The legendary Jl. Malioboro at the heart of downtown Yogyakarta was deserted on Wednesday morning as over 1,000 traders operating along the street’s sidewalks preferred to take the day off to witness their sultan being sworn in as the appointed governor of the province for the 2012-2017 term of office.
They considered it an historic event given that the swearing-in ceremony was held following the enactment last month of the long-awaited Law No. 13/2012 on Yogyakarta’s special status, after the House of Representatives passed the bill into law, ending almost 10 years of deliberation.
“It is okay for us to miss a day of income for the sake of expressing thanks for the swearing in of the sultan as governor,” chairman of the Malioboro community Empowerment Institute, Rudianto, said on Wednesday.
The ceremony was considered even more special as it was also the first time in history that a Yogyakarta governor was sworn in directly by the President. Normally the President simply signed the presidential decree regarding the installment of the governor and deputy governor, and the swearing-in was conducted by the home minister.
The newly enacted law stipulates in its Article 27 (1) that the swearing in of Yogyakarta governor and deputy governor should be conducted by the President.
The law also stipulates that governor and vice governor of the special region should be the current sultan of Yogyakarta Palace and the current duke of Pakualaman principality respectively.
President Susilo Bambang Yudho-yono swore in Sultan Hamengkubuwono X and the Duke of Pakualaman, Paku Alam IX, at the Yogyakarta State Palace Gedung Agung on Wednesday, a mere 500 meters from the Yogyakarta Palace, amid tight security.
Although the ceremony was scheduled for 9 a.m., from early morning the street vendors gathered along Jl. Malioboro, voluntarily cleaning up one of the city’s main tourist attractions. Later in the afternoon they had another gathering for a tumpeng party that they themselves had prepared.
Tumpeng is cone-shaped steamed rice served with various traditional side dishes. There were a total of 110 tumpeng prepared by the vendors for the party that day. The street is home to some 1,500 vendors.
Something similar occurred in the province’s biggest traditional market, Pasar Beringharjo, which is home to some 6,000 traders. While some preferred to completely close their kiosks for the ceremony, others gathered at spots in the market to follow the ceremony on television. The ceremony was aired live on state-run television station TVRI.
At the Yogyakarta Palace’s Pagelaran Hall, some 200 people also followed the ceremony via live streaming on a big screen. Among them were noted monologue performer Butet Kertarajasa and veteran actor Slamet Raharjo, who later staged a rendition of their famous TV program Sentilan Sentilun.
In his speech, Yudhoyono underlined the state’s recognition of the special status of Yogyakarta with the enactment of Law No. 13/2012. He also affirmed that Yogyakarta had always been at the heart of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).
“Yogyakarta is also an important part of the democratization and transformation process that we have been conducting,” the President told the forum, which was also attended by a number of Cabinet ministers and other senior state officials.
Yudhoyono reminded his listeners that the special status of Yogyakarta was inseparably linked to Indonesia’s history when Yogyakarta was once the capital city. “This is of priceless historical value and deserves protection,” he said.
Separately the sultan said that the enactment of the law after a long process was the result of an agreement between the central government and the provincial administration. “There is no winning or losing,” said the sultan, the father of five daughters.