Ambon. The heavy downpours may have battered the port of Ambon during Tuesday’s peak event of Sail Banda 2010, but it failed to temper the excitement felt by thousands of Ambonese residents. The port was crowded with people trying to catch a glimpse of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife, First Lady Ani Yudhoyono.
In great anticipation, the crowds lined both sides of the streets, including schoolchildren, who were dismissed early to join the throngs of people, waiting patiently in the rain.
“I have been standing here since 7:30. It was raining even then,” said eighth-grader Viel Latupono. “I’m tired but I want to see the president.”
Mother of three Ima Ode was also excited by the prospect of seeing “President Yudhoyono’s face.” The 32-year-old woman waited just outside the gate of the port with her children.
“Although I’m not a Maluku native, I’m very proud that Maluku is hosting this Sail Banda,” she said. “I am positive this can help develop the province.”
In his speech Yudhoyono said that with Sail Banda 2010 the country would use the momentum to promote Indonesian marine diversity and to help develop remote islands.
Sail Banda 2010 is an international maritime event aimed at showcasing how Maluku has overcome years of conflict.
Yudhoyono declared Maluku — long famed as the “Spice Islands” — as the “National Fish Belt”. “These areas have the potential of producing 1.64 million tons of fish a year. This is a huge potential that will benefit the welfare of the people,” Yudhoyono said.
A parade of naval ships from Indonesia and the participating countries took place as part of the maritime event.
Joint operations have been carried out by the navies of Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to offer free health treatment to residents in the run-up to Sail Banda 2010.
Also, a choir sang the song Rinduku Padamu (My Longing For You). The song, written by Yudhoyono, is the title song of his first album launched in 2007.
The awaited air show and parachuting were canceled due to bad weather. Two parachutists were supposed to give a hand bouquet to the president and his wife at the end of the event.
The glee expressed by the crowds awaiting Yudhoyono’s arrival however was not echoed throughout Ambon.
Members of the “Group of Indonesian Christian Students” or GMKI, held a peaceful protest some 100 meters from the port.
They accused the Maluku provincial government of having misused a budget worth Rp 4.6 billion ($ 515.000).
Sail Banda 2010 will be completed on Indonesian Independence Day on Aug. 17