On Wednesday, April 28, 2003, an estimated 5,000 peaceful demonstrators gathered in the parkway surrounding the Bajra Sandi Monument in Renon, the administrative sub-district of Bali's capital city of Denpasar. The protestors - representing hotel and tourism operators, members of various tourism associations, university students and regional government officials gathered to protest the imminent implementation of Presidential Decree No. 18 that will severely restrict the number of countries enjoying a visa-free-stay of 60 days in Indonesia.
The list of 48 countries whose nationals are eligible for this facility will be reduced to just 11, a policy change expected to be introduced as early as September 2003.
The Chairman of Paras Paros tourism professional's association and one of the organizers of the protest, addressed the crowd proclaiming that the massive turnout was proof of the widespread resistance to the Presidential Decree. Calling for a compromise from the Government, Suryawan said that now was not the time to introduce the planned visa fee.
He also pointed out that when viewed from the perspective of practicality and national interest, the thinking behind the new policy defies reason. He asked why were countries such a Chile, Morocco and Peru extended visa-free on arrival when key inbound markets for Indonesia, such as Australia, Japan, Taiwan and the United Kingdom were not?
The Protestor's Statement
The protest marchers, carrying banners opposing the Presidential Decree and accompanied by a traditional belaganjur orchestra, walked the short distance to the Bali offices of the Department of Justice and Human Rights to read a prepared statement calling for the postponement of the change in the visa policy until such a time as Bali's tourism industry regains its normal footing. The statement was presented by the marchers to the local heads of the Department of Justice and Human Rights together with the head of the local immigration office.
Bali's Regional Chief of the Department of Justice and Human Rights, Sriyanto S.H. promised to advise the Minister of the group's position and offered to act as a mediator with the Central Government should a small representative delegation wish to hold talks with Jakarta on the new visa policy.
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