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(10/28/2002) On October 22, 2002, just 10 Days after the tragic bombing of a Kuta nightspot, Ms. Meity Robot, President of the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (ASITA) and Vice-Chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Council traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to address the annual meeting of the Universal Federation of Travel Agents' Associations (UFTAA).
Ms. Robot's last-minute inclusion in the official program schedule was in response to the tragedy 10 days earlier in Bali and arranged through the kind courtesy of Mr. Tunku Iskandar, the President of the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA).
With the generous permission of Ms. Robot, balidiscovery.com includes the following excerpts from her remarks before the UFTAA conference:
It is so hard for me to think what to say after the tragedy that has occurred on our beloved isle of Bali. We grieve for those who lost their lives in this senseless act.
We pray for those that were injured, both physically and mentally, that they will recover as quickly as possible.
We extend our hearts to those that were affected worldwide, to the families of those who died, to their friends, to their loved ones. We cannot put back the clock. We cannot say "only if we had done something earlier" - we didn't. The Government of Indonesia - for reasons we do not know, decided that there was no credible threat from terrorism and did not do all they might have done. Could they have prevented this tragedy? Probably not, since we have witnessed time and time again around the world that cruel, determined people can usually succeed with their evil deeds, even with maximum security.
The Terrorist Target
But why did they choose Bali? Why did they choose the most innocent of all tourists – the young surfers and sports fans?
The answer sadly is that the impact on the world is the greatest when it is the most innocent who are targeted. We pray it will not be repeated, but almost certainly the horror of the terrorism will continue not only in Indonesia, but around the world.
The Challenge Ahead
But we must go on. Indonesia has at least 5 million people who are dependent on tourism directly and some 7 million more indirectly. Many of these are in Bali.
Only a few days ago the Minister of Manpower announced that up to 130,000 hotel and tourism workers are likely to be laid off in Bali within a month. That will have a devastating effect on the island. This is the tragedy about which the bombers did not care and the world will not see.
But what can we do? The Indonesian travel industry immediately united to do everything to help and were involved in the aid to the victims and their families. We will continue to do everything we can to ease the suffering of those affected but now we must think of the future ... Our future.
The people of Bali have been struck a cruel blow. Their reputation for friendliness and welcome has been deliberately savaged. Their daily dedication to religion, so apparent everywhere on the island, obliterated. Their warmth and happiness have been torn from them by these vicious blasts.
They did not want this to happen but now they must suffer. Can we help them?
It is not right for me to ask you to send tourists to Bali at this time. The world and Bali need time to recover. But I plead for the future.
Ladies & Gentlemen, please do not write us off, do not throw us away. We have been the victim and have been so cruelly hit by so many tragedies not of our making that this one leaves us breathless and shocked. But we must not give up. So many people's lives depend on it. So many innocent families will be deprived of their liveliehoods.
All Eyes are On the Government
We are working with the government, urging action, urging speed, urging decisiveness, urging openness, urging justice, and we hope they will deliver. The eyes of the world are on them.
Is Bali 100% Safe?
We cannot say Bali will be 100% safe but this is also now true of all destinations in the world. Bali was the beginning but sadly may not be the end. So we as an industry must stand firm and not let these politically based doers of evil win. We must fight and we must pray.
Don't Forget the People of Bali
Please do not forget the people and the Isle of the Gods, for they are still there. Battered and bruised but preparing their blessed land again to welcome back everyone when they feel the time is right.
We hope it will not be too long.