Wed, 13 Aug 2003

'Independence Day is merely ceremonial'

The country is preparing to commemorate the 58th anniversary of Independence on Aug. 17. Many people are busy with activities to welcome the anniversary. However, some city residents have expressed grievances over the atmosphere of uncertainty, particularly following last Tuesday's deadly blast in the capital. It seems ironic that the country remains prone to instability, despite having gained independence. The Jakarta Post sought their response on the issue.

Aminah, 52, is a sidewalk vendor of soft drinks in Slipi, West Jakarta. She lives in Petamburan, Central Jakarta, with her husband and three children:

I get sad, remembering my late father who passed away years ago. He used to be an Indonesian fighter who struggled for independence.

I'm sure if he were still alive he'd be badly disappointed at the current state of affairs, in which corruption and insecurity are so rampant.

My father remained poor, even though he had many opportunities to become rich as he was a military officer. He never resorted to corruption, regardless of his poverty. I'm proud of him.

But now, the country's independence has lost its meaning. It's just a ceremonial commemoration.

Life's getting harder in this so-called independent country, let alone for people in the low-income bracket like me. It seems as though my quality of life hasn't improved at all.

We continue to have to live with faceless oppressors out to destroy the country's unity. The bombings are an obvious indication that we are not yet free of such evil. This is more or less the same as when we faced the Dutch colonists.

In a way, Independence Day still has meaning for me because I remember how hard my father fought for it years ago. At least it's still meaningful to his daughter.

Rusdi, 21, is a sidewalk vendor of second-hand books in Taman Anggrek, West Jakarta. He lives nearby with his relatives:

I'm totally convinced that Independence Day has lost its meaning, particularly for city residents.

The daily struggle to survive takes up most people's time: There's no time left to recall the commemoration.

The absence nowadays of secure areas, plus the existence of terror acts and widespread crime are really a contradiction of what we would regard as independence.

I wonder how we can even think that we live in an independent country!

I think that high-ranking officials and the current government are to blame for damaging the country and causing the hardship of people on low incomes.

I feel that Independence Day is just a day of celebration, but then it will soon be forgotten amid the hardships of life.

However, I believe that the celebration is still meaningful for villagers, who mostly organize a variety of traditional competitions for the day. It's only they who still respect the commemoration.

Heri, 30, is a vendor of siomay (a kind of dim sum) in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta. His wife and daughter live in Tasikmalaya, West Java:

I don't know what to say about the commemoration of Independence Day now. On one hand the country achieved freedom due to the struggles of our fighters.

On the other, we have not yet achieved a better standard of living, despite the independent status of the country.

There are still so many people living with poverty, unemployment and insecurity.

I reckon that life is getting difficult, especially my life and that of other poor people trying to earn a living in the capital.

Besides, terrorist remain free to carry out their horrible acts to threaten every innocent person here. I'm afraid of the possibility of other bombings.

I just wonder why we must live in fear all the time, quite apart from widespread bomb threats and the recent blast in the city.

It's ironic, isn't it? Here we are, commemorating Independence Day, yet at the same time everyone feels insecure due to fear of terrorism!

-- Leo Wahyudi S.