Bali Airline Boss, Bankrupt over Bombings, Building Nightclub on Bomb Site
Work gets under way at the site of the Sari Club, on Wednesday. Corrugated iron sheets have been erected in front of the plot.
LEGIAN ~ Construction of a restaurant and nightclub began this week on the site of the former Sari Club, blown up with the neighbouring Paddy’s Pub in the October 2002 bombings that claimed 202 lives.
The move scuppers the dream of a group of Australians to build a memorial park there whose local patron is Bali’s current governor.
The man behind the bar and restaurant project is Bali businessman Kadek Wiranatha, who is reported to have secured a 15-year lease on the land from its Jakarta owner. He was the owner of Paddy’s Pub, which he later rebuilt further down Jl. Legian.
The development comes in spite of support by Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika and the Badung government for the memorial park plan.
“The brother-in-law of the land owner told us that Kadek Wiranatha had signed a 15-year-lease on the land,” Dallas Finn of the Bali Peace Park Association, an Australian group, told The Bali Times.
Wiranatha owns a string of nightclubs in Kuta, some of them beside the bomb site, as well Bounty Cruises and chic restaurant Gado Gado in Seminyak, where he is also involved in the upmarket Ku De Ta restaurant and club.
Wiranatha is also boss of the bankrupt Air Paradise International and owns the Bali Advertiser, a fortnightly advertising publication aimed at the island’s expatriate population.
Last year the publication’s general manager said in an email to advertising clients that the Bali Advertiser was in a financial crisis and was slashing its print run.
Air Paradise abruptly ceased operations in November 2005, two months after the second bombings in Bali, which killed 20 people and was also blamed on Al Qaeda. Wiranatha cited a drastic fall-off in passengers on its Bali-Australia routes – the only sectors the airline flew.
The airline is still heavily in debt to creditors, according to correspondence seen by The Bali Times. It also faces an end-of-year cut-off on its moribund operating licence. Wiranatha has repeatedly sought funds from the Bali government to restart his airline.
Air Paradise officials have told The Bali Times they are hopeful of gaining sufficient investment to allow the company to restart flights.
Attempts to reach Wiranatha for comment about building a nightclub on the Sari Club site were not successful. His secretary said on Thursday morning that he was in Singapore on a business trip. A spokesman for Governor Pastika declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the local government.
The memorial park, which has been years in development, has garnered support from the Australian government. Australians were the largest national group of fatalities in the attack. Eighty-eight died.
In a recent letter to the Bali Peace Park Association, which is organising the memorial, to be a called a Spiritual Garden and is to feature a museum for which plans are being drawn up by the Bali government, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said funding for the project was being discussed in Canberra.
“I was glad to learn that the regent of Badung and the governor of Bali have responded positively to your proposal,” Smith wrote.
“Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have spoken to their counterparts in the Treasury about your application for charity and tax-free status. The assistant treasurer and minister for competition policy and consumer affairs will decide on this in consultation with the prime minister,” he said, adding that he had also written to the minister supporting the application.
The Bali Peace Park Association says approximately Aus$2.5 million will be required for the park, with almost two-thirds going towards the purchase of the 10 are (1,000 square metres) of land.
Finn, an insurance salesman in Australia, told The Bali Times discussions had been taking place with the landowner for the past three and a half years and that a sale was imminent.
“We don’t see that funding is a problem,” he said, adding that the Western Australian state premier, Colin Barnett, had suggested that all Australian state governments contribute to the park and that the Bali government itself was a likely contributor.
Finn said this week: “I believe the Bali government has some money set aside.”
He said the association, which is based in Perth, was deeply disappointed to hear that construction of a restaurant had commenced on the Sari Club site, which up to now has been used to park motorbikes.
“I think it is sad for the many Indonesians that have been affected by the tragedy, as well as the international communities. Reaction will not be positive,” he said.
A plan for the Spiritual Garden has been drawn up by Australian Bali resident Michael White, known here as Made Wijaya, who runs a landscaping business based in Sanur. White has already planted a number of trees at the site, some of which have been torn down to make way for construction work.
A foreman at the site told The Bali Times on Thursday his company had been contracted to begin construction of a nightspot, starting with a storage area to keep cement and other building materials.
“Mr. Kadek is building a bar, restaurant and club,” he said. A boarding house at the rear of the site would be knocked down to provide additional room for the entertainment venue, the foreman said.
In 2004 a Balinese-style memorial was built directly opposite the Sari Club site with the names of all the dead engraved in a wall. Several Australian cities have their own memorials, as has the British capital, London.
Dozens of Islamic militants were rounded up and prosecuted over the 2002 bombings, which came just over a year after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States that killed almost 3,000 people.
Three of the attackers were sentenced to death at their trials and were executed in Java in November last year.
At the time of the 2002 bombings, Governor Pastika was Bali’s chief of police. Under his command, police here worked closely with the Australian Federal Police to find and detain suspects. In 2003 Pastika was given an honorary AO (Officer of the Order of Australia, the nation’s second highest award).
The park’s Australian patron is British-born burns specialist Dr. Fiona Wood, who was named Australian of the Year in 2005 for her work with victims of the Bali attacks.
Her Australian of the Year citation says: “She has become world-renowned for her patented invention of spray on skin for burns victims, and for leading a courageous and committed team in the fight to save 28 Bali bombing patients suffering from between 2 and 92 percent body burns, deadly infections and delayed shock.”
Australian Consul-General in Bali Lex Bartlem told The Bali Times the government in Canberra was in favour of the peace park, but had not provided funding for the venture.
“The government supports the idea of the peace park,” he said.Filed under: Headlines