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The Indonesian flag being hoisted at the country's embassy in Abu Dhabi on Monday on the occasion of its 75th Independence Day. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai/Abu Dhabi: Indonesian diplomats, consular officials and staff, along with a few guests, held a low-key but meaningful celebration of the 75th Indonesian Independence Day at their diplomatic missions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on Monday.

There are around 80,000 Indonesians living and working across the UAE. In the past years, the Indonesian Embassy and Consulate were filled every August 17 with hundreds of expatriates celebrating and cheering Merdeka Indonesia (independent Indonesia). But this year, social distancing norms brought about by COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a rather limited affair.

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In Dubai, the consular building was decorated in the national colours of red and white, while attendees came in their national costume, wearing face masks symbolising the Indonesian flag.

Indonesian consul-general in Dubai Ridwan Hassan led the flag hoisting at 6.30am that was conducted in sync with the ceremonies led by Indonesian President Joko Widodo at Merdeka Palace in Central Jakarta.

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Indonesian Consul General in Dubai Ridwan Hassan and wife Lita Kadartin Hassan lead the celebration of the 75th Indonesian Independence Day with a cake cutting ceremony. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Patriotic messages were read out, after which Hassan delivered a speech, recollecting the sacrifices of their forefathers that culminated in the proclamation of Indonesian independence from Dutch colonial rule on August 17, 1945.

He also exhorted his countrymen to keep the spirit of patriotism alive and to remain brave in the face of battle against a global health pandemic.

“COVID-19 has impacted the Indonesians back home and overseas. Close to 2,000 Indonesians have been repatriated from the UAE after they lost their jobs while some have decided to go home for good,” Hassan told Gulf News. “We have to work together to recover from the pandemic,” underlined Hassan, who also awarded consular staff for their exemplary work.

After the ceremonies and as part of Indonesian tradition, Hassan led the distribution of Javanese cuisine Tumpeng, an Indonesian cone-shaped rice dish with side dishes of vegetables and meat.

Similar celebrations and ceremonies were also held at the Indonesian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Husin Bagis led the flag hoisting ceremony while health protocols were observed. “While in previous years, a large group of Indonesian residents living in UAE could participate in the ceremony, this year the ceremony involved only a small number of people, including embassy officials and staff as well as limited Indonesian expatriates. But it did not halt us to remember and look back to our history,” Bagis said.

Stronger UAE-Indonesia relations

Bagis pointed out amid the pandemic, the diplomatic relations between the UAE and Indonesia have become stronger than ever.

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Indonesian Ambassador to the UAE Husin Bagis led the flag hoisting ceremony in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

He noted during President Widodo’s visit to Abu Dhabi in January, the two countries have signed 11 business agreements. There were also 16 agreements and MoUs (Memoranda of Understanding) that were signed during the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to Indonesia in July last year.

Bagis added the UAE is celebrating Indonesian Independence Day by displaying Indonesia’s flag in famous UAE landmarks, including Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, and Burj Al Arab in Dubai, while the Adnoc building, Sheikh Zayed Bridge, and Abu Dhabi Municipality Building in the UAE capital will also display Indonesian colours on Monday night.