President Takes Swipe at Aussie Travel Warning

SYDNEY
AFP, The Bali Times

PRESIDENT Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono took a swipe at Australia’s tough travel warnings on Thursday as he urged business leaders to forge closer trade links between the two countries.

Yudhoyono made the comments a day after he reminded Australians that Indonesia was “more than a beach playground with coconut trees” in a landmark address to the country’s parliament.

“In regard to our tourism relations, we only know that Indonesia is now one of the top 10 tourist destinations for Australia in spite of your government’s advice against travelling to Indonesia,” he told a business forum.

Australia’s current advice urges travellers to reconsider their trip to Indonesia, citing a “very high threat of terrorist attack.”

Three Australians died in last July’s bomb attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels, while another 88 were killed in the 2002 Bali blasts. In 2004, nine people died in a car-bomb attack on the country’s embassy.

However, Indonesia has also enjoyed successes against Islamic militants, including Tuesday’s killing of Bali bomber Dulmatin, one of the country’s most wanted fugitives.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Wednesday that the warning was assessed independently, while Foreign Minister Stephen Smith described it as being only “raised in passing” during official talks.

“The president and his government understand the reasons behind our travel advice,” Smith told Sky News.

“But we ourselves have made the point (that) the advice is there for Australians to contemplate. Very many Australians take it into account and then exercise their judgement to travel.”

Bali remains one of Australia’s top tourist destinations despite the 2002 blasts and further attacks in 2005.

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