Editorial Notes

Make it easier for Indonesians to get a passport: The Jakarta Post

In its editorial, the paper says people shouldn't have to line up from 2 a.m. to acquire a passport.

Hundreds of people jostle to process their passports during the 2018 Immigration Festival at National Monument park in Jakarta on Jan 21. PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JAKARTA (THE JA KARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Unfortunately, this is still the case not only for frenzied fans awaiting the latest smartphone or rock stars' autographs, but also for those trying to access urgent health services, enough clean water in coastal areas, or, in the case of Sunday's event at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta, to apply for passports.

The 1,600 application forms made available for the Immigration Festival quickly ran out and many were left disappointed. Immigration officials receive some 15,000 applications a day in Jakarta alone and the single-day event was indeed just one of a number of outreach efforts to meet citizens' needs by the Directorate General of Immigration under the Law and Human Rights Ministry.

However, what looked like a failure to anticipate so many applicants contrasted the progress of passport services amid much-praised developments in the last year. Among others, the progress made in the immigration office's online system has resulted in fewer incentives for short-cuts (or bribes for quicker services) for both brokers and those wanting to apply for or renew their passports.

Outreach programmes in public areas such as malls and at Jakarta's one-stop system for public services have raised the image of the immigration department - a huge turnaround from reports of widespread frustration with the services.

Granted, the rare available dates for passport services can be attributed to the remaining weeks of the peak season.

However, the scene on Sunday brought to mind suspected resistance of public officials against the result of progress enabled by the transparency and effectiveness of digital systems - the loss of habitual, illegal income from bribes, which require secrecy regarding who must first be served, and who gets delayed indefinitely.

Thus, the common adage still seems relevant: "Why make things easy if they can be made difficult?"

Such suspicions also foster resentment, with other government agencies catering to public needs showing an inconsistent ability - and willingness - toward adopting higher efficiency. All these agencies are supposedly "transparent" nowadays, with official fees and requirements. Still, people's experiences vary.

The Directorate General of Immigration has stated that it would continue to upgrade its online system to ensure quicker and better services. In the first 10 months of 2017, it issued 2.56 million passports.

In the past few years, Indonesians have been able to apply for new passports or extend an existing one from any immigration office in the country, an improvement from the earlier restriction of applying at the office in the same administrative area of one's residence.

We do appreciate such incremental improvements in the issuance of passports, including the end of requiring to submit a folder full of documents. But passports should not be considered luxury items that require lining up in the dark, and that Indonesians must renew every five years. Like an identification card, a passport is a citizen's right.

The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media.

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