On this day, 69 years ago, Indonesia claimed the right to live as a sovereign state and began the journey to building the Republic of Indonesia.
The meaning of August 17 is twofold. First is to remember the struggle of national heroes in freeing the nation from colonialism. Second is to contemplate what present generations have done and will do for the betterment of the nation.
August 17 also signifies the unity of Indonesia’s people. Indonesia has more than 250 million people, consisting of more than 300 ethnic groups across a vast archipelago of more than 17.000 islands.
Indonesia is blessed with cultural diversity, which is bound by the motto “Unity in Diversity”. Together with its breathtaking landscapes and welcoming society, Indonesia offers limitless experience to all visitors.
Travellers will find that the physical features of the people vary from place to place. Let me suggest a visit to the Moluccas, where a different and exciting experience awaits.
And while Bali is the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, the islands of Sulawesi, Sumatra and Lombok will definitely charm you.
Today, Indonesians throughout the world are brought together to commemorate Independence Day. In addition to a flag-hoisting ceremony in the morning across the nation and in Indonesian representative offices abroad, several traditional games are also held to mark national day. These fun games are mostly featured only on August 17.
Although the games may vary from place to place, the most common ones are Panjat Pinang (climbing an areca nut tree or pinang tree), Balap Karung (Sack Race), and Makan Kerupuk (Eat the Cracker). Sometimes the community also organises traditional costume parades and sporting competition.
The games and activities bring the Indonesian people closer. While we strengthen national bonds from independence to the present, we also think highly of our relations with our neighbours, especially in South-east Asia.
National Day is the right moment to examine what a nation has achieved.
In the economic field, Indonesia has become the tenth largest economy in the world according to the World Bank.
It has recorded GDP of more than US$1 trillion – 2.3 per cent of the world’s total. This demonstrates how Indonesia has maintained positive economic growth amid uncertainties and the downturn in the global economy.
Turning to politics, Indonesia has just organised a general election smoothly and safely. It was labelled as one of the biggest in the world.
Relations between Indonesia and Viet Nam have been fruitful. They reached the most important step last year in the signing of a statement by our two presidents to establish a strategic partnership, which makes Viet Nam Indonesia’s only strategic partner in the region.
This relationship has been forged since the beginning of independence in both countries. The profound relationship between our founding fathers, President Soekarno and President Ho Chi Minh, is a perfect example on how well connected we are.
Indonesia and Viet Nam are not only neighbouring countries, but also traditional friends and close partners. Consequently, Indonesia needs Viet Nam and vice versa. This is not only in bilateral relations, but also in regional, international and multi-lateral forums.
In addition to their combined big population of 340 million people, strong ties within the ASEAN family, and abundant natural resources, Indonesia and Viet Nam also share promising emerging markets, political stability, and a desire to develop their nations. This lays a solid foundation for further enhancement of Indonesia-Viet Nam relations.
Moreover, the two nations are preparing to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations next year, a milestone that adds to the significance of the ties between the two nations.