On the night of October 12, 2002, two bombs exploded in Kuta, Bali, during one of the island's busiest tourist seasons. The first bomb was detonated inside the Irish bar Paddy's Pub. Then a much powerful car bomb exploded outside Sari Club. The blasts killed 202 people, majority of them Australian tourists, and injured 209 others.
Today, almost 17 years later, the struggle between the landowners of the former Sari Club and Bali Peace Park Association, a group that's trying to build a memorial site for the victims, continues.
The landowners were originally planning to build a restaurant on the 700 square metre plot, which had been abandoned for years. Last month, the Badung government issued a permit to build a five-floor "restaurant and monument" on the bombing site. Unsurprisingly, the plan was met with heavy criticism by the bombings' survivors and the families of victims.
Gary Nash, an Australian citizen and a survivor of the bombings, is one of the people who are against the initial plan for a construction of a restaurant on the site.
“That’s an insult to everybody," he told ABC. "Not only the Australians who were killed there but everybody… all the other nations who had people killed there… that land should be sacred, it should be kept apart."
Even Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has chimed in with critique, noting that a majority of victims, 88 people to be exact, were Australian nationals. Morrison described the plan as "extremely disturbing to the Australian public."
Bali Peace Park Association has been trying to buy the land from the owners for several years but it never had enough funds—until now. Following the controversy and after several talks, the owners have agreed to stop the construction of the restaurant and sell the land to the association for $4.9 million. Some believe that Prime Minister Morrison offered sizable funding for the sale. The Australian Consulate General in Bali was also involved in the attempt to hinder construction of the restaurant.
The story doesn't end here.
According to ABC, in a meeting held on Monday, the landowners demanded $9 million on top of the $4.9 million for the land to compensate for the money they had spent on a building licence and other materials. The family also said that they had made commitments to an investor. The Peace Park Association offered $500,000 for compensation instead, which the owners declined.
It's unclear wether the landowners and the Peace Park Association will engage in further negotiations.
Across the street from the former Sari Club is the Bali Bombing Memorial, or locally known as "ground zero," located where Paddy's Pub used to be. The Irish pub reopened in 2003 in a new location 100 metres away from its original location. The Peace Park Association is still hoping that the site can be entirely turned into a memorial for the victims.
“Some people who lost their loved ones consider it sacred, given that a lot of people perished on the site,” Antony Svilicich, the Peace Park Association communication manager, told the New York Times. “Some of their bodies were never recovered.”
This article was originally published on VICE Indonesia.