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The huge explosions at Renon and Paddy's nightclub in Kuta on the evening of October 12, 2002 was a moment etched forever in the memory of many Indonesians and families of the victims. I was in the city of Bandung, West Java, when I heard the news, and saw on television the horrific images of chaos and destruction. At the beginning, speculations or conspiracy theories were rife about the cause of the disaster – accidental gas leakages, business disputes, a missile attack, and many others. But as Co-ordinating Minister for Politics and Security, I knew at that time this had been a meticulously planned terrorist attack, and potentially the most significant terrorist act in our history.
On that fateful evening 202 people died, and more than 240 people suffered physical injuries. Undoubtedly the emotional toll was felt more intensely throughout our entire nation and far beyond. The victims of the bomb attack were of many different nationalities – Indonesian, Australian, British, American, Swedish, Dutch, French, Japanese, Korean and others. But in such time of shock and grief, we all felt part of one humanity.
One of the most poignant moments in my political career was when I addressed the one-year commemoration of the attack at Garuda Wisnu Kencana. It was heart-wrenching to see those who had lost their loved ones among the gathering. At the time, a number of key players involved in the attack had already been captured, and the security forces were on the heels of the rest of the group. As I delivered my speech, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of making sure that our efforts would continue. That those involved in the attack would pay for their monstrous act of terror. That justice would be served.
A decade after the Bali bomb, we can say with some relief that justice has been done. Members of the terrorist group that planned and committed the attack have been apprehended, tried and convicted. Three have been executed, and other major conspirators – including Dr Azahari, Dulmatin and Nurdin Top – were killed during police raids. Some of those in jail have expressed remorse and regret, and renounced the extremist ideology behind it. Others have collaborated to provide intelligence that led to the arrest of a succession of terrorist cells. Since 2001, our commitment to combat terrorism has resulted in the capture and legal sentencing of hundreds of terrorists.
Whatever the motivation and calculation of the terrorists, the Bali bomb attack did not produce its desired effects. In fact, it resulted in just the opposite. Throughout Indonesia, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists overwhelmingly condemned the attack and repudiated those who misused religion to carry out acts of violence. The entire nation galvanised to defend freedom, democracy and tolerance. And internationally, Indonesia became a key player in the fight against global terrorism. Indonesia also became an active proponent of interfaith co-operation.
The Bali bomb set off a series of critical chain reactions. The public debate over whether terrorism was a real or imagined threat to Indonesia was laid to rest. We recognised that freedom, democracy and tolerance cannot be taken for granted. Our national security thinking evolved rapidly, and terrorism became public enemy number one. Indonesia developed a highly skilled and dedicated police anti-terror unit. And an international campaign was launched to restore the image of Indonesia as a peaceful tourist destination. Today, tourism in Bali has exceeded pre-attack figures.
A significant part of our response to acts of terrorism was to ensure that such goals would not be achieved at the expense of our democratic and human rights values. This was not an easy task. As our democracy was taking root, it was critically important for us to protect and expand – rather than restrict – the rights of our citizens despite the pressing security situation. I am proud to say that our commitment to this approach has allowed us to achieve a successful counter-terrorism effort along with the consolidation of democracy and the protection and promotion of human rights.
The Bali attack was also a turning point in Indonesia-Australia relations, which had suffered challenges from the events in East Timor. It produced a compelling reason for Jakarta and Canberra to explore new ways of co-operation in a world haunted by new, unfamiliar threats. The Bali bomb cemented an emotional connection between Indonesia and Australia. A connection that grew stronger following the tsunami tragedy in Aceh and Nias, and the historical development of the Comprehensive Partnership and Lombok Treaty.
As we remember 10 years since the Bali bomb attack, our thoughts are with those who have endured the terrible loss of their loved ones. Many carry the pain of such loss forever – the kind of pain that can only be relieved with love and compassion. After all that we have strived for together in the last 10 years, our hope is that perhaps families and friends can find some sense of closure. All I know is that the victims did not die in vain, and that we shall not let such a tragedy ever take place again.