The ten year anniversary of the Bali Bombing

The people of Bali will be hoping that they too can start a new chapter. It has been a long 10 years of remorse and rebuilding as innocents continue to pay the price of trusting the fanatical.
The people of Bali will be hoping that they too can start a new chapter. It has been a long 10 years of remorse and rebuilding as innocents continue to pay the price of trusting the fanatical. CYRIL TERRIEN

A DULL thud. That is Peter Hughes' first memory of the bomb that went off at Paddy's Bar in Kuta on the night of October 12, 2002.

You would think the precursor to such devastation would have the decency to sound like an almighty roar, not some insignificant noise in the dead of the night.

It was followed closely with screams of rising panic, the taste of dust in the air and the inescapable smell of burning.

As he fled Hughes was hit by the second more devastating bomb hidden in the depths of a Mitsubishi L300 parked outside the Sari Club, another popular venue on the nightclub strip.

He will never forget the feeling of gasping for air, the tangle of deserted arms and legs and the wails of the injured and dying.

For most of us watching the horror on our television screens Hughes became the face of the victims, his burned and blistered body showing his pain even as his words implored rescuers to help those in a more perilous state.

Hughes, now an accomplished motivational speaker, is in Bali to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, remembering the 202 people who died and the 240 injured who live with the aftermath every day.

This, he says, will be the final occasion on which he marks the atrocity. The time has come to move on.

The people of Bali will be hoping that they too can start a new chapter. It has been a long 10 years of remorse and rebuilding as innocents continue to pay the price of trusting the fanatical.

Bali's economy, fuelled by the tourist industry, has never really recovered from the blasts.

A report by the United Nations Development Program and World Bank shows that prior to that fateful day capacity utilisation in five-star hotels was at 75%.

Immediately after the bombings they dropped to 20% and have not eclipsed 35% since.

Airlines cut services and staff as visitor numbers plummeted, hundreds of foreign businesses closed their offices and the thousands of Balinese dependent on tourism from the street vendors to the taxi drivers continue to struggle to cope.

Australia, too, felt the impact.

With 88 dead and scores more injured it was difficult not to.

But Dr Andrew Phillips, a senior lecturer in International Relations and Strategic Studies at the University of Queensland, says the knowledge we gained during the attacks has helped and continues to help Australia keep a tragedy on home soil at bay.

"Until the Bali bombings, even after September 11, in Australia we had very limited experience with terrorism," he said.

"We luxuriated in being a long way from the real trouble spots but Bali was on our doorstep, it was for Australians a hedonistic delight of fun and frivolity.

"Those blasts gave us a greater sensitivity to the threat which exists and forced us to boost our security.

"Paradoxically the actions of terrorists lead to the greatest improvement in counter terrorism forces in the region.

"The Australian Federal Police did some groundbreaking work in aiding the Indonesian officials especially with forensic evidence. And one of the unheralded successes to come out of those blasts was the creation of the Centre of Law Enforcement, which is such an effective resource for officers across the region."

One of the fears following the blasts was that Australians would treat both Muslim immigrants and those born in this country with mistrust, hate even. There was an increase in verbal abuse, vandalism of Islamic property and physical attacks. Islamic groups advised Muslim women not to travel alone and Muslims were cautioned about being in public places.

"Organisations like al-Qaeda try to create hostility in multi-culturalism. With every attack they target the trust that holds together a society," Dr Phillips said.

"There may be isolated incidences here in Australia but we have programs that actively seek to engage and reach out to at-risk members of second-generation Muslim families in the hope that we prevent the forces of extremism."

Dr Phillips does, however, caution about a sense of complacency setting in, saying that terrorists are always on the lookout for an opportunity to exploit.

"It may be true that Australian intelligence has thwarted quite a few attempts of terrorist activity in the years since the Bali bombing but I am reminded of a statement sent by the IRA in the aftermath of a foiled attempt in 1984 to kill the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, by planting a bomb in the hotel she was using.

It ended with the words 'You have to be lucky all the time. We only have to be lucky once'."

Topics:  bali bombing memorial terrorism

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