Jakarta (ANTARA) - For the second consecutive year, the Indonesian people celebrated the country's Independence Day, which falls on August 17, at home as the nation was forced to hold events virtually owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, the 76th anniversary of Indonesia's independence was held amid the strict enforcement of level 4 public activity restrictions (PPKM), imposed by the government since July 3, 2021 to tackle an alarming surge in cases caused by the more contagious and deadly Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Owing to the pandemic, the annual tradition of holding competitions for people across the country to celebrate Independence day had to be discarded as such events usually pull large crowds.

According to the National Task Force for COVID-19 Handling, Indonesia added 20,741 new cases in a single day on August 17, 2021, bringing the total tally to 3,892,479, and recorded 1,180 new deaths, taking the total death toll to 120,013 deaths.

The data showed that restriction measures have managed to bring down daily cases from a high of 56,757 on July 15, 2021, the task force said.

On Tuesday midnight, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) paid tribute to fallen freedom fighters at Kalibata Heroes' Cemetery, South Jakarta, as part of the Independence Day commemorations.

"We pledge and promise that the struggle of those heroes is also our struggle, and their path of services is also our path," he emphasized.

At 10 a.m., wearing a Lampung traditional attire, the President led a flag-hoisting ceremony at the Merdeka Palace, which was attended by First Lady Iriana and Vice President Ma'ruf Amin and his wife, who were both wearing Sundanese traditional clothes.

Like last year, the event was not attended physically by invitees, but broadcast virtually. About 45 thousand invitees joined the event from their homes.

Unlike last year, when the flag-hoisting team was cut to only three people, this year, the palace deployed a full team of 68 students for the hoisting of the Red and White national flag.

Puan Maharani, the House Speaker, read out the text of the Proclamation of Indonesia's Independence, which was read for the first time by her grandfather, Sukarno, the country's first president, on August 17, 1945.

Maharani said the task of reading the Proclamation, which Soekarno had performed 76 years ago, held its own meaning for her as his granddaughter.

"This task was entrusted to me (due to) my position as the House Speaker. However, I am one of those people, who does not believe in mere coincidence that my grandfather was the one who was asked to read the Proclamation Text, and 76 years later, his granddaughter was asked to read the same text," she said.

At the ceremony, eight F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) also performed a fly pass arrowhead formation at some one thousand feet while six helicopters flew giant Red and White flags measuring 30x20 meters.

The theme of this year's 76th anniversary was "Indonesia remains resilient, Indonesia grows", in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a serious social and economic impact on the nation.

In the current information technology era, marked by the digital revolution, which has gained relevance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with people asked to maintain safe physical distance, Indonesia has also been striving to master technology and move toward digitization by intensifying research and innovation.

The 76th anniversary of Indonesia's independence was also marked by a milestone in the nation's research and innovation sector, with the establishment of the National Agency for Research and Innovation (BRIN) in April 2021.

"This year's Indonesian Independence anniversary is very special for BRIN, as it is the first year of the formation of BRIN, wherein we expect to make major changes in the management of Indonesia's research and innovation ecosystem. This year is a milestone for Indonesian research and innovation," Head of BRIN Laksana Tri Handoko stated.

Research is the key to Indonesia's successful economic future in becoming a developed nation and breaking out of the middle-income trap, he said.

Research and innovation are also expected to help Indonesia become self-reliant and self-sufficient in many fields, including in supplies of food and medical equipment as well medicines, which are so far mostly imported.

Meanwhile, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged Indonesian citizens to believe that every cloud has a silver lining.

“As human beings, and a nation of faith, we must believe that every cloud has a silver lining, Insha Allah (with God’s will),” the sixth Indonesian president said in a broadcast statement.

Indonesia has been facing historic challenges and tests wrought by a major pandemic, social anxiety, and economic pressures that have hit all Indonesian citizens hard.

He acknowledged the unwavering efforts of the government and all stakeholders in tackling the crises.

“However, we have not finished yet. The government along with the public must continue their efforts,” he said.

Yudhoyono, who served as president from 2004-2009 and 2014-2019, also appealed to the public to look forward in order to make Indonesia more advanced, harmonious and peaceful, just and prosperous.

“To achieve such a glorious future, there are no shortcuts, nor magical recipes. We need to have vision and intelligent thinking as well as the willingness to work relentlessly. There are soft ways to achieve big goals,” Yudhoyono stressed.

He expressed the hope that the 76th Independence Day commemoration would bring blessings to the Indonesian people, adding that all people should be grateful to Allah SWT, God Almighty, and thank the founding fathers of the Republic of Indonesia who have contributed this independence from generation to generation.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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