Indonesia not to include Australia in visa-free list
KONFRONTASI - Indonesia has announced a plan to exclude Australia from a list of 45 countries to be offered visa-free travel amid a tense standoff between Jakarta and Canberra over the fate of two convicted Australian drug smugglers on death row in the Southeast Asian state.
"If we give visa-free travel to Australia, we have to be given the same thing," Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said late Monday, adding, "It cannot be that we give it to them first."
Currently, tourists from 15 countries, mostly in Southeast Asia, are permitted to visit Indonesia without a visa, while visitors from a number of other countries can buy a tourist visa on arrival.
The other 30 countries to join the list are mainly European, along with several other Asian countries including China. The United States and some Middle Eastern and African countries will also be added.
Meanwhile, Yahya denied that the tensions between the countries over the imminent execution of two convicted Australian prisoners had influenced the decision, arguing that Australia was excluded from the list because its own policy required visiting Indonesians to have a visa.
"I can guarantee that if the Australian government wants (to agree to visa-free travel), that the foreign minister and president will almost definitely want it too," the minister said, adding "It's not that we do not want to include Australia."
The country’s decision which is expected to come into effect next month is aimed at reviving the ailing economy as the minister explained, “We hope that we can attract an additional one million foreign tourists," predicting that the policy could draw in an extra $1 billion a year.
According to the official, Australian nationals can still apply for a tourist visa on arrival.
The two Australian convicts were arrested in 2005 and sentenced to death a year later for trying to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of the Indonesian resort island of Bali into Australia. They are currently in Nusakambangan Island, where they are expected to face the firing squad.
The two are the only members of the dismantled Bali Nine drug-smuggling ring on death row. The remaining Bali Nine members were sentenced to life or 20 years in prison.
In 2014, according to the Indonesian statistics bureau, Australian tourists made up 12 percent of foreign visitors in the Southeast Asia state.[ptv]