Envoy lauds Brunei-Indonesia ties

Danial Norjidi

Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Brunei Darussalam Dr Sujatmiko lauded the bilateral relations between Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam during a message delivered in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of Independence of the Republic of Indonesia on August 17.

The ambassador said, “On the auspicious occasion of the 75th anniversary of independence of the Republic of Indonesia, I have the honour, on behalf of the Government and people of Indonesia, to convey our message of fraternal friendship and cooperation to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, and to the Government and people of Brunei Darussalam.

“I would also like to express our gratitude for the unwavering support and continued efforts in the advancement of our bilateral relations. Brunei has always been a close friend to Indonesia. Our two peoples have forged good relations through trade, cultural and religious exchanges, long before the establishment of our diplomatic relations 36 years ago.

“It is therefore incumbent upon us to maintain success of the past recipes and engineer new ones for the partnership to overcome today’s world of unprecedented challenges,” he affirmed.

The ambassador said that Indonesia continues to be committed to working closely with Brunei in areas where the two countries share interests, and as Brunei achieves remarkably in managing COVID-19 threats, this will also include considering new and emerging areas.

The envoy said he expects the two countries to enhance perspectives sharing on COVID-19 and discuss best practices and experiences on pandemic preparedness and public health strategies.

The ambassador said, “We are keeping close contact with the Government of Brunei on our borders and travel settings. It was so advantageous that our nationals who had concluded their work contracts in Brunei were facilitated to fly home with the help of Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) through a series of special flights to Jakarta and Surabaya.

Jakarta city at night

“Both of our respective borders are likely to continue to be restricted for some time, as the world searches for a vaccine. Nevertheless, we should continue exploring options and innovative solutions to support greater business and education engagements as we are working towards recovery.”

The ambassador affirmed that Brunei is one of Indonesia’s closest partners. “Our cooperation is in good shape, and continues to work well, delivering benefits for both sides. Underpinning our relationship are successes, shared interests, and shared cultural values, which all continue to bind our countries together.

“It is just the right time for us to capitalise on the progress we have made so far and step further to achieve greater heights for the mutual benefit in our bilateral relations.”

Speaking on tourism, the ambassador noted that in this time of the global pandemic and with travel restrictions in place, travelling has become quite a daunting challenge. He shared that in 2019, Indonesia recorded 16.11 million overseas arrivals, including 19,279 visits by Bruneians. Up to the middle of February 2020, around two million visitors set foot in Indonesia before the virus spread forced tourist operators to temporary halt their work.

“While the COVID-19 pressed the switch, the destination, nevertheless, has not gone dark,” he said. “The truth is, Indonesia remains a land truly gifted with scenic beauty. From underwater gardens to pristine beaches, colourful lakes and rugged mountains, it naturally continues to converging wonders and spine-chilling adventures with ease. Not much has changed with its vibrant tribes and their cultural ethos. The exquisite historical relics and traditions also remain intact, allowing future visitors to walk back into the time whenever they wish to. Completing the to-do list by sampling the mouth-watering food laid down to its original recipe, and tour the city for a rewarding shopping experience, is ever within reach too.”

He shared that, owing to more aggressive testing and tracking and improvements in medical treatment, most parts of Indonesia are now entering the transition phase, an adaptation period towards ‘’the new normal’’.

“These developments are well transmitted into public expectations and business optimism. An international survey by Blackbox Research suggests Indonesia is among the nations with highest confidence about their preparedness to welcoming back foreign visitors in the near future. Indonesia’s travel confidence score stood at 65 out of 100, higher than the global average of 61. Most operators confirmed that they were ready to restart, with safety and cleanliness protocols firmly in place.”

He noted that the Government of Indonesia launched “Indonesia Care”, a national campaign to encourage tourism industry across the nation to implement health protocol standards and good practices in order to present clean, healthy, safe and environmentally-sustainable destinations. The campaign draws upon Indonesian collective enthusiasm to care for others well-being without compromising health and safety standards.

In addition to keeping tourism operators updated with newest standard operating procedures (SOPs) applicable to the business, the programme also covers trainings for tourism workers to improve their skills and prepare them for shifts in consumer behaviour in the new normal era.

The guidelines put an emphasis on healthy habits and the use of technology, as well as a mention of zero-waste management for the destinations. It was shared that the government is carrying out a trial run for this new, post-pandemic SOPs across top tourist destinations as it prepares to welcome visitors. These tests will eventually result in a CHS (cleanliness, health, and safety) certification for destinations deemed to have fulfilled the relevant criteria.

Bali was selected as one of the project’s pilots which it then followed up by opening the gates to domestic tourists from July 31 and put the SOPs effectively into gear. A set of requirements were set for travellers intending to visit Bali. Prior to entering, travellers are required to submit a valid COVID-19 test result and register themselves with a mobile platform for tracing and health monitoring purposes. Visitors are subject to a random health check by the authorities. They are also required to wear masks, implement social distancing, and conduct routine hand-washing while in Bali and allowed entry only to premises with “safe” status.

“There is strong optimism that Bali could re-open to international tourists at the end of the year, considering the province’s success thus far in controlling the coronavirus outbreak and the successful implementation of the SOP,” he said.

“Indeed, Bali has never failed to shine despite the current global downturn. A survey by Dutch-based online ticket selling company, Booking.com in March-April 2020 found that Bali ranks second as most wanted destinations tourists would like to visit after the pandemic ends.”

Similar measures are being implemented in select destinations which had been voted by many as “the new Bali” for their vast treasures of natural beauty and tourist attractions, and the ambassador said they are moving in stages for receiving overseas visitors by the year end.Among them are: Lake Toba, the biggest lake in Indonesia known for its crystal-clear water, verdant landscape and the Batak architecture; Wakatobi, a National Marine Park and the largest barrier reef in Indonesia; Banyuwangi, a popular tourist spot at the eastern tip of Java; and Batam and Bintan, located just 30 minutes ferry away from Singapore.

“At present, travelling out of the country for tourism purposes is definitely off the table, yet every good holiday always starts with a good planning,” added the ambassador.