James Massola, Jakarta – A group dedicated to building a memorial to victims of the Bali bombings has been told a promised $4.5 million in funding from the Australian government will be in jeopardy if a long-running dispute with owners of the proposed site cannot be settled in the coming weeks.
In emails obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Bali Peace Park Association deputy chairman David Napoli warned fellow BPPA members the Morrison government could pull the funding in favour of bushfire relief if a resolution was not reached by mid-February.
Last May a deal for the Perth-based Peace Park Association to buy a 700-square-metre portion of land on the site of the former Sari Club, destroyed in the 2002 Bali bombings, for about 45 billion rupiah appeared to have been finalised. The attack by Islamist extremists killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
But that deal subsequently collapsed as the land owners, including Sukamto Tjia, doubled the size of the land for sale – and the asking price.
During last year's federal election campaign, Mr Morrison met Mr Napoli in Perth and promised the government would contribute $4.5 million to get the project under way after more than a decade of planning.
But it now appears the plan to build the peace park could collapse entirely.
In emails to Peace Park Association colleagues, Mr Napoli, who did not respond to requests for comment from the Herald and Age, states: "I have explained [to owner's representative Lila Tania and local tourism boss I Made Badra] I will report to the PMO on progress by mid-February.
"I have explained the bushfire situation has taken any political interest away from the peace park project. In fact, the exorbitant price sought will raise debate as to why we are spending that money on a disaster in Bali when we have one here.
"I have told them that funds cannot be guaranteed beyond the current financial year. In view of the current crisis in Australia, I would not be surprised if the PM withdrew his offer if a deal was not in place by February this year."
For its part, the Morrison government has never publicly put a time frame on the funds.
In subsequent messages between Mr Napoli and Lila Tania, Mr Napoli repeatedly made the point the Australian government "will not consider payments until a legal contract is drawn up" and that one of the owners of the site, Sukamto Tjia, has not responded to the association's offer.
Owner's representative Lila Tania wrote that payment for the land should be made "immediately" – despite the fact no contract of sale has been drafted.
Her request also comes before the question of a $6 million funding shortfall is resolved. Parties involved in the negotiations hope the local mayor (Bupati) will commit to contributing the $6 million funding shortfall that exists now the owners have hiked the price and size of the land.
I Made Badra, the head of the Badung tourism department who has attempted to bring the two parties to a deal, was tight-lipped about progress in the negotiations.
"The number [land price] is not fixed yet," he said.
Asked what would happen if the Australian government walked away, and whether the Bupati would contribute to the project, he said: "I can't comment, I am waiting for instructions from the Bupati."Negotiations over plans for a peace park have stalled yet again.
A spokesman for Mr Morrison said the government "has for many years lent support and assistance to the negotiations and will continue to do so."
– With Amilia Rosa