Gaya Travel Magazine was recently given the opportunity to interview H.E. Air Chief Marshall (Ret.) Bapak Herman Prayitno, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to Malaysia. Respectable, diplomatic and astute, H.E. Bapak Herman wisely shares with Gaya Travel on the state of Indonesia-Malaysia relations, as well as enhancing business and tourism between the two countries.

1. Could H.E Bapak Herman share with us how is the current state of diplomatic relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia? How can Indonesians and Malaysians strengthen the bond between the two countries?

Under President JokoWidodo administration, Indonesian foreign policy devotes to three pillars that have been outlined in Indonesia’s National Development Plan for the period of five years ahead. These pillars are maintaining Indonesia’s sovereignty including accelerating the negotiation process on the border delimitation; improving protection of Indonesian citizen and legal entities abroad; and enhancing Indonesian economic diplomacy.

If we elaborate those three pillars, Malaysia would be and still is Indonesia’s top priority. Let’s take a look on the state’s sovereignty pillar. Indonesia and Malaysia currently still have outstanding border problems in land, as well as maritime border, which should be further discussed. The appointment of the special envoy by the two leaders is a breakthrough to speed up the negotiation process on maritime delimitation issues.

On the economic pillar, I am happy to tell you that Malaysia is always on the big five of the largest investors for Indonesia. On the consular diplomacy, I don’t think I should talk too much on this issue. Everybody knows that Indonesian Migrant Workers have contributed to Malaysia’s economy. Of course, there are still some pending matters on the issue of migrant workers; however, I am convinced that with the warm relations between our two leaders, the two countries would continue discussing this issue smoothly, in the spirit of satu rumpun (same ancestry) and for the benefit of the people from the two countries.

2. Are there new plans taken by both Indonesian and Malaysian governments to make entry each other’s country easier?

In addition to a visa-free policy that has been facilitating traffic flow of tourists from Indonesia to Malaysia and vice versa, Indonesia and Malaysia would also continue to seek other efforts to make entry each other’s country easier. The Indonesian government, for example, has implemented three new policies in the field of tourism that facilitate Malaysians to Indonesia, namely increasing the number of immigration check points for Malaysian tourist. For travellers from Malaysia – which is already enjoying visa-free visits – there are now 124 Immigration Checkpoint at 29 airports, 88 ports, and seven border land posts provided by the Indonesian government.

The Indonesian government is also implementing licensing to make it easier for cruise ship and yachts coming from Malaysia to enter Indonesia – no more Clearance Approval documents required in Indonesian Territory for yachts entering Indonesian waters through 18 harbours.

Another policy is the elimination of cabotage policy (applies only to tourists but not for other types of passengers) that offers access to foreign flagged cruise ships to raise (embark) and lower (disembark) passengers comprising foreign as well as domestic tourists at five Indonesian ports, which are Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, Tanjung Perak in Surabaya, Belawan in Medan, Makassar in South Sulawesi and Benoa in Bali.

3. In the terms of two way investment, what is the situation like? Are there more Indonesians investing in Malaysia or vice versa? What can Indonesia offer to Malaysia and what can Malaysia offer to Indonesia?

Malaysia has been Indonesia’s major economic partner. In the investment sector, as last year data has been released by the Indonesian Coordinating Investment Board, the results amazes me. On the third quarter of 2015, Malaysia was the biggest investor in Indonesia. For the yearly overall Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) figure, Malaysia constitutes USD3.076 billion or 10.5% of total capital inflow to Indonesia in 2015.  Malaysia turned to be the second largest investors after Singapore with the total of 913 executed projects in 2015. One example is the Cikopo-Palimanan Toll Road connecting Jakarta-Cikampek Toll Road and Palimanan-Kanci Toll Road, developed by a joint venture company called PT Lintas Marga Sedaya that is owned by the Malaysian company PLUS Expressways and the Indonesian company PT Bhaskara Utama Sedaya, which is the longest toll road to date.

