This is Fabio again, in the South China Morning Post, Oct. 12, 2006

Balinese still hear ghostly
screams of bomb victims


Time is needed to heal the spiritual wounds
caused by the deaths of 202 holidaymakers four
years ago, reports Fabio Scarpello in Kuta


Four years after the first Bali bombing,
locals say ghosts still haunt the
sites of the two nightclubs that were
hit – which remain virtually vacant.
“We hear their voices. Sometimes
it is only whispers, but other
times we hear them singing in English
or screaming. There are both
women and men. It seems as if they
are surrounded by fire.”
There is no fear in Agung Raka’s
voice as he talks about the ghosts
that still haunt the site where Paddy’s
Bar once stood, and where he
now watches over cars.
It is during the evening shift,
from 7pm to midnight, that he and
his three colleagues most often feel
the “presences”.
Paddy’s Bar was blown to splinters
together with the Sari Club, a
nightclub on the opposite side of Jalan
Legian, the busiest street in
Kuta, Bali’s main tourist resort.
It was October 12, 2002. That
night, the island was drawn into the
age of Islamist terrorism.
A total of 202 holidaymakers
died in the blasts, including 11Hong
Kong residents.
Twenty more people were killed
in a second attack that targeted one
restaurant in Kuta and two more in
the nearby seaside resort of Jimbaran,
three years later.
Jemaah Islamiah, al-Qaeda’s
Southeast Asian associate, has been
blamed for both the attacks, and a
string of others that have bloodied
Indonesia since 2000.
The legacy of the attacks has
crippled the local economy, greatly
dependent on foreign tourism.
Tourism contributes 6 per cent
to Indonesia’s US$258 billion economy
and employs 8 per cent of the
workforce. But most of this activity
is concentrated on Bali and the
nearby island of Lombok, where 65
per cent of the workforce is dependent
on tourism.
Equally lasting is the spiritual
legacy caused by the untimely
deaths of the young partygoers.
Mysticism, fatalism and pragmatism
are ubiquitous in Balinese
everyday life, where Hinduism is
the main part of a composite faith
that maintains strong Buddhist and
Animist tints.
The local branch of Hinduism,
Hindu Dharma, is followed by 93
per cent of the almost 4 million
inhabitants and is based on the
principles of Tri Hita Karana, which
is the harmony between heaven,
humans and the earth.
In such a system, ghosts inhabit
a world parallel to that of the living,
and the balance between the two is
kept by an intricate and delicate
series of ceremonies, including the
daily offerings, known as canang
sari.
The bombings disturbed the
harmony, and the balance remains
precarious years after a major Hindu
cleansing ritual was held, in
November 2002.
“We conducted the ceremony
because we wanted to cleanse the
area of evil spirits,” said I Gusti Ketut
Sudira, Kuta village leader, acknowledging
that people still report
hearing screaming, singing and crying
in the vicinity of the bomb sites.
Hindu priest Ida Pedanda Gede
Arimbawa Tianyar Sebali, said time
was needed to heal the wounds of
the restless souls and lead them to
the afterlife.
“I believe the souls of the
deceased are still in the places
where they died. They are in an inbetween
world, full of hatred and
confusion. They need to be calmed
and led to the afterlife,” he said. “It
will get better as time goes by.”
In the meantime, he called for
the bomb sites to be developed for
the benefit of the living.
At present, the car park is the
only commercial activity on the
sites. Where the Sari Club once
stood, the barren ground is now
fenced.
“Our duty in the universe is to
live. To do that, we need to work. I
think it is fine to build on those
empty lands. The Balinese have suffered
enough emotionally but also
financially,” the priest said.
“But it is important to talk to the
ghosts. We should let them know
that we don’t intend to bother them."