American woman to be deported from Bali following viral tweets

PHOTO: Reuters

[UPDATE: Jan 20]

The American woman, Kristen Antoinette Gray, will be deported pending the next available flight, Indonesian authorities said in a statement on Tuesday (Jan 19). Her girlfriend, Saundra Michelle Alexander, will be leaving with her. 

The statement read: “The concerned foreign national is suspected to have done business by selling her e-book and putting up consultation fees on travelling to Bali, which means she can be subject to sanctions according to the 2011 Immigration Law." 

Though Gray's visitor stay permit is valid till Jan 24 this year, she has violated the purpose of her stay. 

Authorities also said that she was spreading information that could unsettle the public.

In her tweets, Gray had made statements calling the island queer-friendly and suggested that there were ways for foreigners to enter Indonesia during the pandemic despite the country’s travel restrictions.


They meant well, but one American couple's guide to getting into Bali, Indonesia has ruffled the feathers of many.

In a Twitter thread on Saturday (Jan 16), one of them recounted how she had spent 2019 job-hunting and living out of her savings before she and her girlfriend packed their bags for Bali. Though their trip was only meant to last six months, they decided to extend their stay in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

What seemed to irk netizens though, was how the woman described the place as "the perfect medicine", where she could live an "elevated" lifestyle thanks to Indonesia's low cost of living.

 

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

She added that she used to pay US$1,300 (S$1,730) a month for a studio apartment but now the rental for her current "treehouse" in Bali only comes up to US$400.

In comparison, locals earned just US$169 a month in 2020, reported data platform Ceic.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

Her partner also admitted that they weren't paying taxes as they were earning US dollars.

To add fuel to the fire, the couple appeared to be encouraging others to make the move to Bali as well —  at the end of woman's thread was a link to their US$30 ebook, which they said included information on how to get into Indonesia during the pandemic.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

Netizens' reactions to potential tax evasion and illegal travel

Many netizens accused the two for being tone-deaf by glamorising Balinese life through a Western lens and for seeming to encourage others to move to the island despite the pandemic.

"Our healthcare facilities are collapsing," one wrote.

Indonesia has currently closed borders to foreigners in a bid to keep out the new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus. Only high-level government officials and foreigners with residency permits are granted exceptions.

Hence, locals found it particularly worrisome that the pair were instructing foreigners on "how to go about getting into Indonesia during Covid."

In addition, while non-residences are subject to tax on Indonesian-source income only — which neither of them earned — those who stay in Indonesia for more than 183 days within a 12-month period or reside in Indonesia with an intent to stay are liable to pay taxes.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter
PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

Locked social media accounts

In response to the backlash, the woman acknowledged the criticisms she received, calling them valid. She did, however, add that they "aren't the conversations [she] was having today."

Both her Instagram and Twitter accounts have been locked at the time of writing.

Bali, the coronavirus hideout

The pair aren't the first and only foreigners to seek shelter from the pandemic on the island.

According to Bali's law and human rights ministry's Bali office at least 1,830 foreigners applied to extend their visas between February and March 2020.

But for some  it's understandable that foreigners would prefer to ride out the pandemic in a holiday destination. Leny Suparman, group chief executive officer of KOP Limited, which owns several resorts in Bali resorts in Bali, told the South China Morning Post, "It's human nature to want to escape from crowded cities such as Jakarta to island destinations like Batam and Bali."

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

rainercheung@asiaone.com