Peter Ilau was appointed Ambassador of Papua New Guinea (PNG) to the Republic of Indonesia in March 2011.
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Diplomatic golfers: Singapore Permanent Representative to ASEAN Tan Hung Seng (left to right), Chilean Ambassador to Singapore James Sinclair Manley, Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir and Indonesia Ambassador to Singapore Ngurah Swajaya pose before teeing off at a golf course on Bintan Island in the province of Riau Islands on Friday.(Courtesy of the Tourism Ministry)

“If you are satisfied with what we have offered then spread the word, but if you are dissatisfied, please tell us”, a strong mantra, usually posted in Padang food restaurants, was voiced by Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir in the front of a group of foreign ambassadors at a dinner party held at the Bintan Lagoon Resort on Friday.

The senior diplomat showed guests that Indonesia was serious in promoting its safety and potential to the world.

“We mean every word,” he told The Jakarta Post during the ambassadors’ familiarization trip to Bintan and Batam last week.

The trip, jointly organized by the Foreign Ministry and the Tourism Ministry in cooperation with the Riau Islands provincial administration, was tailored to prove that Indonesia was not only safe but also had a lot to offer to investors.

The event was also Indonesia’s way of applying the “show, not tell” policy.

Sixty-two diplomats and their wives from Jakarta and Singapore were invited on the trip. A series of leisure and sporting activities such as golfing and a trip to Bintan’s mangrove area had been organized for them to show that the situation on Batam and Bintan islands, which are widely known as playgrounds for Singaporeans, was favorable.

Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore Ngurah Swajaya, who initiated the event, acknowledged that the event was meticulously designed to meet the government’s promotional needs. The ambassadors from Jakarta, for instance, were flown in on direct flight from Jakarta to Tanjung Pinang, the capital of the Riau Islands province on Bintan Island.

This, Swajaya said, was a direct explanation from us and once they hit the road, they would see that we also have good infrastructure.

“We want them to realize and spread the word that just 40 minutes from Singapore there is a place with world-class facilities like Bintan. Hopefully they can entice more people to travel and invest on these two islands,” he said.

For many, including Indonesians, who are not aware of it, Bintan is a big surprise. The road that greets people from Sultan Haji Fisabillilah International Airport is smooth and well-built. So are the solid bridges that connect every part of the island. In some of the island’s resorts, tap water is available.

Bintan also meets its electricity needs with its own 73 Megawatt (MW) power plant. From that capacity, 13 MW is produced by state-power company PT PLN, while the rest is from a private power plant.

Bintan also allocates 20,000 hectares of its soil for the tourism industry. Some of the country’s best resorts and world-class golf courses are located there.

Commenting on this, the tourism minister’s special advisor, Harry Waluyo, confirmed that the Riau Islands, where Bintan and Batam are located, is on the government’s list of tourism promotion sites.

“We encourage the improvement of tourism facilities so as to lure more people to see and enjoy its tourist attractions,” he said.

Papua New Guinea Ambassador to Indonesia Peter Llau acknowledged the event as an excellent initiative and that it would help prove to people back home that Bintan and Batam were the perfect places for both leisure and investment.

“It gives us the chance to see for ourselves what is here. This place truly offers a world-class facility and this is what I’m going to tell people back home,” he said.

Peruvian Ambassador to Singapore Manuel Talavera Espinar said he was happily surprised by the development and hospitality of the people.

In fact, he went on, he would also take a lesson or two back home.

“Indonesia is few steps ahead, so we could also learn to develop tourism promotion back home,” he said.

South Korean Ambassador to Indonesia Cho Taiyoung, meanwhile, said he had been to Bintan twice. As an ambassador who mostly resides and works in Jakarta, he went on, the opportunity to learn about other regions in Indonesia was precious.

“We will keep this in mind and will try to disseminate the information and bring more investors here,” he said.

Fachir rest assured that this would not end here. There will be series of follow-up programs tailored to further promote Indonesia’s potential.