Friday, 2 December, 2022

Mourners mark 20th anniversary of Indonesia's Bali bombings

Hundreds of mourners and survivors commemorated on Wednesday the 20th anniversary of the bombings that killed more than 200 people on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Grieving families, attack survivors and representatives from several embassies attended memorial services in Bali -- where Al-Qaeda-linked militants detonated bombs at a bar and nightclub in 2002 -- and Australia.

"It's okay that some people have forgotten what happened 20 years ago but there are still real victims, there are children who lost their parents in the bombing," said Thiolina Marpaung, one of the organisers of the memorial, who was left with permanent eye injuries in the attack.

"I don't want them to be forgotten," the 47-year-old told AFP.

Hundreds gathered for a mass prayer at a monument for victims built metres from the site of the blasts to mark Southeast Asia's deadliest terrorist attack and remember the 202 victims.

Most were foreign holidaymakers from more than 20 countries but Australia suffered the biggest loss, with 88 dead.

"It's just sad for everybody. Everybody that is up there. We just come to pay our respects," Australian tourist Nole Porter told AFP.

A candlelight vigil organised by victims' relatives will be held at the monument later in the evening.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told a memorial service in Sydney Wednesday that the horror of the bombings was swiftly countered by incredible acts of self-sacrifice and bravery.

"They sought to create terror, but people ran towards the terror to do what they could for friends and strangers alike," he told a crowd gathered under light rain at the city's Coogee Beach.

During the memorial, 88 doves were released -- one for each Australian killed.

Albanese said the Bali bombings had left a permanent mark on Australia's national identity, in a similar fashion to the devastating Gallipoli campaign of World War I.

- 'Haunt me forever' -

In Bali, the Australian consulate also held a memorial service attended by ambassador to Indonesia Penny Williams and assistant minister for foreign affairs Tim Watts.

Relatives and survivors held a moment of silence before laying flowers and wreaths in the consulate's memorial garden.

In Canberra, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong attended a memorial ceremony with Indonesia's ambassador Siswo Pramono.

"We recommit to the ongoing work shared by Australia and Indonesia to counter the scourge of violent extremism," Albanese and Wong said in a joint statement.

Vigils continued throughout the day and the Australian T20 cricket team held a minute's silence before playing England in Canberra on Wednesday evening.

Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation, has long struggled with Islamist militancy.

Local militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), linked to Al-Qaeda, was blamed for the 2002 bombings.

All the leading perpetrators were either executed, killed by police or jailed.

But the Indonesian government is considering an early release for Bali bombmaker Umar Patek, who has only served half of his 20-year sentence.

Jakarta held off freeing him after angering Australia and the victims' relatives, who say his pending release has caused fresh trauma before the anniversary.

"I would be very angry and disappointed," 55-year-old survivor I Dewa Ketut Rudita Widia Putra told AFP.

Survivors and relatives of the dead are still trying to come to terms with the bomb blasts that killed scores at Sari nightclub and Paddy's Bar.

"I'm still feeling the trauma. Until today, I still don't have the bravery to go to the bombing sites," said Putra.

Paul Yeo's brother Gerard was killed, alongside five other members of the Coogee Dolphins rugby league team.

"I was asked to identify him. My mind was torn between not knowing if what I was about to see would haunt me forever, or was I just privileged to see you one last time," Yeo said at the memorial.

"Never have I been so scared."

Ben Tullipan, who lost both his legs in the blasts, said he still struggled with survivor's guilt 20 years later.

"I think about all the people that didn't make it, and what they'd be doing," he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

"And how lucky I am to be here."