08/18/2017, 17.57
INDONESIA
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Jakarta, Widodo defends multiculturalism on Independence Day

by Mathias Hariyadi

Indonesia’s president and vice president wear traditional clothes in parliament. With this gesture, Widodo and Kalla put aside the political disagreements that marked their relationship because of the court case involving Jakarta’s former Christian governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama. The country’s “new nationalism" has found momentum in recent official ceremonies.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – By wearing traditional clothing at the celebrations for the 72nd anniversary of Indonesia’s independence, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has sent a symbolic political signal in support of the country’s multicultural character.

The Indonesian president caught everyone by surprise on Wednesday during the plenary Session of the House of Representatives.

In the presence of ministers, foreign ambassadors and representatives of the most important national organisations, Widodo, who hails from the island of Java, wore typical Buginese clothing. The Bugis are a South Sulawesi ethnic group. Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is Buginese, wore Javanese clothing (picture 1).

Indonesia is unique in the world because of its multicultural character. A plethora of local languages, traditional customs, cultures and religions live in the thousands of islands that make up the country.

The notion of Pancasila or pluralism is Indonesia’s philosophical and political doctrine that was adopted by the nation’s founding fathers to bind its people.

For many Indonesians, the decision by the president and the vice president to wear each other’s ethnic outfit appears to be a renewed commitment to defend the national spirit, as expressed in the country’s motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

In doing so, Widodo and Kalla have tried to downplay the political disagreements that have marked their relationship.

The president is a supporter and ally of Jakarta’s former governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian. The latter was embroiled in a court case, which ended in his controversial conviction and a two-year sentence.

The case was orchestrated by Islamist groups during last year’s gubernatorial election, and this was exploited by his main rival, Anies Baswedan, who was backed by Vice President Kalla,

This ‘new nationalism’, based on the defense of pluralism and unity, found momentum in the official ceremonies of the last few days.

Spontaneous protests in support of Jakarta’s former governor had reawakened a sense of unity among Indonesia moderates.

Widodo’s "political-cultural approach" has created optimism among Indonesians and given the impression that nationalism is now blossoming in all levels of society.

Yesterday, during the flag-raising ceremony at the State Palace, the three still living former presidents – BJ Habibie, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Megawati Sukarnoputri – followed Widodo's lead and wore traditional clothes of their place of origin (picture 2).

As traditional promoters of the national unity, Indonesian Catholics distinguished themselves by joining in Independence Day celebrations.

At the Jesuit novitiate of Girisonta in Ungaran (Central Java), a flag-raising ceremony took place in front of the St Stanislaus College complex (picture 3).

Local priests, novices, and Abdi Kristus nuns as well as other religious leaders took part in the celebrations.

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