We have come a long way since the heart was torn out of Bali eight years ago, and again three years later. Amid the rubble and hundreds of deaths, most of them foreigners on holiday, people said the bombed island would never recover, that its main tourist industry had been fatally damaged and that holidaymakers would be frightened off forever.
Mercifully, we now know that that assessment was wrong. The militants who sought to destroy an island in which locals and millions of happy foreigners mix were unsuccessful in their mission, and three of them were put to death.
With unfailing belief in the power of faith and hope, the people of Bali weathered this most crippling of storms amid heartache and economic gloom. Many lost their jobs as foreigners stayed at home or chose other holiday destinations that they perceived to be more secure from threats of attack.
That resolve has paid off. Foreign tourist arrivals are at record levels, investment is soaring, hotels are reporting high occupancy rates and airlines are opening new routes to Bali all the time. Australians, who shunned Bali in the immediate aftermath of the 2002 blasts and stayed away in even larger numbers after the 2005 outrage, are now the biggest tourist bloc here, having overtaken the Bali-loving Japanese. Verily, there is a feel-good factor in the air.
Part of the bounce-back is the knowledge that, while militancy is rampant in certain parts of the world – the Middle East, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan chief among them – terrorist attacks can happen anywhere, at any time.
And that is why we must never let our guard down in Bali; never become complacent that the threat has passed. History is littered with acts of terrorism and as long as people hold entrenched grievances it always will be. It is a folly to assume that terrorism is a particular mark of the early 21st Century.
Thus we had a reminder this week, from Bali’s new police chief Hadiatmoko, that we must maintain our security standards and remain vigilant because terrorists had not taken their eye off our island, which they see as a hotbed of Western-style hedonism and wealth that chafes their own mores.
“Bali’s tourism is still threatened as a terrorist target. We will keep on protecting assets such as hotels and villas from terrorist threats,” he said.
With an international tourism industry here, it is vital that there be strong and continuing words of reassurance about safety and security. To their credit, the Indonesian police, who are often maligned, have worked ceaselessly and in cooperation with overseas forces such as the Australian Federal Police to round up suspects, carry out raids and, in Bali, to install an island-wide system of monitoring that includes security cameras at many strategic spots.
We learned this week that more surveillance is on the way. All of these protective measures are a comfort to everyone.