Friday, 13 February 2015

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

were caught trying to smuggle heroin out of Bali into Australia. Since then they have been tried, along with seven others, in an Indonesian court, found guilty and sentenced to death. They have spent a decade in Kerobokan gaol and the expectation is that they will be executed by the end of this month.
The case has taken up an enormous amount of time and money at the highest levels of government. It has also taken up a lot of media attention.
Even now the Australian Federal Police refuse to acknowledge any error of judgment in giving information to the Indonesian police. It was that information which led to their arrest and the consequent death sentence.
I am opposed to the death penalty. I am opposed because I do not believe murder is right under any circumstances. State sanctioned murder is no more right than any other murder. And there is always the possibility of a mistake even when the evidence seems to be overwhelming. 
In the case of Indonesia there are double standards with respect to the death penalty. The Indonesian government fights hard for any of its own citizens at risk of death in foreign gaols. They have gaoled some of their own citizens guilty of the most atrocious crimes involving the death of many people but they have not demanded the death penalty. Some of those same citizens have even been released at a later date. 
But drugs, they keep saying, are different. I don't doubt for a moment that there are Indonesians at the very top of the drug trade. They are probably untouchable.
Australia gives a considerable amount of foreign aid to Indonesia. There are many people there on or below the poverty line. We have been told for years that it is our duty to assist them. This is despite the fact that Indonesia is a wealthy country, a very wealthy country. The  unfortunate thing is that 95% of that wealth is owned by just 5% of the population and they have no intention of sharing it.
Australians contribute to that wealth by going to holiday in Bali in droves. Many Balinese depend for their pittance of a wage on the tourist industry.
The Indonesian authorities know all this. They also know that Australia is unlikely to cease all foreign aid to the country because that would have trade implications for Australia. They know that Bali is seen as a relatively cheap, exotic foreign destination for many people. They know people will continue to go to Bali even if two Australians are put to death. They will go even if there are more terrorist threats, bombings and other crimes. 
What we really need to do though is stay away from Bali and make further aid conditional on the abolition of the death penalty. I am sure that the rest of a life in Kerobakan prison is punishment enough.  

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