Bali Bombing

Tears for Bali bomb victims 10 years on

For all the horror of the nightclub bombings 10 years ago in which 202 were killed, Indonesia has not bowed to the threat of Islamist terror

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 5:04am

A decade after bombs killed 202 people when they ripped apart two Bali nightclubs, a special memorial service was filled with reminders of what was lost in the tropical paradise … and what was not.

Tears fell as victims' names were read out, but not far away surfers paddled for world-class waves and holidaymakers haggled for souvenirs.

On October 12, 2002, a suicide bomber detonated explosives hidden in his backpack inside Paddy's Pub in Kuta. Twenty seconds later a more powerful car bomb was set off by another suicide bomber outside the Sari Club opposite. Most of the victims were foreign tourists. Eighty-eight were from Australia; 11 were Hong Kong residents.

But radicalism did not take over the moderate Muslim nation, and the visitors who initially stayed away in fear have come flooding back.

Hotel rooms were hard to come by yesterday, even as security alerts were raised to the highest level following a potential unspecific threat.

"There is peace in this island and the knowledge that millions still come here for the same reasons you and your loved ones did," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told victims' loved ones at a memorial service. "And perhaps there is a grim reassurance in knowing that the terrorists did not achieve what they set out to do. They did not undermine Indonesian democracy, which has only grown stronger across the passage of a decade."

Australia suffered more deaths in the attacks than any other country. The Australian government paid for more than 600 survivors and victims' relatives to attend the ceremony. Some gathered for the memorial in shorts and T-shirts, fanning themselves in the blazing morning heat.

Danny Hanley lost two daughters: Renee died immediately and Simone became the last victim after 58 days in a Perth burn unit. "When I hear of the 88 Australians that died, I always shed a tear that my beautiful daughter, Simone, was number 88," he said.

Many attending the memorial in Jimbaran walked past photos of the victims, posted on large boards; some stopped to touch the faces of those they knew.

Remembrance services were also held across Australia to mark the anniversary. In the capital, Canberra, dignitaries and relatives of those killed gathered at Parliament House to mourn.

Wayan Gota, a handicraft trader in Bali, said the 2002 attacks were "like a tsunami disaster for us here. The attack not only killed hundreds of people, but also destroyed every sector of our lives and led to prolonged economic difficulties ... It took several years for us to recover from the paralysis."

Other Balinese suffer still more intensely from the attacks, which killed 38 Indonesians and injured many more.

Tumini, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, was a bartender getting ready to serve her first customer that night at Paddy's Pub. She was thrown outside the bar and knocked unconscious. The only thing she remembers is waking up in hospital, her face and body burned.

Today, the mother of three still struggles to understand why she survived when so many others died. She was forced to find lower-paying work and cannot afford the medical care she needs. "I feel my life is still miserable. I am not 100 per cent normal," she said. "I often think and ask why God still allows me to live if I have to endure this pain."

Most of Indonesia's 210 million Muslims practise a moderate style of Islam that condemns violence, and the government has worked to root out militants, arresting more than 700 suspects since the bombings. Others have been killed during crackdowns.

"Instead of spreading the seeds of hatred, that heinous attack has prompted governments and peoples of different backgrounds, of different nationalities and religions, to reach out to one another," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. "To stand united."