The leaders of numerous stakeholder organizations representing the Bali tourism industry have met and laid the ground work for a massive peaceful rally and march scheduled for Wednesday, August 27, 2003, to protest plans by the Government to change the visa-free facility currently enjoyed by the nationals of 48 countries.
The rally, expected to attract thousands of workers from the island's massive tourism industry, will start with a rally at 9:00 a.m. at the Bajra Sandi Monument in Puputan Field before marching the short distance to the Minsitry of Justice and Human Rights Office to present a statement calling on Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the Jakarta-based Minister, to revoke or suspend the new policy.
The organizers of the rally and their desire to roll back the unpopular change in the visa policy have received support and encouragement from top-ranking provincial officials as well as members of the island's parliament. Both the Governor and Parliament have sent letters to the President asking her to reconsider the decision to impose the visa policy change.
The Chairman of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), Putu Agus Antara, described the planned demonstration march as an expression of the tourism industry's growing disappointment over the government's inability to properly handle national tourism matters. Antara also said that although the policy's implementation appears to be fixed, he "hoped government could hear this energy (of the protests). I hope it (the march) also could cause the government to consider and introspect concerning the tourist industry's aspirations and to therefore accommodate private sector wishes in the future."
The Chairman of Casa Grande - the association of starred hotel, Robert Kelsall said in commenting on the planned protests that "Members have expressed concern for economic well being of the Balinese people, despite recent positive signs of recovery, since October 2002 bombings virtually halted the island's leading industry. This is not the right time to add further obstacles to Indonesian tourism. Objections are still being experienced for travel to Indonesia, following recent acts of terrorism and more specific travel advisories relating to the safety of foreigners."
Organizers have emphasized that the rally is peaceful asking those who participate to bring along trash bags to preserve the beauty of the area. Also reflecting the well-coordinated approach being adopted for the rally, the organizers have stipulated a number of bi-lingual posters to be prepared and carried by the demonstrants including:
• "TUNDA KEPPRES NO. 18 TAHUN 2003
TENTANG BEBAS VISA KUNJUNGAN SINGKAT." - Postpone the Decree No 18 2003 about the Free Visa for short term visit.
• BALI LOVES PEACE AND TOURISTS
• "KEPPRES NO 18 BIKIN PHK, SIAPA TANGGUNG JAWAB." - Decree No 18 means more people redundant. Who will be responsible?
• "PARIWISATA BELUM PULIH" - Tourism has not yet recovered
• "INDONESIA AMAN ... PARIWISATA PULIH ... VISA $35 TIDAK MASALAH ... TAPI JANGAN SEKARANG BUNG YUSRIL ..." - Indonesia Safe – Tourism recovered – Visa $35 - No problem! But not now Pak Yusril.
Confusion still reigns on exactly when the change in visa policy and the collection of US$ 35 from incoming tourists will officially commence. Some local officials are expecting the change to take effect on September 1, 2003, but have reportedly yet to receive an official instruction in this matter from Jakarta.
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