Another year has passed since suicide bombers blew up two clubs in Legian, killing 202 people, and this time around the news headlines were less about the eighth anniversary than stalled plans to construct a peace park on the site of one of the nightspots.
The Peace Park Association, based in Australia, which with 88 deaths suffered the highest national toll, had planned to open the spiritual garden and museum this month. But so far, due to unsuccessful talks with the Jakarta-based land owner and an apparent dearth of raised cash to fund the purchase and construction work, the plan remains on paper only.
Most of the deaths on that night of evil carnage occurred at the jammed Sari Club, but Indonesians and foreign tourists also lost their lives at the adjacent Paddy’s Pub, a site that has since been rebuilt. Why single out the Sari site for a peace garden when there are similar plans to build commercial premises on it?
Peace Park officials maintain it would be an outrage to work and party on ground where hundreds died. (The current leaseholder of the land wants to build a bar and restaurant there.) But what of other sites where heinous acts of terrorism were carried out? Where the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York once stood, before hijacked passenger jets were flown into them just over a year before the first Bali bombings, murdering nearly 3,000 people, a memorial is being built, but also an office block and a hotel. With an eye on the tragic past, Americans are moving on with their lives.
Do we really want to turn the Legian entertainment strip at the heart of Bali’s thriving tourist trade into a mausoleum? There exists directly across from the Sari location a towering monument to those who died and the names of all who perished are etched in stone, right there. Standing between the locations of both blasts, it should — it does — serve as a memoriam to both.
The ongoing grief of the friends and families left behind remains palpable. This gruelling emotion is the thrust for the association’s drive to build a venue that serves as a reminder to all of what happened that terrible night eight years ago. But we already have such a focal point of remembrance.
There is no monument to the more than two dozen people who were killed in the 2005 terrorist attacks in Kuta and Jimbaran. A simple glass tower at Atocha station inscribed with messages of sorrow recalls the 191 lives lost in the train bombings in Madrid in 2004. A patch of slender steel pillars pays tribute to the 52 victims of the 2005 London transport-system blasts. Other scenes of the deadly plague of Islamic violence, such as Istanbul, have not erected any memorials.
Let us not overdo it. Let’s rebuild — both places for living, and our lives.