A massive amount of political and public commentary and rhetoric has been made and published over recent years and especially recent months, weeks and days about Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran’s execution, with some very divergent views on whether they should be executed or not.
Now that the executions have in my opinion, very sadly taken place, there is no doubt that in our Western and Christian society they are abhorrent and unacceptable and whether we personally agree with the executions or not, perhaps we need to pause and reflect on what happened, the cultural and political issues that impacted on all this and the potential impact of the executions with the various ensuing scenarios.
We also do need to remind ourselves that Indonesia is not a Christian Western Society, but one that operates to a very different set of rules to the ones by which we abide and behave, with Indonesia a largely Muslim country, yet Bali being Hindu and across Indonesia and potentially in this case, reportedly a significant degree of political and other corruption.
As global travellers though, we all know and have to recognise that countries other than ours have different views on life and different rules, perhaps where life is not considered so scared as in our and other countries and Indonesia is country that has made it very clear that the penalty for smuggling drugs is death.
We may not like them, but by visiting those countries, we have to accept those rules, and if we break them we also have to accept that we may well have to suffer the consequences, which may well be very different to the consequences in our country.
Chan and Sukumaran would have known those rules when they were undertaking their activities and especially in relation to drug smuggling, as they are made very clear and obvious indeed.
So, while by our standards the death penalty is clearly unacceptable and in circumstances such as this, we can appeal and our Government and others did appeal to Indonesia to waive the death penalty and therefore accept our rules not theirs, there is no doubt that political and public pressures inside Indonesia meant that the executions were going to take place in punishment for the crime by Indonesia laws and standards.
But, while I am personally devastated that any life could be taken by anyone, I do at the same time accept that Indonesia has its laws and when I visit Indonesia or any other country it is incumbent on me to accept their laws and abide by them.
So, where to from here?
While there has been a great deal of political and other chest beating in relation to the executions, the bottom line is that Indonesia and Australia have a strong economic and political relationship and neither country will want to damage that – remember Indonesia is country of over 250 million people, growing very quickly, with a burgeoning middle class, economically very strong and stable and a high performer, with massive resources and consumption of goods produced in Australia.
According to the ABC, the Australian Government has repeatedly said it is focused on saving Chan and Sukumaran rather than recriminations, but perhaps we need to consider that if our political and economic ties had not been so strong whether Australia would have taken stronger action sooner to convince Indonesia.
The ABC also reports that there is a growing sense that Indonesia has behaved appallingly in its treatment of both the men and its relationship with Australia, also reporting commentary that the Widodo government had been “crass, crude and objectionable”, with that this now demands a stern response.
So what is that reaction likely to be?
The first reaction is likely to be to secure the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra and its consulates in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin as while attacks on foreign embassies in Australia are uncommon, they are not without precedent.
The Australian Government is then likely to withdrawing the ambassador, but this something Australia has never done in the past in response to an execution, but also and this is considered to be no more than sabre rattling and after what is anticipated will be a short period of time the ambassador will quietly return to Jakarta. If Australia was serious it would close the Australian embassy in Jakarta and its consulates in Indonesia including Bali, but it will not do that.
According to the ABC, there have been suggestions that Australia will cut its $600 million in aid Australia will give Indonesia this year and Australia way withdraw from the annual leaders’ meeting, regular gatherings of defence and foreign ministers and other ministerial contacts, plus suspending any meetings that involve departmental secretaries and deputy secretaries and the myriad routine meetings of officials on issues such as defence, law and education;
Australia may refuse to offer support to Indonesia for things it wants in international forums and also may not send a high-ranking officer to mark the retirement of the head of the Indonesian Armed Forces, General Moeldoko, in July
What is clear though is that Australia will not do anything to damage trade or tourism, nor will it implement economic sanctions, or cooperation between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian National Police.
Australia is also concerned how Indonesia might react in response to any action taken by Australia and in particular that Indonesia would open the floodgates to asylum seeker coming to Australia, but whatever Australia does will soon be forgotten and political life and the relationship between Indonesia and Australia will move on.
In closing I have seen the Boycott Bali movement and I would urge the travel industry not to boycott Bali, as all that will do is damage Bali’s tourism economy of Bali, on which Bali is totally dependent, and upon which the economic stability and income of the beautiful people of Bali depends.
We should remember that the people of Bali had nothing to do with this scenario and on my recent visit to Bali, I discovered that they know and have heard very little about it, merely getting on with their lives to put food on their tables and in their families’ mouths.
My thoughts are with the families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
Please feel free to offer your comments.
Written by : John Alwyn-Jones