The owner of the Sari Club site in Bali — one of two nightclubs bombed in 2002 — has defended his right to build a multi-storey development there, despite verbal promises that the site would be preserved for a memorial peace park to honour the 202 victims killed in the bombings.
- Kuta’s Sari Club was one of two sites attacked in the 2002 Bali bombings
- There had been plans to build a peace park on the site, but so far negotiations have failed
- The landowner now plans to construct a five-storey restaurant on the site
Sukamto Tjia has owned the site in Kuta since 1997.
He said he had long been open to selling the now-vacant land to the Bali Peace Park Association — an Australia-based organisation representing survivors of the 2002 bombings.
But years of talks have gone nowhere. And now he wants to develop the site.
“We went through a negotiation process,” said I Dewa Ketut Djatinegara, speaking on Mr Tjia’s behalf.
“They said they wanted to buy, and we asked them how much they were willing to pay, but they never gave us any answer.
“Until today there’s been no response so we have to build. We don’t want to leave it empty. It’s such a waste leaving the land empty like this. It’s now become such a slum.”
Hindu cleansers have begun work on ‘sacred land’
In recent years the empty lot has served largely as a car park and a place to dump rubbish.
Stall holders who have set up food stands in different corners have now been given barely a week to clean up and clear out, so construction can begin on a five-storey restaurant.
A Hindu ceremony has been scheduled for today to cleanse the site of evil spirits, before the redevelopment begins.
A large placard erected last Thursday is the latest proof that the place where so many people died will indeed become another nightspot, albeit without a bar or nightclub.
The sign shows that the 700 square-metre restaurant is designed to accommodate about 350 guests and a monument apparently on the fifth floor.
The Bali Peace Park Association said the owner had put a price tag of almost $5 million on the top floor.
The proposed development has angered past and present members of the association, who said the Sari Club site was sacred land.
They have vowed to continue fighting the proposal until construction begins.
Relatives of deceased call on presidential intervention
Keith Pearce, whose son was wounded in the Sari Club bombing, wrote a letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, asking him to intervene.
“Desecrating the Sari Club site will be an affront to those nations who lost citizens in the bombings and will devalue Bali as a place to visit. As one of those who has lived with the pain of the 13 survivors, including my son, and the parents of the seven who died, I am horrified that this development is taking place. I regard the Sari Club as sacred land and believe it should never be anything other than a peace park.”
Mr Pearce told the ABC he wrote the letter on the understanding Mr Widodo had previously supported the idea of a peace park.
But he has had no response from the President.
A spokesperson for the Indonesian Government said it was a matter for Bali’s regional authorities, who last December formally signed off on the redevelopment plan and issued a building permit.
Mr Tjia allowed the ABC to examine architectural plans — showing the broad designs for the restaurant — which are stamped with the word “setuju”, meaning approved.
Site’s sale price a ‘joke’
Mr Pearce said the Bali Peace Park Association was still willing to buy the land for its market value.
But he said the owner’s offer had been exorbitant and neither side could ever agree on a price.
Originally the owner had asked for $26 million, and now wants $5 million just for the top floor.
“That’s a joke, because the whole site is not even worth that,” Mr Pearce said.
Mr Pearce said independent valuations done for the Bali Peace Park Association suggested the site was worth less than half that amount.
It is understood the Australian Government had previously offered about $450,000 to help buy the site, an amount roughly matched by offers from other donors including state governments.
Mr Pearce has also set up an online petition calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to lobby the Indonesian President to intervene.
Mr Morrison on Friday said Australia’s Consul-General in Bali had been working for some time to “address the situation” and expressed hope that there could still be a “better resolution”.
“For the 88 Australians, and their families, for whom this is rightly — and it is for all Australians, I think — a very sacred place, I am deeply disturbed, deeply disturbed by the decision that would see an entertainment complex put on that site,” he tweeted.
“It’s in another country. They have their own rules. They are sovereign. They can make their own decisions. But we will continue to make our representations about that issue.”
Lawyers for the Bali Peace Park Association say they are hoping to meet Mr Tjia, the site’s owner, and Bali’s Governor I Wayan Koster, soon for further talks on the matter.