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Opposition to Visa Policy Gaining Ground?

President and Cabinet May Be Re-thinking Plans to Introduce Visa-On-Arrival.

(12/1/2003) Reports in the English-language Jakarta Post are lending fuel to speculation that the plan to introduce a visa-purchase-on-arrival policy on January 1, 2004 may be delayed for the indefinite future.

While immigration and tourism officials continue to try to decide implementation guidelines and exactly how much to charge tourists for their visas, the Jakarta Post reports that the introduction of the new policy is "postponed" while "the President must consider opposition from the tourism industry."

Opposition to the plan to charge between US$ 20 - 35 for a 30 day visa has been widespread and vociferous from tourism circles, who see such a plan as a giant step backwards in efforts to revitalize a national tourism industry teetering on the verge of collapse. Among the steps taken to oppose the policy are intense lobbying efforts launched by tourism leaders in Jakarta and peaceful mass demonstrations staged by the tourism industry in Bali.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri signed an official decree on March 31, 2003, removing the current visa-free-arrival enjoyed by 48 countries to be replaced by a paid visa on arrival system, originally scheduled to be introduced on December 1, 2003.

Mr. Yusril Izha Mahendra, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights who has championed the new visa policy has reportedly confirmed to the press that the policy will not be introduced on December 1, 2003.

Separate reports indicate that retired Economic Minister for Indonesia, Mr. Frans Seda, has joined the debate fray, formally writing the Nation's leadership urging plans to introduce the visa-fee be scrapped or postponed.

The current debate raging in Jakarta does little to clarify the situation for tourism operators and those planning to visit Indonesia. While little is certain, apparently changes in the policy will not occur on December 1, 2003.

Whether those changes will now occur on January 1, 2004, or much later remains, at least at this stage, anyone's guess.