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Tourism Industry Stages Protests on Visa Policy

Demonstration by Bali Officials and Tourism Workers Held at Local Parliament.

(8/2/2003) A gathering, reported to number in the hundreds, comprised of government officials, academics, and tourism workers forming the Alliance of Tourism Stakeholders (ASPB) marched on Bali's local parliament (DPRD) on Friday, July 25, 2003, to voice their rejection of Presidential Decree No. 18 that will remove the visa-free facility currently granted to visitors from 48 countries.

The "on-again, off-again" decision to charge a fee for visitors to Indonesia is reportedly again "on" and likely to be introduced in September or October with the nationals of selected countries to be charged US$ 35 for a visa upon arrival at an Indonesian port for a 30 day non-extendable visa. Exactly which countries will be affected by the policy is not clear but suggestions are that the citizens of Western nations who require visas from traveling Indonesians will be on the list of those required to purchase a visa on arrival under the new plan.

The ASPB contingent was received by Bali's Vice-Governor I Gusti Bagus Alit Putra, the Vice-Chairman of the DPRD Ngurah Gede Surya, and the Chairman of Commission E of the DPRD Ida Bagus Nyoman Banjar in the reception area outside the parliament building.

The ASPB presented a formal statement on behalf of the people of Bali "strongly rejecting" Presidential Decision No, 18 of 2003 regarding the change in the visa policy claiming it will delay the recovery of Bali and nation's tourism industry. Speaking on behalf of the Alliance, Made Suryawan, the General Manager of the Santika Beach Hotel and a well-known community activist, depicted the change in policy by the government as a policy driven by emotion and lacking any clear purpose. Suryawan said, "if the policy is being enacted for reasons of security, Presidential Decree No. 18 of 2003 is inappropriate because any security problems (we now face) are the result of actions taken by our own citizens."

Stating he was prepared to meet with Indonesia's Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Yusril Ihza Mahendra at any time to discuss the issue, Suryawan said the matter of security is a shared responsibility of all parties, including members of the national tourism industry. Suryawan called on all stakeholders in the nation's tourism industry and members of the provincial government to unite in their opposition to the Presidential Decree and, if necessary, that the actual implementation of the decree be rejected by Bali's provincial leaders.

Replying to the ASPB's demands, Vice-Governor Alit Putra promised an "all out" struggle in support of the groups aspiration to overturn the decree.

According to reports in the Indonesian-language Nusa, other major tourism destinations in Indonesia are preparing to join Bali's protests rejecting the change in visa policy.