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Nation celebrates Sukarno birthday JAKARTA - What started as a day of sentimental remembrance became one full of political nuances as the nation commemorated on Wednesday the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the state's founding father, Sukarno. The apex of the commemorations was a ceremony at the Gelora Bung Karno Sports Center, the name of which was only recently reinstated after having been changed to the Senayan Sports Complex.
The commemorations have again put Sukarno in the forefront of Indonesian history after his becoming a much maligned figure during the years of his successor, former President Soeharto. The resurgence of Sukarno's popularity has come at the same time as the coming of his daughter, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, to the political fore.
Wednesday's ceremonies came less than eight weeks before a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly which looks likely to result in Megawati following in her father's footsteps as president. The political baggage weighed further on Wednesday as the leading figures in the ongoing political drama -- President Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati, Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung -- sat on the same stage for the first time in months.
Despite the bitter political rivalry, they were all smiles while posing for photographers. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm somewhat marred the festive occasion which was marked by speeches and traditional dances. While the attendance was relative good, the huge main stadium which seats 100,000 made the audience of 10,000 look like a poor turnout.
It was Sukarno in the early 1960s who initiated the construction of the sports complex. Born in Blitar on June 6, 1901, Sukarno was Indonesia's president from its independence in 1945 until he was forced out of office and replaced by Soeharto in 1967. Sukarno died under house arrest on June 21, 1970.


Many of the 10,000 in attendance wore red and black outfits and carried the symbols of Sukarno's party, the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI). A giant poster of the young Sukarno was given center stage. Among the crowd, pamphlets condemning Soeharto and his New Order administration were much in evidence.
Apart from Sukarno, former and current presidents were not the flavor of the day among the crowd. The audience loudly jeered as Abdurrahman came onto the stage. In contrast, there was wild applause as Megawati waved at them. She looked very cheerful and comfortable sitting between Abdurrahman and Amien.
In his speech, the President underlined that Sukarno belonged to the nation and should be respected for his key role in creating an independent Indonesia. "The existence of Indonesia, our great nation, was the fruit of his struggle," said Abdurrahman, whose father Wahid Hasyim once served as Sukarno's minister of religious affairs.
"We must let Bung Karno live in our hearts and make him our model in life," Abdurrahman said. Chairman of the celebration's organizing committee Dahlan Ranuwiharjo called in his address for the government to declare Sukarno's birthday a national holiday. Dahlan noted that despite the New Order's attempts to sully the Sukarno name, his great image prevailed.
Other centennial events on Wednesday included the issuance of a commemorative set of stamps, telephone cards and a special coin. Similar commemorations were held in other cities such as Yogyakarta, where the Yogyakarta Marhaen (peasants and workers) Family (KBM) opened a five-day exhibition titled "The Nuances of Bung Karno" in which artifacts related to Sukarno are being displayed.
Meanwhile on Wednesday evening, private television station TPI aired a rare interview with Megawati in which she spoke off-the-cuff about her father. During the lighthearted discussion with talk show host Jaya Suprana, the Vice President reminisced about her father whom she fondly described as very intelligent, handsome and elegant.
"Bapak was stubborn. And I may have inherited his character," Megawati said laughingly. She defended her father's colorful love life saying many people misunderstood him. But she also lamented Sukarno marrying several times and his divorcing of her mother Fatmawati, Sukarno's third wife. Recounting a trip to the White House with her father to meet the late President John F. Kennedy, Megawati recounted her first impression: "Kennedy was very handsome."

Posted in General @ 07 June 2001 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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