Lyodra did not call for Papua’s freedom during independence day ceremony, official says

Lyodra performing at the Presidential Palace for the 77th Indonesian Independence Day ceremony. Photo: Instagram
Lyodra performing at the Presidential Palace for the 77th Indonesian Independence Day ceremony. Photo: Instagram

Did Indonesian singing megastar Lyodra call for Papua’s sovereignty in front of President Joko Widodo and other state officials during yesterday’s independence day morning ceremony at the Presidential Palace? Not according to a palace spokesman, who lambasted those that implied as much.

The 19-year-old won widespread praise after she belted out three Indonesian tunes at the event, showcasing the country’s musical diversity. 

During her transition from the Javanese classic Rek Ayo Rek to Papua’s Apuse, she said to the crowd, “Now we move to a regional tune, from Papua. Merdeka!” using the Indonesian word that roughly translates to freedom or an exclamation of sovereignty.

A professional transcriber would likely put a full stop between “Papua” and “merdeka” as Lyodra actually paused between the two words. Nonetheless, an online discussion soon sprung based on a short clip of her performance, suggesting that the North Sumatra native cheekily called for Papua’s independence.

Presidential spokesman Ali Mochtar Ngabalin lambasted the suggestion, saying the clip was taken way out of context.

“Firstly, it must be understood that this was in the context of [the country’s] independence. We were celebrating the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia on August 17,” he said.

Ngabalin added that Lyodra has the palace’s full support, and urged her to ignore the noise.

Lyodra has not issued any statements addressing the controversy.

The Indonesian government has long quashed any efforts or notions supporting Papuan provinces separating from the country. Papua was a Dutch colony until the early 1960s, when it declared itself an independent nation in 1961. Neighboring Indonesia took control of the region by force in 1963 and officially annexed it with a UN-backed referendum in 1969 that was widely seen as a sham.

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