High Priest Warns of ‘Disaster’ over Sari Site Nightspot
By I Gusti Made Putra
The Bali Times
DALUNG ~ A leading Hindu high priest has warned that plans by a Balinese businessman to build a restaurant on the site of the terrorist-bombed Sari Club where 202 people were slaughtered will lead to disaster for the entrepreneur and urged that a planned peace park be constructed instead.
Local nightclub supremo Kadek Wiranatha has purchased a 30-year lease of the site – currently home to a temporary foodstall (warung) and car park – where he aimed to start building an entertainment complex starting late last year.
But the Bali Peace Park association, based in Perth, Western Australia, has been lobbying the Bali authorities for permission to construct a reflective garden and museum on the site. Australians accounted for 88 of those who perished in the Al Qaeda-backed strikes on October 12, 2002, for which three terrorists from Java received the death penalty and were executed.
Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika supports the association’s aims and recently said it would be beneficial if the owner of the Sari site, a Jakarta-based businessman, Sukamto, simply donated the land to the cause.
Badung Regent AA Gde Agung said at an event at the Australian Consulate General in Denpasar late last year that his government would not issue a building permit for the construction of a restaurant and bar on the site of the former popular nightclub.
High priest I Pedanda Gede Tarukan Manuaba told The Bali Times this week that while Hindu ceremonies such as one Wirantha’s lawyer, Putu Oka Semadi, told this newspaper was carried out by Wiranatha on the Sari site to cleanse it and permit the construction of a building may permit him to go ahead with his plan, there would be unforeseen and troubling repercussions.
“The souls of the dead may still be there. If they are, there will be a disaster at that site in the future, if a nightspot is built. For instance: Ceremonies have been performed at the site for the souls of the Balinese. But for the souls of non-Balinese, such as from Java, ceremonies for them may not have been performed, and they may still be there.”
The holy man cautioned against Wiranatha forging ahead with his controversial project.
“According to the Hindu religion, if Kadek Wiranatha builds there, it is certain that in the future there will be a problem for him, a disaster, a danger.”
Wiranatha owns a string of bars, restaurants and clubs in Bali, and is a local partner in the Australian-managed Ku De Ta nightspot in Seminyak. He is also the proprietor of an advertising publication, the Bali Advertiser, and set up an airline, Air Paradise International, that went spectacularly bankrupt in late 2005, shortly after a second terrorist attack on the island that killed 20 people.
On Thursday, Semadi said his client had the right to build on the land and would go ahead with his plan to construct a restaurant.
“The people and authorities in the Kuta area support our plan to build a restaurant there, including all the neighbouring shops and businesses. But we do not yet have a building permit from the authorities, including the Badung government,” Semadi told The Bali Times.
He asked: “Why does the local government not support a local business, by not giving us a building permit?”
Semadi said Wiranatha was hopeful that a lisence to build on the site could soon be obtained, so that a restaurant could be built.
Meanwhile, a Bali-based representative of the site’s owner, Dewa Jatinegara, said Sukamto would not agree to Governor Pastika’s suggestion of giving the 8 are of land for free to the Bali Peace Park Association. But he said at the right price, he might sell it to them.
“This is not an inheritance; the land was bought with cash. If the price is reasonable, Sukamto will sell it,” he told The Bali Times on Thursday, adding that an astronomical Rp600 billion (US$65 million) per are would be the asking price.
However, in reality, he said, Sukamto did not want to sell the land at all.
“He wants to keep it because it’s the place where a large bombing happened,” said Jatinegara, alluding to its historical value. “Renting it is fine, and if there’s a restaurant built there, that’s no problem.”
The owner of a house at the back of the Sari land has sold his home because he no longer wished to live beside a scene of such human tragedy. It was purchased by Sukamto, with plans to demolish the building and make for a larger area of land. The land the house is on is part of the land Wiranatha rented in 2007.
The president of the Bali Peace Park Association, Nick Way, told The Bali Times on Thursday that negotiations, however, were ongoing with the owner of the land, despite Jatinegara insisting there was no communication between the two parties.
“Confidential negotiations are continuing with the landowner to arrive at fair and mutually acceptable sale arrangements for the site,” he said.
Way, a news reporter with Australia’s Channel Ten network, said a fundraising drive to secure corporate sponsorship for the peace park, which could cost upwards of AUS$3 million to secure the land and construct the garden and museum, would be launched in late February with the goal of opening the memorial centre eight months later.
“The aim is still to complete it by October 2010,” he said.
Bali-based Australian landscape-gardener Michael White has designed a layout of the peace park, also featuring plants, a mural and a pond.Filed under: Arts & Entertainment