Indonesia’s shambolic stop-start mess

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 06 Maret 2015 | 20.01

Indonesia's ambassador to Australia has been summoned to DFAT over Bali Nine photos.

Bali Nine ringleader ... Andrew Chan pictured on the tarmac at Cilacap airport - on his way to Nusakambangan Island. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

SITTING with some local women down at the port of Cilacap, just after Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran passed through in armoured vehicles and were ferried across to the nearby prison island of Nusakambangan, the question was asked: do you think they should die?

The eight women were unanimous. Yes, they should.

Why? Again, they were unanimous. Because it is government policy.

What this answer reveals is that ordinary Indonesian people, the poor and under-informed, are still living with the hangover of the country's long years of authoritarianism, when no one ever questioned the government.

President Joko Widodo's orchestrated display of brutal overkill in transferring the two Australians to the prison island looked, unfortunately, like a throwback to those bad days, when force — or the threat of it — kept the nation in check.

It is not known who is advising Widodo through this shambolic stop-start mess that Indonesia has created for itself with its shifting plans to execute the Australians and up to eight other drug runners. But whoever it is guiding him is doing a poor job.

Over three weeks, execution deadlines and even the names of who is to be shot have changed so regularly that no one knows what's going on. Least of all, it seems, in the Indonesian government.

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Disrespectful .. an Indonesian official poses for a photo with Andrew Chan. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Bali Nine ringleader ... Myuran Sukumaran on the plane to Nusakambangan. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

The vow was that Chan, Sukumaran and the others would be executed three days after they arrived on the prison island. That was changed on Thursday afternoon when Attorney-General HM Prasetyo said it could be another 10 days before they were killed.

This is good news, obviously, for those scheduled for the firing squad, but it is also adds to what has become a process of mental torture. The prisoners have needed to make mental preparations for death, yet keep being pulled back and forth from the precipice.

There is some speculation that the reason for the delay is because several of the execution candidates, including Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Filipino woman Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, still have court procedures to be completed in coming days.

But the government has always known this and Prasetyo has said the outcomes of all such cases were irrelevant.

Likewise, the authorities this week sent government psychiatrists to assess Brazilian man Rodrigo Gularte, despite having several medical reports confirming that he is a paranoid schizophrenic who has no concept of what is to happen to him.

They have also known about this.

Sabine Atlaoui, the wife of French death row inmate Serge Atlaoui, after visiting her husband at Nusakambangan prison. Picture: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Angelita Muxfeldt, cousin of Brazilian death row inmate Rodrigo Gularte, after visiting him at Nusakambangan prison. Picture: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

You have to now wonder if the 10-day delay is about the Indonesian Government giving itself time to rethink and retreat from the executions.

Given the defensive comments by senior government ministers attempting to justify Wednesday's preposterous shock-troop transfer of Chan and Sukumaran, it is possible they now feel a little bit embarrassed by how badly this was viewed in Australia and around the world.

They may now be wondering if they have overplayed their hand and come out looking thuggish and malicious.

Excessive ... Indonesian police armored vehicles carrying the Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are loaded onto a ferry where they were transferred to Nusa Kambangan prison. Picture: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Widodo is a new and inexperienced president who is learning that running the country is a different proposition to running Jakarta, which was his job before he won last year's election.

His strong anti-drugs stance is no doubt genuinely held. But as Indonesia denies the Australians dignity, Indonesia itself looks undignified. This was no more evident than the happy snap of the officer on the plane with Chan, which Tony Abbott described as "unbecoming" and led to a formal protest to Indonesia.

Police patrol ...on Nusakambangan island as Consul General Majell Hind and Lawyer Julian McMahon arrive to see Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Picture: Adam Taylor Source: News Corp Australia

As far as anyone knows, Widodo still intends to carry out would be Indonesia's biggest mass execution in decades. The problem for him is this will further isolate him from the world, which is now looking at him quizzically after Wednesday's performance.

His harsh resolve seems neither representative of the real Indonesia or even his own true character. By all accounts he is a kind man who cares and understands people, particularly his country's most destitute.

As he is cornered by his desire to be seen as politically strong, a Perth-based policy analyst, Sarah Gill, writing in the Jakarta Post this week, made the point that were Indonesian to proceed with the killings, it would "surpass Japan and Yemen and join the 10 nations with the highest annual execution rates".

in force ... Indonesian military troops walk in line as part of a drill near Nusakambangan island prison. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

Gill points out that there are currently 360 Indonesians facing the death penalty abroad, and it is well known that Widodo is doing his best to save them. But were Widodo to execute the 10 drug runners, it would hardly help him convince other nations holding Indonesian nationals that they ought be spared.

It can only be hoped that Widodo has begun to realise this and is now reconsidering. If this happened, the president would not look weak — he would look like a leader.

Either way, Chan and Sukumaran are unlikely to ever return to life in Kerobokan.

The isolated prison island of Nusakambangan, far from the easy access friends and family had to the prison in Bali, seems set to be their new home for the next eight or nine days, or possibly for many years to come if there is a change of heart.

And that, along with the humiliation they were forced to endure this week, is surely punishment enough.

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