During last year’s federal election campaign, Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave a written undertaking to association deputy chairman David Napoli that the Australian government would contribute up to 45 billion rupiah to get the project off the ground.
The plan to build a peace park on the site of the former Sari Club, which was destroyed in the 2002 Bali bombings – an attack in which 202 people, including 88 Australians, were killed – has been in train for more than a decade.
Morrison’s promise of assistance came after the site’s owners unveiled plans last year to build a five-storey restaurant complex on the site, which has been vacant since the bombings.
As recently as two weeks ago, Napoli was invited to fly to Bali to attempt to finalise the deal in meetings with one of the owners, Sukamto Tjia, and local mayor I Nyoman Giri Prasta.
But the meetings never went ahead and while it is understood that Nyoman has suggested the local government will stump up the remaining 60 billion rupiah, supporters of the peace park question whether that government has the financial resources to meet such a commitment. The mayor did not respond to requests for comment.
Napoli remains cautiously optimistic about the project’s future.
“I’m led to believe by the land owner’s representative that I should be optimistic about the deal being done,” he said.
“This negotiation has dragged on for about a decade and I am hopeful that it will be resolved soon.”
Owners’ representative Lila Tania also struck an optimistic tone, saying, “We have reached a bright spot in the negotiations”.
She confirmed the owners wanted to now sell 1500 square metres at a higher price, but would not say where the additional money for the larger site would come from.
“As for funding, it’s not my place to say. It will be up to the relevant parties to say it themselves. I believe Bali Peace Park needed to meet with the local government to discuss it, but because the [mayor] was urgently called away, the meeting was cancelled.”
Australian Bali bombing survivor Jan Laczynski said it was “devastating” a deal had not been done yet.
“We are so close and yet so far. I understand there are only one or two more stumbling blocks to go. Let’s not give up the fight.”
Indonesian Bali bombing survivor Lina, who is a local member of the Peace Park Association, said, “I’ve been fighting for 17 years and I will continue to fight for this.”
The owners of the site have repeatedly changed the size of the plot, and the asking price, over the past decade.
In previous years, they have tried to offload as little as 560 square metres to as much all of the 1500 square metres of the plot.
Back in 2010, the owners asked for as much as $26 million for the site. More recently, they had asked for as much as $9 million compensation for revenue they would forgo by not building the restaurant complex.
These shifting demands have led some to question whether the owners are actually serious about ever striking a deal for the peace park to be built.
Asked to comment on the delays, the Australian government said: “Any plans for future use of the ex-Sari Club site are a matter for negotiation between the [Bali Peace Park Associaton], the Indonesian landowners and authorities, in particular those in Bali.
“The Australian government has for many years lent support and assistance to the negotiations and will continue to do so.”
James Massola is south-east Asia correspondent based in Jakarta. He was previously chief political correspondent, based in Canberra. He has been a Walkley and Quills finalist on three occasions, won a Kennedy Award for outstanding foreign correspondent and is the author of The Great Cave Rescue.
Amilia Rosa is Assistant Indonesia Correspondent for Fairfax Media.