In order to maintain this figure, the Government has been working on deregulation and acceleration of the principal license process. One of the policies is to speed up the 3-hour principal license settlement for specific FDI criteria. This policy is part of the economic policy packages designed to ensure the success of the Government programmes in increasing investments into the country.

To that end, the Government of Indonesia nurtures the increasing FDI Trends via policy reforms, incentives and facilities. Recently, the Government has revised the regulation to be more open for FDI especially in industries, creative economy sectors, tourism and e-commerce. In an attempt to attract more Malaysian investors, the Indonesian Government intends to implement a number of fiscal incentives such as five to 15 years tax exemption, with tax allowance granted up to 30 percent of investment value. Furthermore, the Government also has set up special economic zones nationwide to accommodate industries’ needs. The industries that have been the Government’s priorities are agriculture, import substitution, export-based, labour-intensive, maritime, infrastructure and tourism.

On the other hand, I also urge our national companies to invest their capital in Malaysia. It has drawn to my attention that food and beverages sector is attractive here. We have many food and beverages franchises and some of them are even declared as principal franchises in Malaysia covering the South East Asian region. With regard to the other sectors, I always put effort in assisting Indonesians to invest in Malaysia such as bridging the Indonesian trade associations to meet Malaysian businesses.

4. Indonesia is Malaysia’s favourite holiday destination. Besides Bali, Bandung, Jakarta, Padang, Medan and Aceh, what other parts of Indonesia do you think Malaysians will enjoy once they have discovered them?

I recommend that Malaysian travellers explore more of Yogyakarta for its complex and rich pre-Islamic heritage and vestiges, including the Javanese aristocratic legacy and culture that still can be found at the kraton (Javanese palace). Surabaya and Semarang also worth to be visited since it offers different delicious food such as lumpia Semarang (Semarang spring rolls) and attractions. Malaysians should also head to Tana Toraja for the local community’s spectacular rituals and traditional customs of the Toraja people. Makassar is also popular for its seafood dishes and diving.

5. With regard to Indonesians coming to Malaysia for leisure, what would they like to do and see in Malaysia? Which parts of Malaysia do they like to visit?

I enjoy visiting Genting Highlands since it has various attractions, Legoland and Johor Premium Outlets in Johor, Melaka for its cafes and heritage buildings, as well as Penang for its liveliness. I am at ease with Kuala Lumpur since I find the city accessible. I also have been to many parts of Malaysia such as Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Tawau, including laidback Kelantan and Terengganu. I find Avani Sepang interesting since it has accommodation units that are well appointed and located above water. Another resort that caught my attention, which I also intend to experience in the near future, is the Lexis Hibiscus in Port Dickson, which also has rooms above water, suitable for my wife and I to holiday with our grandchildren.

6. What are H.E. Bapak Herman’s favourite holiday places in Indonesia and Malaysia?

Since I stay in Jakarta, my family and I would normally visit Bandung for frequent breaks due to its scenery and cooler air, while Yogyakarta itself is a culinary heaven, great for foodies. I also never get tired of Bali due to the people’s welcoming disposition, creativity and craftsmanship.

7. What is H.E. Bapak Herman’s hope with regard to tourism for both Indonesia and Malaysia?

It is my hope that the relations between our two countries, together with the entire ASEAN region, to become closer, tighter, more prosperous and flourishing. I also hope that more Malaysians will be visiting Indonesia and vice versa due to our proximity and cultural affinity. As the Ambassador, it is my duty to promote closer people-to-people relations so that citizens from both countries are able to understand each other better, foster stronger relations and remain peaceful.

Gaya Travel Magazine team extends our deepest gratitude to H.E. Air Chief Marshall (Ret.) Bapak Herman Prayitno for spending his valuable time with us and to the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia for kindly arranging the interview.

This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 11.3. Read the magazine for free HERE.

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