A landowner’s plan to build a restaurant complex at one of the sites where hundreds of people died in the 2002 Bali bombings has been held up amid a furore by survivors and relatives of those killed in Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack.
Local officials this week temporarily halted the plan to build a multi-story commercial development atop the site where the Sari Club nightclub used to stand in this tropical island popular with tourists. It is now an empty lot but the nightclub was one of the places targeted in the bombings blamed on a local affiliate of al-Qaeda that left 202 people dead, including 88 citizens of neighboring Australia, in October 2002.
Survivors and relatives of victims say they want the old site to be kept as a peace park in memory of the dead. A memorial to the victims today stands next to the lot where the nightclub stood.
“We hope that the governor [of Bali] can come up with the best solution, because this is not only for victims of the Bali bombings, but also for the world,” Theolina Marpaung, a representative of the Isyana Dewata Foundation, which brings together Bali bombing survivors, told BenarNews after a meeting on Thursday with Bali Gov. I Wayan Koster, local investment officials and the Australian Consul General in Bali, Helena Studdert.
The meeting did not yield any agreement because the landowner was not present, Theolina said. Another meeting, which a representative of the property owner was expected to attend, has been scheduled for next week.
A representative from the governor’s office said I Wayan Koster during the meeting had proposed a land swap with another site located 1.5 km away (nearly a mile) as a potential solution, but the representative did not elaborate.
Studdert, the top Australian diplomat in Bali, declined to discuss specifics from Thursday’s meeting.
“This is a private negotiation. It has no Australian government involvement. It’s just the Bali Peace Park Association and the local foundation wishing to sit down with the owner and have a discussion and we are hopeful that will happen,” Studdert told reporters.
It was the right of the local authorities to give a permit for the development, yet it was “deeply distressing if something was built without further consultation,” the Australian envoy said.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the development was cancelled on Wednesday, with Bali government officials saying the project would not go ahead until the property owner and members of the Bali bombing victims’ association had reached an agreement over it, according to Agence France-Presse.
“The construction plan has been temporarily halted, next week we will facilitate a meeting between the owner and representatives of [the] Bali Peace Park Association [BBPA],” AFP quoted Made Badra, the chief of the Bali tourist agency, as saying. The BBPA is an Australia-based organization that represents survivors of and relatives of the Bali bombings.
Australian PM: Working to resolve issue
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, said Canberra had provided support and funding to establish a peace park on the site in Bali for “remembrance and quiet reflection.”
“Our Consul General in Bali has been working tirelessly to resolve this issue,” Morrison said via Twitter late Thursday.
“The Australian Government will continue to work with the Indonesian authorities to seek to resolve this issue and ensure the memories and families of all those who were murdered in that shocking terrorist attack are properly respected,” Morrison added.
Last week, Peace Park Association Chairman David Napoli told the Sydney Morning Herald that, in 2010, the site owners had set the price of the 800-square-metre block of land at 26 million Australian dollars (U.S. $18.2 million).
“A memorial on the roof is just not feasible. It’s an outrageous idea, people with disabilities would have trouble getting up there, no one would see it up there, and the price is unbelievable. It’s outrageous,” Napoli told the newspaper.
Owners of the site reportedly had demanded 5 million Australian dollars up front for a 100-year lease on the top floor for a memorial.
A representative of the landowner, Lyla Tania, said the owner of the former Sari club had the right to rebuild the place.
“Now, we want to rebuild it but we are being prevented instead of being severely intervened by the BPPA. What right do they have?” Tania told reporters on Monday.
Relatives of the Sari Club owner were also among the victims of the bombings, and there never was any intention to show disrespect to those who died in the attack, Tania added.
Tania said the plan by the owner, Tjia Tjat Tjoy Woen, called for building a five-story restaurant complex with seating for 353 people at the old Sari site.
A building permit was issued in December last year said Made Agus Aryawan, head of the local investment agency.
“We, as a public service agency, respect the rights of the landowners and processed [the application for permit] according to procedure,” he told BenarNews.
The bombings 17 years ago were carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian Muslim extremist group linked with the al-Qaeda international terror network.
In 2008, the Indonesian government executed Imam Samudra, Amrozi and Mukhlas for their roles in the attacks.