To the Editors:
Many readers may not be aware that a large percentage of the victims of the bombings in Bali—just how many is not yet known—were not in fact Australian, American, British, or Canadian. They were local Indonesians.
These victims, it goes without saying, are also burned and bleeding. But while Australian and other international victims were wheeled into specially commissioned aircraft to take them to the best medical care Australia has to offer, the local victims were left in the capital Denpasar’s chaotic and hopelessly overstretched hospitals. In the first, vital hours after the disaster, the Australian government unhesitatingly evacuated American and Canadian victims. It took several days for them to agree to take even critically ill Balinese. Like their international counterparts, over the weeks and months to come these local victims will struggle to recover—but unlike them, they will have no medical insurance, little government support, and few facilities to help. And in addition to the physically damaged, there are those who saw the bars and hotels and cafés that are their financial lifeblood blown apart, and the thousands more who know that over the next few months they will slide into poverty as the tourism industry collapses.
This is doubly unfair for the Balinese because whoever planted this bomb, this is not their tragedy. Until Saturday, Bali was famed for its Hindu culture of tranquillity and peace, and its people are some of the most gentle and tolerant I have ever met. This is not a catastrophe of their making, but it has destroyed their lives.
If any readers are interested in helping these people, they should get touch with those Balinese residents—Indonesian and foreign—who are coordinating the relief effort for locals in Bali. They are desperate for help, from such immediately necessary things as antibiotics and burn creams to facilities that can support the families of those injured and killed. Instructions on how to make donations that will reach local victims can be found at www.casalunabali.com/relief.
Producer, BBC World Service
November 21, 2002