Thursday, February 19, 2015

Australia and Indonesia at Odds over Death Penalty.

In April, 2005, nine Australian citizens were arrested at Denpasar airport in Bali on suspicion of attempting to smuggle more than eight kilos of heroin out of Indonesia, following a tip from Australian police.
All nine were subsequently convicted; seven are currently serving sentences of between 20 years and life, while two - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who the court has determined had recruited the others - were sentenced to death by firing squad.

I want to say from the start that my feelings on capital punishment follow the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Pope John Paul II :

[Punishment] ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo has a policy of denying clemency for all drug offenders, and has chosen to ignore Australia's (and the UN's) pleas for mercy.

As much as I agree that the death penalty is too harsh a penalty, I can't say I agree with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's approach.

In 2004, Australia sent over $1 billion (Australian) in aid to Indonesia after the Boxing Day tsunami. Abbott is of the opinion that Indonesia needs to "pay back" Australia's generosity by not carrying out the executions.

"I would say to the Indonesian people and the Indonesian government: We in Australia are always there to help you, and we hope that you might reciprocate," Abbott said.

So, humanitarian aid must be paid back? There are strings attached? We aren't supposed to help our fellow man without getting something in return?

According to the bbc,

Mr Abbott suggested there would be consequences if the appeals were ignored.

"We will be making our displeasure known. We will be letting Indonesia know in absolutely unambiguous terms that we feel grievously let down."

I understand the frustrations of the Australians who want the Indonesian government to show mercy toward Sukumaran and Chan. Bali has been a popular vacation spot for Australians, but now, many in Australia are calling for a boycott.

In response, many in Indonesia believe "it's time for Australia to educate their people about how to behave as tourists" by not adding to the drug problem.

While the executions have been postponed, it's only a matter of time. Sukumaran and Chan are in need of our prayers.

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