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Indonesian Independence Day  

by on Monday, 14 August 2006One Comment | 2,781 views

Every year on the 17th August, Indonesian’s across the archipelago celebrate their national day of independence. This year will officially mark Indonesia’s 61st year of freedom. In Bali the celebration are cheerful and radiate a carefree atmosphere across the entire island. School children and government workers enjoy a public holiday and join the community activities in their neighbourhood. Many locals even make a concerted effort to attend nationalistic flag ceremonies that take place early morning in offices and learning institutes.

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The history of Indonesia’s struggle for independence has been influenced by two major invading powers. Groups of Europeans lured by the wealth of the spice trade first arrived in the archipelago in the late sixteenth century, and by the end of the eighteenth century the Dutch had become the ruling colonial power. For almost 300 years the local people were oppressed socially and economically by Dutch authorities and underlying feelings of unrest always existed.

The Dutch surrendered control over Indonesia during World War II and then it was the Japanese who maintained a strong presence throughout the country until they conceded defeat in 1945. Upon the retreat of the Japanese the timing was perfect for Indonesian’s to reclaim authority and create a government without any foreign interference. A charismatic political activist by the name of Sukarno became Indonesia’s first official leader and he declared the nation an independent republic on 17th August 1945.

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However, the Dutch military soon returned and were keen to resume power. It took a series of bloody battles with severe casualties from both sides for them to realize that they could not break the spirit of the people form this newly formed nation called Indonesia. The Dutch formally surrendered sovereignty over its former colony in December 1949.

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This brief overview may give the impression that Indonesia and the Netherlands do not have a very solid relationship due to past events, but fortunately this is not the case. While there has always been differences of understanding between the two nations there are also some very strong ties and up until now Dutch visitors are warmly welcomed, especially so in Bali.

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Every year the entire nation commemorates its historic struggle for freedom in a number of ways. Each town and village drapes itself in red and white (the national colours) flags and banners in creative street decorations. Community spirit runs at an all time high as youngsters partake in the traditional activities such as panjat pinang (climbing palm trees smothered with oil to claim prizes), sack races and tug-of-war. Many hotels also stage their own celebrations with fun games for guests’ and buffet dinners of authentic Indonesian cuisine.

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