeka Utara, Jalan Majapahit, Jalan Veteran Raya, Jalan Veteran I, II and III, Jalan Museum and Jalan Area Silang Monas.
The streets will be inaccessible from 5 a.m. to noon and again from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Vehicles passing the listed streets will be diverted.
“We encourage road users to follow the traffic signs and directions from officers,” Jakarta Transportation Office head Udar Pristono said.
Meanwhile, those attending the ceremony are advised to use the parking area at the National Monument (Monas) as well as the parking area an the Istiqlal Mosque and other office buildings near the palace.
The independence day flag ceremony is typically attended by members of the cabinet, high-ranking officials, government officials, foreign ambassadors and other honorary guests.
Meanwhile, in addition to holding its annual flag ceremony, the State Palace has this year invited the public to the Independence Day Run, a free 17-kilometer and eight-kilometer event, on Aug. 25 .
The organizers are aiming to attract up to 45,000 runners to the event in a bid to encourage the public’s participation in the independence day festivities.
Chair of the event’s organizing committee, Brig. Gen. Toto Riyanto, said independence celebrations in previous years have repeatedly centered around the State Palace, thus limiting the public’s involvement and participation in commemorating the important day.
“There needs to be an event where we can openly invite the public to be active and together celebrate the commemoration of Indonesia’s independence,” Toto said on Thursday. “That is why the Independence Day Run has been initiated, to be a collective activity.”
With this event, the capital city, which has seen a growing number of running events in the past year, will also have its first running event kicking of f in front of the State Palace.
The 17-kilometer race will follow the weekly Car-Free Day route, which starts at Merdeka Palace and extends across Jalan Thamrin, Semanggi and Sudirman to Jalan Sisingamangaraja and returns to finish near Monas.
For the eight-kilometer route, runners will start in front of the Chase Plaza on Jalan Sudirman and also end at Monas.
President Yudhoyono is expected to flag off the runners.