Unswayed by World Leaders’ Pleas, Jokowi Pushes Ahead With Executions
Jakarta. President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday the planned execution of 11 convicts on death row, most on drugs charges, would not be delayed despite concerted pleas from several world leaders. Instead, he warned foreign countries not to intervene with his government’s right to impose the capital punishment.
Joko has denied clemency to the death-row prisoners despite repeated pleas for mercy from Australia, Brazil and France, all of whom have citizens due to be executed by an Indonesian firing squad.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a similar appeal to Indonesia last Friday.
Eleven inmates are due to face the firing squad after Joko rejected their requests for clemency in January.
“I will say this firmly: no one may intervene with the executions because it is our sovereign right to exercise our laws,” Joko told reporters.
He said he had taken calls from the leaders of France, Brazil and the Netherlands about Indonesia’s use of the death penalty but made no mention of Australia.
Two Australians are among the 11 on death row.
The president did not say when the executions would be carried out.
In a special interview with BeritaSatu Media Holdings on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi asserted that Indonesia would not back down from its decision to execute foreign drug-trafficking inmates on death row, even despite risks of disrupting diplomatic ties with the prisoners’ countries of origin.
“Indonesia is always open [to suggestions]. Wherever I go, I always say that we’re ready to cooperate, to boost our partnerships with any countries and we’ve communicated with them under the spirit of friendship,” Retno said in her office in Jakarta. “But when it reaches a point where they offend our dignity as a nation, that is where we must take a firm and dignified stance [against them].”
The minister was speaking in light of a diplomatic row with Brazil and an increasingly heated dispute with Australia over the execution of a Brazilian in January, as well as the planned executions of another Brazilian and two Australian nationals slated for next month.
Debates over capital punishment for drug trafficking has focused far too much on the point of view of the perpetrators, and not that of the victims, the foreign minister added.
“Has the other angle — the perspective of the victims — been adequately represented? How many millions of Indonesian children have lost their future because of narcotics? How many parents cry every day for these victims? How much do those parents and the government have to spend in order to save Indonesia’s youth?” Retno said.
“Don’t forget: Indonesia is a frequent point of transit for these transnational drug crimes, and it is now one of the world’s largest market of international drug syndicates. It is time for us to declare war against narcotics.”
Indonesia ended its unofficial moratorium on the death penalty last month when it executed six prisoners, five of whom were foreign nationals.
Joko has repeatedly asserted that Indonesia is in a “state of emergency” concerning drug use, citing National Narcotics Agency (BNN) data, which claim Indonesia has over 4.5 million drug users. Between 40 and 50 people, the agency says, die every day from drug use.
Opponents of the death penalty have disputed these figures.
The government delayed its second round of executions after Australia challenged Indonesia’s rejection of a clemency request from Australian drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran at the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN).
The pair are among the 11 inmates facing execution this month.
The court said it was not authorized to rule on the matter and an appeal for clemency fell under the president’s jurisdiction.
Government officials, including Joko, have denied rumors that Indonesia may be bowing down to international pressure, saying the delay was purely related to technical issues.
Domestic debates over capital punishment took a nationalistic turn last week after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pleas for mercy turned into what many interpreted as a veiled threat, when he suggested Indonesia should repay the $1 billion in aid his country provided after the 2004 Aceh tsunami should Chan and Sukumaran be executed.
Indonesia’s army of social-media users, many of whom had paid very little attention to the issue, bombarded the Internet with angry support for the execution, while demanding that Australia and Brazil respect Indonesian laws.
Meanwhile, uproar from human rights activists have mostly been muted, as has the accusation that Joko may be using the death penalty to boost his slumping popularity at home.
The president’s approval ratings have suffered significantly due to a string of controversial political appointments made in his cabinet and, most recently, the widely perceived notion that he failed to protect the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) from alleged criminalization attempts by the infamously corrupt National Police.
In addition to growing tensions with its neighbor Down Under, Indonesia is also dealing with a deepening diplomatic row with Brazil after President Dilma Rousseff refused to receive the credentials of the nation’s new Indonesian ambassador-designate, Toto Riyanto.
Expecting to become ambassador to Brazil, Toto arrived at the presidential palace in the capital Brasilia for an induction ceremony on Friday, only to be turned away.
Rousseff approved of ambassadors from El Salvador, Panama, Venezuela, Senegal and Greece, but singled out Indonesia for rejection.
In response, Retno said she has recalled Toto from Brazil, summoned the Brazilian ambassador in Jakarta to “harshly protest” Friday’s incident and dispatched a note of protest to Brasilia.
“The way [Brazil] treated our ambassador is unacceptable. This concerns our dignity as a nation,” Retno said, adding she was still awaiting a response from the Brazilian government.
“We don’t know the official reason, but according to information the ambassador received from Brazil’s foreign affairs minister, [Toto’s rejection] was related to the execution,” Retno said.
Asked if Indonesia would seriously risk cutting diplomatic ties with Brazil by proceeding with its execution of the second Brazilian, Retno said: “We haven’t reached that point in our discussions … Indonesia is now reviewing every aspect of the situation and our relationship with Brazil.”
The government is also re-evaluating procurement plans for fighter jets and rocket launchers from Brazil because of the recent turn of events, according to the Ministry of Defense.
With 58 foreign nationals on death row facing imminent executions, concerns have risen over possible diplomatic friction with other nations, such as France and Nigeria.
But Retno asserted: “We understand [these countries’] concerns for their citizens. We, too, would do everything in our power to rescue our people facing death sentences abroad.
“But this is a matter of the sovereignty of Indonesian law. We’re enforcing our laws and, as a sovereign nation, we don’t want anyone to intervene with our legal processes,” she added.
The minister pointed out that capital punishment was not against international law and that the United Nations has yet to conclude its deliberations over the issue.
While political relations may be at a low, trade between Indonesia and opponents of its penchant for capital punishment continues to run smoothly. Australia is a major trading partner of the archipelago, with bilateral exchanges totalling $10.64 billion last year.
Indonesia is Australia’s largest export market for both live cattle and wheat, and a major buyer of its crude petroleum, aluminum and cotton.
Trade between Indonesia and Brazil totaled $4.07 billion last year, according to Bank Indonesia.
Additional reporting from Reuters
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Source: The Jakarta Globe