Respected commentator and former ABC Jakarta correspondent, Mike Carlton admits that there has always been an undercurrent of mistrust between the two nations, but in the weeks leading up to the execution of convicted drug smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (and the six others who faced the firing squad at the same time) Australians have had a piercing insight into the mindset of those who lead and set the agendas in Indonesia.
Pleas for clemency, reasoned arguments, vigils, even offers to foot the bill for a lifetime sentence for Chan and Sukumaran, fell on deaf ears — as did the overwhelming evidence the pair had been rehabilitated during more than a decade in prison and could continue to do useful pastoral work among their fellow inmates.
It has been claimed that Indonesian President, Joko Widodo needed to project a ‘tough guy’ image after perceptions that his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had been something of a vacillator.
Instead Widodo has come across as a rather weak little man — a prisoner of the mob baying for blood; of the army generals still smarting over real or imagined slights and of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the Madame Defarge of Indonesian politics, whose attitude to the execution of foreigners appears to be only “faster, faster”.
Carlton has said that part of the reason for the failure of Widodo to listen to international calls for mercy is that his country is still stuck in a post-colonial mindset – a we-are-in-charge-now-and-you -can’t-tell- us-what-to-do attitude.
If this is the case it is astonishing after almost 70 years of independence, especially as other countries, India is an example, have long since abandoned these attitudes. It would seem Indonesia still has a way to go to reach maturity as a nation.
Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has said there will be consequences following the executions. This will involve the recalling of the Australia’s Ambassador in Jakarta and probably the cancellation or postponement of a few Ministerial contacts. It is the normal diplomatic showing of displeasure.
Before long relations will resume and it will be back to normal. Abbott has said as much.
As a lifelong opponent of capital punishment, I believe Australians should go further. My wife and I have both promised never to set foot in Indonesia while capital punishment is routinely carried out. We will not consume any goods or services which originate in Indonesia and we are going to do our best to convince as many people as possible to do the same.
Only days after Australians commemorated the slaughter of young lives in a pointless war; as we grieve over the loss of life in natural disasters and as the parts of the Middle East lapse into murderous barbarism, Indonesia has needlessly, and under the false cloak of judicial authority, added to the toll.
When will we learn that every life is precious and worth celebrating; that every life lost is a tragedy that damages us all?