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BALI UPDATE #007 - March 13, 1998
INDUSTRY ALERT-YOUR HELP IS NEEDED
The following story was on the front page of today's
(March 13, 1998) Sydney Morning herald Newspaper.
(Sydney Morning Herald, 13 March 1998)
RESCUE FEARS FOR 15,000 IN INDONESIA
by James Woodford
Senior members of the Department of Defence have
warned that evacuation plans for Australians in Indonesia may be unworkable
in the event of a major breakdown of law and order in the country.
The department has held repeated talks with the Department
of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) over the past few weeks on the issue,
with some Defence officials arguing that the plans must be changed.
However, DFAT has described these elements is the
military as disenchanted "cowboys" who do not represent the views of either
DFAT, which has responsibility for evacuation plans
and advising Australians in Indonesia on the political situation, is confident
that a rescue will not be necessary.
It has evacuation plans for Australians in every
country which are constantly revised as circumstances change.
However, in recent months the department has been
closely studying its plans for Indonesia because of the increased risk
of civil disturbances created by the economic crisis.
Privately, fears are increasing in some sections
of the department that the situation may deteriorate, forcing a major
Spokesman said that both departments were working
closely on contingency plans and there was broad agreements on how Australians
would be evacuated in the event of a major disturbance in Indonesia.
Several of the most senior officials from both departments
said that there was common agreement on the evacuation plans and that
the critics were regarded as alarmists and not reflecting the views of
The officials conceded, however, that if, for example,
Jakarta was gripped by chaos, the Government would be faced with a major
problem where it could be "messy and difficult".
But they regarded this scenario as extreme. A major
rescue may be beyond the capability to the Australian Defence Force with
estimates that no more than 20 RAAF Hercules aircraft would be available,
not enough to move 15,000 Australians in the time necessary.
Present evacuation plans in the first instance include
normal commercial flights, followed by special charter flights that might
include the mobilisation of Qantas and Ansett aircraft and almost certainly
other international operators.
In the worst scenario, DFAT may be forced to mount
a "Phom Penh style" rescue by sending in the Hercules. In July 1997 Australia
used the transports to airlift more than 450 foreigners from Cambodia,
including 245 Australians.
It is understood that several of the most senior
members of the military have warned DFAT that the rescue plan needs to
Any evacuation would begin with an "advisory" warning
to Australians to leave Indonesia, with the designated wardens throughout
the country contacting Australians registered with the embassy.
Some senior Defence officials believe this plan would
be unworkable because the number of Australians; in Indonesia meant there
would need to be too many wardens.
Also, Australians have recently begun to blend more
into South-East Asian countries instead of living in enclaves, making
them more difficult to find.
For example, one officials said the evacuation of
about 400 Australians after the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing would
be far more difficult today than it was at the time because even in Communist
China Australians were much more dispersed within the community. But the
DFAT remains adamant that its wardens system is the best way to get nationals
out of a country.
It says the commercial aircraft operators generally
run flights through to the last moment in a crisis, which would leave
only a small number of Australians for the military to mop up.
A spokesman for the Minister of Defences, Mr. Maclachlan
, said there could be no comments on contingency plans for the safety
of Australian nationals in Indonesia, except to say that they were updated
as circumstances change.
END OF ARTICLE - END OF ARTICLE
In a related article on page 10 of the same edition,
Louise Williams, in an article titled "Quick evacuations prepared by expats
as tension builds up ", wrote the following:
"At business lunches, huddles of managers pass around
rumours of attacks on foreigners; robberies, the stoning of cars, shouts
of resentment. The Australian Embassy says there is no evidence that foreigners
are being targeted, but much of the stress of the present uncertainly
comes from not having any real information".
"Like many of their friends, the family is holding
first-class tickets out of the country. All the families they know are
taking their children out of Indonesia during April, when, if IMF conditions
are applied, the highly sensitive fuel subsidy is due to be lifted, above
that will further increase prices."
"All foreign schools have emergency communications
systems, stockpiles of food, water and bedding, and two-way radios on
board busses in case they have to be called back to avoid demonstrations.
The system was tested last year during the May election riots when children
were held at school for hours at a time and busses were called back off
these are very dangerous articles misrepresenting
the mood and situation in Indonesia at the moment and it is very unfortunate
that is has been given front- page prominence in Sydney's leading newspaper.
Almost all major wholesaler brochures promoting Bali in Australia will
be delivered to the marketplace in the next several weeks and the impression
that expatriates and foreigners live in a constant state of fear is totally
Members of the Bali Tourism Industry.... let's fight
Please send a facsimile to Mr. John Lyons, Editor,
Sydney Morning Herald at 61 2 9282 2632 today telling him that Indonesia
continues to be safe!
By all means, write your own letter but should you
need " talking points" here are some suggestions:
Due to the impact of the regional economic crisis
in Southeast Asia there have been some isolated incidents of civil unrest.
Without exception these have taken place in city centres, far removed
from areas normally frequented by tourists. Bali has been essentially
free of such unrest, due in part to our tourism based and export based
economy on the island.
In all the sporadic and relatively rare incidents
of civil unrest no tourists have been the target of any public anger.
Tourists, in destinations like Bali, continue to be enthusiastically welcomed
as friends whose presence in the Country is creating employment's and
helping the nation weather its current economic difficulties.
The non-violent demonstrations on a number of college
campuses across the country have received disproportional exposure in
the international media. Indonesia students, like students in many democratic
countries around the world, make strong political statements and the police
stand guard at a distance to ensure public peace is maintained. The President,
in his inauguration speech has encouraged constructive criticism and the
military authorities have indicated that public demonstrations which do
no offend public order will be tolerated. Why does the international press
choose to give a "negative" spin to such stories, which seen from another
perspective, represent a natural maturation of the political processes?
The entire travel industry in Bali would welcome the
opportunity to host a visit to Bali by representatives of the Sydney Morning
Herald or any other Australian publication. Such a visit would demonstrate
that Bali continues to be a peaceful and safe tourism destination. Such
a representative would also see that our shops and restaurants are exceptionally
busy as many wise tourists are taking full advantage of the buying power
of their foreign currency in Indonesia at the moment.
While no one can predict future developments in Indonesia
or Elsewhere, the current coverage of this country by the international
press runs to dangerous speculation anchored very lightly in rumour and
innuendo and, in fact, contributes to Indonesia,s problems by discouraging
travel to a nation that desperately needs the foreign exchange created
PLEASE DESIGN YOUR OWN MESSAGE BUT SEND A FACSIMILE
TO MR. LYONS SUGGESTING A MORE BALANCED VIEW OF INDONESIA MAY BE IN ORDER!
with any messages sent so they can be shared with other members on the
PATA BALI TOURISM network.
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