Urinating and soliciting sex on sacred ground
A 3AW correspondent describes how the site of the Bali bombing that claimed the lives of 88 Australians is now an unofficial public urinal where street walkers solicit sex in the evenings.PT0M0S 620 349
The epicentre of the Bali bombing, which many Australians regard as sacred ground, is being used as a car park and casual public urinal as squabbling over its future stretches into its second decade.
A forlorn Australian flag, decorated with newspaper portraits of the 88 Australian dead, hung on the fence of the Sari Club site in central Kuta yesterday as a procession of pilgrims came and expressed their disgust.
A man urinates at the Bali bombing site, where the Sari club used to stand. The site is now a car park. Photo: Justin McManus
And, late last night, as the bars and nightclubs kicked into action, Fairfax Media observed a number of people urinating on ground where, 10 years ago this week, hundreds of people were burnt to death.
Phil Britten, who was badly burnt across 40 per cent of his body, and who lost seven of his Kingsley Football Club mates in the Bali blast, has been fighting for years to make the Sari Club site a "peace park".
But the landowner, a rich Indonesian businessman, Tija Sukamto, and the leaseholder, one of Bali's most powerful magnates Kadek Wiranatha, have refused all efforts to encourage them to part with the land, including an offer of more than $1 million, partly funded by Australian governments.
Phil Britten, captain of the Kingsley football club, which lost seven members in the 2002 Bali bombing. Britten wants the old Sari Club site turned into a peace park. Photo: Justin McManus
Their price is $7.2 million for three-quarters of the block - well above the market price for even the most valuable Kuta real estate.
As the stalemate drags on, signs have appeared on walls and gates saying in Indonesian and English, "This area strictly not public toilet" with the joking addition of: "But ladies are welcome".
Attempts to beautify the lot have failed. It is covered in hard packed dirt, rubbish is piled up in one corner, and it contains a paid parking lot and a corrugated iron eatery.
"We've tried to plant trees there. There were beautiful banana plants ... and they've been taken down," Mr Britten says.
"And to see the sign about urinating ... it's a bit disheartening."
Jan Laczynski, who lost five friends on the night of October 12, 2002, after returning to Melbourne just a day before the blast, used even stronger language.
"It will always be a sacred site to so many Australians, and to see a car park where the ashes of loved ones have been scattered - it's just disgraceful," he said.
Australian passers-by at the site yesterday, some associated with the bombing and in Bali for the 10th anniversary, likewise expressed their disbelief that the ugliest block in Kuta was the site of the atrocity.
However, Sandra Thompson, the mother of one of the victims, Clint Thompson, said she could not blame local people for urinating there because there was no other open space and no public facilities anywhere else in Kuta.
Mr Britten said he was optimistic that a peace park would eventually be built, but the leaseholder remains unmoved. Kadek Wiranatha said he had paid for a 30-year lease and he planned to put a "nice, quiet restaurant" on it - although observers say it's more likely to be another nightclub of the kind that made his fortune.
"I'm determined to keep the land ... because I already signed the lease," he said.
He said the elusive Indonesian owner also wanted to keep it, to pass it on to his grandson.
Bali's governor I Made Pastika has already vetoed development at the Sari Club site, and some now believe the only way to resolve the stalemate is for him to force the owner to sell to the local government.
New laws ratified in Indonesia in January allow this to happen, for the first time.
But Mr Pastika - who was the Balinese police chief responsible for the successful arrest of the bombers, and who is the patron of the peace park group - has so far shown little interest in compulsory acquisition.
Some locals also support a park in the area, which has undergone rampant development in the past few years and in which there is now little open space.
Ayu Silat was a cashier at the Sari Club on the fateful night, and was only metres away from where the terrorists' one-tonne bomb blew up. She very nearly became another victim.
Five months ago, this woman who nearly lost her life gave birth to new life. She wants her daughter to be able to visit a park in the place where terror visited her.
"If it's a peace park, then it will stay like that, as a memory," Ms Ayu said. "If it's just another establishment, this story, it will slowly fade away."