News & Opinion

The Bali 9 & Death Penalty – What Next?

Many of us will make mistakes throughout our lives which will have negative impacts on us and if they’re particularly bad ones, the lives of others as well. However few people will ever find themselves at the mercy of the divided judgement of billions of people worldwide and a in the middle of a tug of war between two world powers.

Andrew Chan and Mayuren Sukumaran’s lives began relatively normally, as part of families who came to Australia for a better life for themselves and their children. They had similar interests, grew up around similar values and even unknowingly attended the same school. Where the coincidence turns unfortunate, was the wayward direction both of their lives took, in the choice of friends and activities they chose to undertake.

This culminated in 2005, when their story reached its untimely peak, when just months after Chapelle Corby’s story put our stomach in knots, we learned of 9 young Australians who were arrested in Dampasar Airport with the sickeningly dazed and numb expressions on the faces of (as they came to be known) the Bali 9, as they were paraded by Indonesian police before the cameras of the world’s media, as the game prize of a Hitchcockesque horror fiction.

In early 2006, seven of the nine were given life in prison, while the two ringleaders were given death. And during that time, many people were happy that this sentence was serve.

For many years thereafter, there was very little to report, until 2011 when their appeal to the Indonesian Supreme court for a lesser sentence was rejected. However by that stage, there was something very new which many different new outlet reported regarding both of the ringleaders.

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That new information, was that both had effectively taken a 180 degree change in attitude manifest by the activities they both led and undertook in prison. Again, many people saw this as being a stunt on their part to feign change, in the hope of being given lighter sentances.

In the final days of the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, under whom the fate of the two ringleaders was very comfortably rested in limbo, teams campaigned for the successor-ship of President Yudhoyono against fresh-faced Governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo. Widodo pledged to mercilessly crush any drug trafficking activity in Indonesia taking the zero-tolerance approach which was not taken by subsequent presidents.

Being the favourite, Widodo swept into power in October 2014. He made no secret of his ambition to end the lives of the Bali 9 ringleaders and other such illicit drug traffickers. The problem however, is that there were two monumental shifts which occurred in this situation since it began:

    #1  The two men who were the accused ringleaders had, (as indicated by insurmountable evidence, and the overwhelming opinions of the prison warden, prison guards, social workers, prison clergy and fellow prisoners) completely and utterly reformed. They had become people who could not only eventually be released, but indeed into ambassadors for change and specifically the change of people who ran the risk of going down the wretched path they took; and

    #2    There commenced the presidency of an aggressive, obstinate and arrogant individual, with no regard to diplomatic protocol, the consequences of his decisions or the pleas of countless experts and several foreign governments for clemency.

Unfortunately, these two changes to this situation made for the perfect tragedy. Daily reports throughout the news would show sound-bites of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop giving constant reassurance that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was sparing no effort or expense in an attempt to have the two men spared of the death penalty.

As the emotional see-saw continued, it culminated into the Indonesian authorities advising of the preparation of the destination of execution, Nusakambangan Island, Java. It was at this point that the reality of the situation seemed to sink in. In the days leading up to the end of the road for the duo, there came to light several facts which made the situation all the more infuriating.

The families of the two men were treated with contempt and utter disrespect by the Indonesian authorities in what were undoubtedly the hardest times of their lives. Another point of frustration, is the fact that Indonesia paid millions of dollars in an attempt to have one of its citizens, a woman who murdered her Saudi Arabian employer, while working in Saudi Arabia, yet insisted that Australia respect its territorial and judicial sovereignty.

Death is not a punishment, deterrent or warning, it is the unjust taking of a life, which is nobody’s to take.

Perhaps it was also the fact that Australia gave billions of aid dollars to Indonesia, and the moment Australian Prime Minister took the opportunity to civilly remind Indonesia of Australia’s aid contributions in the past, a backlash resulted with President Widodo also stating that if the executions were cancelled it would bring down the government.

Maybe it’s the fact that the mastermind behind the 2002 Bali Bombings Abu Bakar Bashir and the 2002 Bali Bombings bomb maker were released without charge. Perhaps it’s the fact that it has been reported that the Australian Federal Police tipped off the Indonesian authorities of the drugs being trafficked by the Bali 9 on their exodus of Indonesia.

Whatever the reason, sadly, the cries for mercy of the world fell on deaf ears, when on midnight, 29 April 2015 Both Andrew Chan (12 January 1984 – 29 April 2015)2 January 1984 – 29 April 2015) and  (17 April 1981 – 29 April 2015) were executed for their crimes, while their appeals were still pending.

Huge campaigns to boycott Indonesia as a holiday destination have now begun, which will hit Indonesia particularly hard, given that Australia makes up a large portion of Indonesia’s tourist base and a large chunk of the $US9 Billion it takes in annually.

Aside from this, there is also the reaction of the international investor community, who have indicated a lack of confidence in the governmental and national stability of a country who’s international reputation has been dragged through a cocktail of manure and mud (completely of its own doing).

In this sad story, there are no winners and indeed many losers as reform and repentance were paid absolutely no heed and those who WILL suffer are not those at the upper rungs of diplomacy and those in the halls of power, it is indeed the poor folk to work in and around the (soon to be ghost town) resorts, the hotel employees, the souvenir and food vendors who rely heavily on international tourists. Perhaps the deaths of these two young drug traffic linchpins, one of which died an ordained minister and the other who died an artist and teacher, were not in vain; perhaps their deaths will sprout fresh thought that death is not a punishment, deterrent or warning, it is the unjust taking of a life, which is nobody’s to take.

Image: Sky News

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