Peace Park Promoters Back in the Fight

  • Local Hero Gets on Board
  • Three Months to Finalise Plans

LEGIAN ~ Bali bombing hero and Muslim community leader Haji Bambang, who risked his life to help people caught up in the 2002 terrorist bombings in Kuta, has joined the campaign to turn the former Sari Club site in Kuta into a peace park.

And the West Australian-based Bali Peace Park Association says a crucial meeting this week with Kuta local government leaders has won it a three-month window of opportunity to finalise its bid to keep the site as a memorial and place of reflection.

The association says the meeting this week brought out strong expressions of support from local leaders. It would now seek urgent meetings with both Badung Regent A. A. Gde Agung, a lawyer, and Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika, police chief at the time of the 2002 bombings and recipient of an honorary Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) award for his role in catching the bombers, to carry the project forward.

The October 12, 2002 twin bombings of Paddy’s Bar and the Sari Club killed 202 people, 88 of them Australians.

The latest moves bring the association and local government directly into confrontation with high-profile Bali businessman Kadek Wiranatha, who has interests in a string of nightclubs and other entertainment venues, including the upmarket Ku De Ta at Seminyak.

In late August The Bali Times revealed plans by Wiranatha to build a restaurant-bar complex on the site. In a front-page report in the August 28 edition, it was disclosed that Wiranatha earlier this year bought and fully paid for a 30-year lease on the land owned by a Jakarta businessman, Sukmanto.

Wiranatha’s spokesman and business associate, lawyer Putu Oka Semadi, told The Bali Times Wiranatha had no interest in discussing any arrangement to on-sell his lease to the peace park association.

“Pak Kadek has asked the government for the right to use the land that he has leased. Legian is a tourist area, so there’s no problem building there,” Semadi said.

But on Tuesday this week Haji Bambang and Bali Peace Park Association vice chairman Kevin Paltridge visited the former Sari Club site to inspect the new plans.

The previous day Paltridge, visiting from Australia, and others met local government leaders in Kuta who, the association says, voiced strong support for the Bali Peace Park project.

A delegation of Australian and Indonesian supporters met Kuta officials including the Camat, the Lurah, and LPM Kuta. At the meeting, the association says, the Balinese said that they wanted a “win-win solution” redevelopment of the former Sari Club site, which has been vacant land for nearly seven years.

Wiranatha’s proposal for a restaurant-bar complex on the site was also discussed.

Paltridge explained the importance of the site selection for the park as many Balinese and foreigners would always consider the former Sari Club site sacred and therefore it was the most appropriate place for a museum and park.

The two-hour meeting agreed on a three-month deadline for negotiations.

The association hopes to meet with the Bali governor and the Badung regent as soon as possible.

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from within Australia and overseas since the issues that were being faced by our association were highlighted recently in the media,” Paltridge said.

“Today’s meeting with some of Bali’s Community Leaders will also hopefully help clear up misconceptions that this is a project being driven purely from within Australia.  The association has been assured that there is immense Bali community support from the grassroots right up to the government for the Peace Park project.”

One stumbling block in financing the peace park project has been that the association so far has been unable to obtain Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status in Australia, allowing for all donations over Aus$2 (Rp 17,000) to become a tax deduction.

This is especially important for the corporate sector in Australia where it is often a main criterion for companies when selecting charities to receive their support.

“The association has been advised that the application is before (Australian) Treasurer (finance minister) Wayne Swan and we are confident of receiving the Federal Government’s full support and backing of The Bali Peace Park’ said Paltridge.

“We understand that this application needs special consideration as it does not fit within the normal parameters of DGR status. However, time is now of the essence as we make significant inroads in working towards to the development of the Peace Park.”

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