Nearly a decade ago it seemed as though this small island had been destroyed. With the loss of 202 lives in the bombings of 2002, and of a further 26 in a subsequent terrorist atrocity three years later, it looked as though Bali would be shunned and rendered solely to its ancient agrarian ways as the main tourism earner died off, sending its people into a downward and hopeless spiral.
That bleak picture, as we thankfully now know, has not developed. Instead, Bali and its resilient people, of the land and from other lands, have forged a place of peace and prosperity to trump the evil that visited our shores.
Recent events on this island, including last month’s ASEAN summit which brought global leaders including US President Barack Obama, have proved to the international community that Bali is largely free of the once-rabid terrorist threat and that security is strong.
Attending a democracy meeting here last week, a British official lauded the island for its marked improvements – but he had a caveat. “We have to realise that there are security concerns and we have to be vigilant and mindful. These concerns should exist, but they shouldn’t overshadow the many positive aspects of Bali,” Minister of State for the Asia-Pacific Region Jeremy Browne said.
The minister added that more Britons were visiting Bali, with around 155,000 arriving annually and expected to rise.
Cognizant of potential perils, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says there is a “high threat from terrorism throughout Indonesia” due to militant groups – many of whose members have been arrested or killed in security operations in recent years – that may be plotting attacks; but unlike Australia, the UK does not advise against travel to Bali due to terrorism concerns.
The potential for terrorist strikes is not unique to this country; they can occur anywhere around the world, and there are several countries on constant alert for which there is no negative travel advisory. Given this, and Minister Browne’s comments, it may be advisable for Australia finally to reconsider its controversial and continual travel counsel for Indonesia, including Bali.