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Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and their Inevitable Execution

May 2, 2015

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and their Inevitable Execution

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

The two ring leaders of the Bali 9 drug smuggling ring, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed by firing squad in Indonesia on April 27th 2015.

Despite all the pleas, the media attention, the diplomatic endeavours, the tearful pleas and the emotional journey their fate was unchanged. Everybody who was involved in trying to prevent the execution did what they could but it was to no avail. The executions were going to happen regardless of the noisy and emotional protests.

To the Indonesian Government, Chan and Sukemaran were no different than the other 7 people who face the firing squad that same day. The crime was proven in a court of law and sentence was clear from the day it was caste just over 10years ago.

The Indonesian Government strongly believes in the death penalty for serious drug offences and they do not appear to be changing their mind anytime in the future. The message could not be clearer to any would-be drug smuggler: If you come to Indonesia then you will face death. All the members of the Bali 9 drug smuggling ring were well aware of this risk and they took it anyway.

What is rarely reported is that Chan and Sukemaran were the ring leaders of the drug smuggling operation and organized in such a way that their drug mules would be taking all the risks of being caught with 8 kilograms of heroin taped to their bodies. Had their mules not blown the whistle after being arrested in Bali then the ringleaders would have flown back to Australia and continued their deadly trade. Few stories about the Bali 9 ever mention the lives they would have ruined nd death they would have been responsible for the drugs that they imported. Instead, we are fed a steady stream of how much nicer and reformed they are now.

The Indonesian Government and its Legal System do not see things this way and nor do they see Chan or Sukemaran as a special case amongst the many who are due for execution. The only person who could have saved the lives of the pair was the Indonesian President Widodo. Unfortunately, Widodo is totally committed to the death penalty and was never going to offer clemency to any drug smuggler.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo

In an interview with Al Jazeera Widodo had this to say about Chan and Sukemaran:

I believe the Indonesian legal system is thorough in these cases and looks at the evidence. When I rejected clemency I took into consideration how many drugs they smuggled, how many pills they distributed …. The court has sentenced them and we cannot discriminate between countries.

He even went further stating:

We want to send a strong message to drug smugglers that Indonesia is firm and serious in tackling the drug problem, and one of the consequences is execution if the court sentences them to death.

No doubt this is why all diplomatic and private pleas for clemency fell on deaf ears. The intransigence of the Widodo government went so that that they even refused to reply to official requests for meetings with Australian government officials. As President Widodo had stated they were sending a message to the drug smugglers. Don’t even trying it in Indonesia because if we catch you then no one, not even your government, can save your life.

It was the same message that Malaysia had sent years earlier when they executed the Australian drug smugglers, Barlow and Chambers. For both the Malaysia and Indonesian governments the emotional pleas for clemency were nothing more than misdirected sympathies. Who was talking about the number of people that they would have killed as result of the drugs they were smuggling.

Death Penalty Questions

Regardless of where a person may stand on the question of the death penalty, there is a deep sense of tragedy about the case of Chan and Sukemaran. People closest to them are quick to report how much they have reformed their way and are now much better people than they were when first arrested. It is a story that echoes in US death row prisons as well. After a decade of failed appeals and pleas for clemency the person being presented for execution is nothing like the person who committed the original crime. The question of redemption versus the justice delayed is not an easy one to resolve.

Editorial Comment

The message is very clear.

If you want to take the risk of smuggling drugs in places with the death penalty then you know what you are risking.

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