It was quiet in Bali last night. There was none of the triumphalism you might expect following the news that Mohamed Noordin Top had been killed.

On Jalan Legian in downtown Kuta it was just another warm evening of doof doof music, bad cover bands and Bintang beer. There was no shortage of tourists, although it’s still the quiet period just before the Australian school holidays.

Outside the vacant block, that was once the Sari Club, groups of board short wearing Aussies made their way between the restaurants, shops and nightclubs.

Most took a moment to stop at the monument to mark the bombings. Everyone seemed moved by all those names on the wall. Many noticed how many people had died from the same families, or commented on the fact that twenty two nations had lost citizens. The ones I saw noted that Australia accounted for eighty eight deaths, fifty more than the number of Indonesian victims.

Some seemed baffled by the Indonesian spelling of all those foreign countries. One said “they stuffed up the spelling of Germany,” pointing at the small group of names under the heading “Jermany.”

Metro TV had been running the news all day. First the raid, then the siege, then the shootout, before the long wait to see just who had been killed. Supers ran across the bottom of the screen reading “Mohamid Noordin Top Tewas?” until finally the police were prepared to confirm they had his body.

Media friendly generals gave the thumbs up sign to a mass of reporters as the National Police Force, the POLRI, announced it was certain that Top had been killed, along with his three accomplices, Urwah, Aji (alias Reno) and Susilo.

I suspect last night’s low key response in Kuta was mostly a result of our complete lack of understanding of Indonesia. Many of the tourists at the monument were oblivious that Top had been killed. It’s probably just as well everyone was too busying holidaying to notice, given the reaction from one woman:

“Thank fucking Christ for that,” she said, on hearing that the mastermind of so many bombings was dead. This was quickly followed with “but he should have been tortured or starved or forced to suffer like all these families.” And then her boyfriend added “he should have been stoned.”

Perhaps it’s an understandable reaction, coming as it did under that roll call of innocent souls. But it’s not the image we need right now in Indonesia.

If Australians did have a better understanding of Indonesia, we’d realise that Christ had very little to do with the capture of Top and the other alleged terrorists and that Indonesians are even more delighted than Australians about Top’s death.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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