Anniversaries and commemorations can be awkward affairs, bringing people together for no other reason than a shared experience and the passage of years. However, the 10th anniversary of the Bali bombings might prove different and leave their own indelible mark.
As the last bags are packed and return flights boarded by those who traveled to attend the commemorations for the 2002 attacks on the Kuta-Legian strip that left 202 people dead, the Indonesian authorities and governments around the world who sent envoys will no doubt be breathing a little easier.
Serious threats were made against the congregation which included the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. None were realized.
All those held responsible for the suicide attacks, carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), have been jailed or executed. The last was Umar Patek who was captured in January 2011 in Abbotabad in Pakistan — not far from where Osama bin Laden was shot dead three months later. Earlier this year, Patek was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of six terrorism related charges including murder and bomb-making.
He was linked to a string of other attacks including the Christmas Eve bombings of Christian churches across Indonesia in 2000.
There is little doubt that JI supporters harboring ambitions to link-up with terrorist outfits in the Middle East are still lurking in the remote provinces and big cities of Indonesia. They still pose a threat and the authorities must remain vigilant in monitoring their movements.
But their inability to carry out any serious attacks what would consider high value targets, like the 10th anniversary memorial service, has been heartening and a further sign that the War on Terror in Southeast Asia, which dominated the first decade of this century, has been consigned to history.
Gillard perhaps best summed up the proceedings when she told the audience at Garuda Wisnu Kencana Park in Jimbaran: “This is a day of contesting emotions, from anger and loss, to forgiveness and reconciliation with a bitter past… Wounds and scars abound, healed and unhealed.”
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the remembrance was a “valuable opportunity to renew and reiterate our collective commitment to strengthen the voice of moderation, tolerance and mutual understanding among different communities.”
“This is a chance to fight extremism and intolerance in all its forms; to work together to ensure that such views will never take root in our societies; to see to it that the voice of reason prevails against prejudice, so that humanity prevails over hatred,” he said.
It is perhaps fitting that this will be the last anniversary of the Bali attack to be officially observed by the Indonesian government. There will likely be some who criticize this decision but the reality is the victims of the Bali bombing and the many other terrorist attacks orchestrated by JI across Indonesia which claimed hundreds of lives will never be forgotten.
JI, which wanted to inspire an Islamic Jihad and establish an Islamic state across much of Southeast Asia, are a spent force and like their victims will never be forgotten either.