The figurative if not the literal centre of Jakarta, Merdeka Square (merdeka means independence) is actually a trapezoid measuring almost 1 sq km. In the 19th century, the Dutch called it Koningsplein (Kings Square) and it became a focal point for the city after they moved the government here from old Batavia (Kota). It's always had an important role in local life. Today, once you've come to terms with the absurd fencing, you'll find a place where Jakartans come to breath.
Merdeka Square was long home to many different governmental buildings. Beginning with Sukarno (and continuing with Suharto) efforts were made to turn it into a real park. After many fits and starts, almost all the buildings were cleared by the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, the government took a dim view on Merdeka's use for protest rallies during the upheavals of 1998 and in 2002 and built the massive iron fence around the square that you see today. Today access (and egress) is often hampered by this barrier. Still, when you stroll under the trees, watch kids play pick-up football, discover the deer enclosure and delight in a simple meal you'll fully appreciate this grand expanse.