The Jakarta Post
Immigration officials are ready to implement a free-visa policy for 84 countries that were added to the list at the end of last year, bringing to 174 the total number of countries whose nationals can stay in Indonesia for up to 30 days on a free visa, an official said recently.
Law and Human Rights Ministry's immigration directorate general spokesman Heru Santoso Ananta Yudha said on Monday that implementation to waive visa fees for the latest addition of countries was awaiting the issuance of a presidential decree.
'We at the immigration directorate general fully support the government's decision and will carry out our duties accordingly,' Heru told the thejakartapost.com.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said the government would maintain appropriate security procedures in relation to the free-visa policy.
He also said the government would continue its efforts to develop Indonesia's tourism and approach potential regions such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe to visit the archipelago.
University of Indonesia international relations expert Hikmahanto Juwana said the government needed to be vigilant and selective with nationalities to be granted free visas to Indonesia.
He urged the government to prepare the implementation, including preparing the immigration officials once the policy took effects.
'For Indonesia, even though tourism is important, [the government] must still be cautious in terms of security and the economy."
"Security is a very important issue considering that minimum immigration officials oversee the supervision," he said.
Hikmahanto also warned against including countries whose citizens were often involved in transnational crimes.
Furthermore, the government should also be careful of countries whose citizens may exploit Indonesia as a transit country to illegally enter Australia.
The situation will not only create trouble for both Australia and Indonesia but may also create misunderstandings between the two nations that could in turn harm their relations, Hikmahanto said.
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo said on Monday that he was not worried the policy would compromise security or stability in the country. He cited neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia that issued free visas to the nationals of more 170 countries but remained safe from security disturbances.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli announced in December that the government had added 84 countries to the list of nations eligible to free entry from the current 90 countries in order to boost foreign tourist arrivals. The government is targeting 20 million tourist arrivals by 2019 even though development of the country's tourist facilities lagged behind that of neighboring countries.
Australia and Brazil and among the 84 countries. Indonesia's relations with the two countries nosedived following the executions of two Australians and one Brazilian for drug offenses last year.
Australian tourists are among the top five visitors to Indonesia along with Singaporeans, Malaysians, Chinese and Japanese.
Other countries whose nationals will be eligible for free visas are Bangladesh, Cameroon, Kenya, Pakistan, Palestine, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. (rin)