Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday said the “monstrous act of terror” in Bali 10 years ago failed to achieve its objective and only strengthened interfaith cooperation.
His comments came ahead commemorations to mark the 10th anniversary on Friday, with some 1,000 security personnel deployed in Bali to ensure it passes peacefully after “credible information” of a threat to the ceremony.
The bombings in the predominantly Muslim nation on October 12, 2002, by the Al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah, opened an Asia front in the war on terrorism one year after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
More than 200 people died in the blasts on Bali’s party strip, many of them Western tourists, although 38 were Indonesian.
Yudhoyono, who was security affairs minister at the time, said the atrocity only succeeded in drawing the country closer together.
“Whatever the motivation and calculation of the terrorists, the Bali bomb attack did not produce its desired effects,” he said in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“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 galvanized 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,” he added.
Some 88 Australians were among the Bali dead and Prime Minister Julia Gillard reiterated her intention Thursday to attend the memorial despite the possible terror threat, with Indonesia declaring its top security alert.
“I am intending to go to Bali. I want to be in Bali,” she said.
Gillard is due to give an address to remember the Australians who were among the victims of the strike against the Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar on the tourist island’s nightlife strip of Kuta.
“This is a moment of real significance for our nation. Ten years ago I think we would all remember where we were and how we felt, how shocked we were,” said the prime minister.
“I want to spend some time with the families who have really had to absorb such grief.”
Yudhoyono said the moment when the bombs went off would be etched in the memories of Indonesians forever, and they set off a series of chain reactions.
“The public debate over whether terrorism was a real or imagined threat to Indonesia was laid to rest,” he said.
“We recognized that freedom, democracy and tolerance cannot be taken for granted. Our national security thinking evolved rapidly, and terrorism became public enemy number one.”
Bali’s fortunes, which are heavily reliant on tourism, have now recovered and Indonesia has won praise for its crackdown on militants that has left all the leading Bali perpetrators either executed, killed by police or jailed.
Yudhoyono said he had been determined “that those involved in the attack would pay for their monstrous act of terror,” and was pleased justice had been done.
“A decade after the Bali bomb, we can say with some relief that justice has been done,” he said.
“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.”