ABU DHABI //Sixty-five years ago Indonesians gained independence during Ramadan, and this year, with the anniversary once again falling in the holy month, celebrations were particularly poignant.
“The anniversary of our independence day is special to us this year since it coincides with Ramadan,” said Wahid Supriyadi, the Indonesian ambassador to the UAE. “In 1945, it fell on the ninth day of Ramadan. We believe it’s a blessing.”
Dressed in colourful traditional costumes, Indonesian expatriates marked the day with a simple ceremony, followed by the breaking of fast at their embassy in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
It was on August 17, 1945, that Indonesia attained independence from Dutch rule. On that day, Sukarno, who later became the first president of Indonesia, read the text of the Proclamation of Independence.
At the ceremony in Abu Dhabi, the national anthem, Indonesia Raya, was sung and diplomats read aloud the Proclamation of Independence and the Pancasila, the official foundation of the Indonesian state.
“We are proud to celebrate this day and to show our appreciation for the struggle of Indonesians against the colonisers,” said Mohamad Riko Runizar, 43, an engineer at an oil company in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s an opportunity for us to honour our forefathers for their contribution,” he said.
Achmad Rusmantoro, 44, an engineer who has lived in the capital for two years, said the occasion would be a great opportunity to introduce his country to Emiratis and other nationalities in the Emirates and promote tourism.
“I take pride in my country and its rich heritage,” he said. “We don’t have to work there to contribute to its progress. When I retire, I hope to bring my overseas experience to Indonesia and share it with the younger generation.”
There are 77,000 Indonesians in the UAE, of whom 30,000 are in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Ruwais.
“I’m encouraging them to show professionalism and to keep the dignity of the country by following the local laws and regulations,” Mr Supriyadi said.
The ambassador, who has served two years of his three-year tenure, also read excerpts from a speech by the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the Bahasa language. “Indonesia must walk faster and start to run,” the envoy said. “It’s time to become a country with high competitiveness on the global stage.”
Last year, bilateral trade between the UAE and Indonesia was worth US$1.5 billion, down by almost half from 2008’s figure of $2.8bn.