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A day after the Malaysian government conveyed its concerns over the “Sweeping Malaysian” vigilante campaign in Indonesia, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday described his citizens’ action as “excessive”. Susilo said the campaign was against the law and would put ties between Indonesia and Malaysia at risk.

On Tuesday, Indonesian activists of Relawan Ganyang Malaysia had conducted a raid on a street in Central Jakarta, hunting for Malaysians. They did not find any.

The Jakarta Post quoted Susilo as saying that the Indonesian government had done its part by sending protest notes and taking diplomatic action.

“We are working, and the Eminent Persons Group (a group established to improve Indonesia-Malaysia ties) is working. Why does there have to be such excessive action?” he had said while opening a plenary cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office yesterday.

He also reminded the nation that about 1.8 million Indonesian citizens were currently working, living or studying in Malaysia, and that “sweeping” the streets for Malaysians could harm their presence.

“Let’s think about how to manage problems more wisely. On principal issues like territorial boundary, we have to be firm.

“On the Ambalat dispute, on things related to national sovereignty, we’re being firm.

“On other issues, I believe there is still a better way out — good solutions that don’t need to involve violent actions that are against the law, moreover during Ramadan,” the president said.

Although the Malaysian government has not issued any ban on travel to Indonesia following the campaign there, Malaysians are taking precautions by cancelling their holidays to the republic.

Tour agencies are reporting “thousands of ringgit” in losses.

The agencies have been recording cancellations over the past week.

QS Travel Services Sdn Bhd executive director Noraida Othman said her company had been receiving phone calls from clients day and night.

She also received messages asking whether it was safe to go there. Noraida said some 100 clients had cancelled their trips to Jakarta, Bandung and Bali, which had resulted in losses of up to RM30,000.

These three Indonesian cities are among top destinations for Malaysians. Travellers are opting not to take risks with their safety as threats against Malaysians in the republic have escalated over the past few weeks.

Yesterday, Jakarta Post reported nine rallies in the Indonesian capital. One of them was held in front of the Malaysian embassy there, a foreign ministry official here said.

Noraida said those who had already paid for their trips had no other choice but to continue with their plans to holiday in the republic.

“About 30 people are going to different parts of Indonesia in the next few weeks but they need to be assured of their safety. Who can provide them this assurance?”

A Sinisini.com spokesman said Malaysians were afraid of the demonstrations held in Indonesia.

The company, which operates online, has noted a drastic number of cancellations, especially for tour packages to Jakarta.

“There have been more than 50 per cent cancellations as of today.
“People pay for holidays to unwind and enjoy themselves, not to worry about their safety.”

He said besides the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, the current situation had added to the losses the tourism industry was suffering.

However, checks with local carriers AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines found there were no cancellations so far by passengers flying to Indonesia.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry and the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta will continue to monitor the situation closely and issue regular reports.

An operations room has been set up to receive reports of any related incidents from members of the public, especially Malaysian citizens currently in Indonesia.- NST Online

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