Monday, January 26, 2015

Aussies Being punished by Indonesia with no free visa waiver

The plan to waive the visa requirement for visitors from Australia, previously aimed at attracting more foreign tourists, has been dropped amid concerns surrounding repeated turbulence over Jakarta-Canberra diplomatic ties.

The government had only proceeded with the visa-free policies for Chinese, Russian, South Korean and Japanese tourists.

Australia, which contributes about 10 percent of foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia, has had many ups and downs in its relationship with Indonesia. A high-ranking ministry official said that political reasons were behind the decision to exclude Australia from the new visa policy. “Giving free visas to Australians may bring more detriment than benefit. Besides, Bali would still be their favorite destination anyway. I don’t think a visa on arrival fee of around US$35 would be a burden for any Australian tourist,” the official said.

The latest episode of the Jakarta-Canberra diplomatic saga occurred earlier this month following President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s decision to execute all drug inmates on death row, including two Australians. Two months earlier, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi slammed Australia’s unilateral decision to reject any refugees who registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Indonesia after July 1, 2014.

But the lowest point in the two countries’ diplomatic ties in the past 15 years occurred in 2013 when attempts by Australian intelligence to spy on Indonesia by tapping the phones of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and his inner circle in 2009 were revealed. Angered, Yudhoyono decided to freeze cooperation between the two countries on defense and intelligence sharing until a code of conduct on spying could be enacted in August last year, two months before he handed over the presidency to Jokowi.


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