Bombers’ Executions Cast Shadow over Bali
KUTA ~ Security forces are on high alert but for tourists in Bali it is business as usual as Indonesia prepares to execute the three Islamists convicted over the 2002 bombings.
Local survivors and foreign visitors are united in their determination not to dwell on that October night when 202 people, mostly tourists including 88 Australians, were killed when bombs ripped through packed bars.
And the overwhelming feeling on this mainly Hindu island of temples, rice paddies and tropical beaches is that the government should not wait another day before executing the bombers by firing squad.
“The execution will deliver a message that the government is serious about upholding the law and that will convince more people to come and visit,” said tourist Paul Green, of Perth in Australia.
He said the imminent execution of the bombers, possibly in October after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, had not put him off visiting Bali for the first time.
Bombings “could happen in my home town in Australia at any time the terrorists want,” he said.
“So it’s almost pointless to avoid visiting such a beautiful place like Bali. I prefer not to join that kind of emotional roller coaster,” he said.
Tourists ambling around the cafes and souvenir shops of Kuta, Bali’s most famous beach, appeared unaware that the authorities have boosted security across the island as a precaution against reprisal attacks.
Bali police spokesman Antonious Reniban said more intelligence agents and anti-terror squad officers had been deployed to the island. Local fishermen had been asked to report any strange activities offshore, he said.
“We are preparing ourselves for the worst scenario, to detect any revenge attempt if the execution is carried out,” he said.
Uniformed officers are carrying out extra checks at entry points, especially Gilimanuk Harbour, Ubung bus terminal, Ngurah Rai International Airport and Padangbai Harbor, he said.
As the secret police agents and fishermen keep a quiet vigil, life on Kuta’s tourist strip appears as relaxed as it was in the hours before the October 12 blasts devastated Paddy’s Bar and the Sari Club.
Paddy’s Bar has moved to another address on Jl. Legian and the site it occupied at the time of the attacks is now a clothes shop. Sari Club has never reopened and its old address remains abandoned.
A large memorial engraved with the names of the 202 victims is a permanent reminder of the atrocity, but few tourists questioned seemed to want to remember the carnage of that night or the terror threat that remains.
“Please don’t politicize this heartbreaking incident which has already broken so many hearts and lives,” Thai tourist Pactharin Supitchakul said.
“If the bombers have already being sentenced to death, then the government should carry out the execution without any hesitation,” she added.
But American tourist Daniel Foster warned that the government should be careful about executing the bombers, who have expressed their eagerness to die as “martyrs” for their radical Islamist ideas.
“The government must be extra careful with this kind of execution as it could have a lot of effects afterward,” he said as he browsed the souvenir shops.
“But once all considerations have been made and the decision is still the same, then there’s no other way than to carry out the sentence. Justice must be done, however hard it is.”
The Attorney General’s Office, which carries out death sentences in the mainly Muslim country, had said last month that it wanted to execute the bombers – Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Ghufron – before Ramadan began at the start of September.
But as the holy fasting month neared and the bombers’ lawyers launched a constitutional challenge against the use of firing squads, the government appeared to back off and said it would wait until after Ramadan.
Executions in Indonesia are carried out in the dead of night by firing squad.
Wayan Rasmi, whose husband Made Sujana died at the Sari Club, said she had no time to think about the bombers’ fate.
Her only concern was making ends meet.
“I have made peace with myself and therefore right now I prefer to think about how to improve my livelihood through my tailoring business,” she said.