Tragic but not unnecessary : Bali 9

I want to state two things up-front.

1) I don’t believe in the death penalty.

2) I hate double-negatives, though they serve their purpose sometimes.

Today was a landmark day for international relations with Indonesia following the execution of the “Bali 9” for smuggling heroin. I stayed up late tonight watching the grief and sadness of family, friends and the general community, following the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. My condolences to their loved ones – what a horrible turn of events. I personally think Indonesia did an appalling job of managing communication and process around this awful situation. So much confusion, drama and false hope created.

Typically Indonesian.

The truth is, I am extremely fond of Indonesia and it holds a special place in my heart. I have visited it many times for business and pleasure, from Java to Bali, Flores to Komodo, Labuan to Gillies. I was married to my wife in Indonesia because it was a unique country that enabled Russians and Australians (and a few Canucks) to visit without visas and a lot of immigration hassle. It has stunning landscapes and awesome marine life, it has beautiful and diverse people. It has amazing culture and cuisine.

The problem is that Indonesia has a huge rich-poor divide and a massive drug problem that not only has major domestic impact, but it is a major global trafficking hub. Whilst Indonesia’s policy of death to drug traffickers is primarily reflective of domestic health and criminal issues, countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand enforce an important regional deterrent for the worlds largest source of both cultivated and synthetic drugs. As tragic as this situation is, the people executed today knew that when they engaged in their illicit acts, they were risking a death sentence. It was right there on the landing card. Even Rodrigo Gularte, who was known to be bipolar and schizophrenic (but not of sub-par intelligence), would have known and understood that drug trafficking commands a death sentence.

I do think a firing squad is a bit extreme as far as capital punishment goes, and it is my personal opinion that only God (or whatever force/deity/philosophy you subscribe to) is entitled to take a life. Having said that, it is hard to make a strong argument that a life sentence in an Indonesian jail is either humane or a reasonable burden for a country to undertake that has much more serious problems of poverty and development. Why should some reckless Aussie criminal that blatantly and knowingly broke the law divert resources away from Indonesians? It’s a tough one.

Three sad things happened today:

1) Families lost their loved ones, probably through disproportionate punishment.

2) Global condemnation will likely considerably increase the pressure on Indonesia (and countries that have similar policies) to eliminate such punitive laws. Aid will be cancelled, tourism will wane and ambassadors will be recalled. The risk is that political firepower will dangerously reduce these deterrents, simply to assuage electorates.

3) Australia has damaged its relationship with on of its most important neighbours – perhaps its most important neighbour. When situations like this happen, you don’t recall your ambassador, you keep your ambassador firmly in place and make damned sure the avenues of communication are wide open. This is necessary not only for the families of those who have been executed, but to ensure that the lobbying process is seamless between now and the next tragic event. Only a stupid, unsophisticated, f*cking asinine populist government would do such a thing. I would expect this of Tony Abbott, but I would have expected better of Julie Bishop who is marginally somewhat less of an idiot.

Carr is absolutely correct to condemn this decision.

The component of all of this that has not been properly acknowledged by our mainstream media and government is that these (mostly) men were part of a drug syndicate that was hell-bent on making money out of the wanton destruction of Australian society. They tried to bring almost 20lbs of heroin into Australia with a street value of about $4m bucks. These people wanted to bring drugs (and not for the first time) to this country that would ultimately destroy 1000ds of families and undoubtedly result in plenty of loss of life. These were not nice people.

Now that doesn’t mean that execution is the right remedy, but these are not heroes no matter what their conduct was in their final hours. These are BAD people and i will not personally mourn for them. Their families yes. The Bali 9 – no. No matter how much airplay you give a cute Catholic priest with a charming Irish lilt (like Charlie Burrows) it’s hard to make a case that these people should be forgiven and even somehow deified.

To avoid this situation in the future and protect its citizens from a barbaric firing squad, Australia needs to do one simple thing. Let’s form a treaty with Indonesia that any Australian citizen that is arrested in Indonesia for serious drug possession (and I am not talking a bit of weed late at night on Kuta Beach) will be extradited to Australia and will serve a full life sentence in Australian prison, without any chance of an early parole. We already have plenty of precedent for this – we certainly treat asylum seekers badly, locking innocent people up for years at a time without cause. Australia also has (appropriately) tough extraterritorial laws regarding pedophilia that nobody gets too enraged about. If we can seriously punish some sweaty fat bloke for shagging a 14 year old Thai girl in Pattaya Beach, then we can punish a misguided individual who thinks its ok to sell millions of dollars of heroin to our friends, family and children.

Send Paul Grigson back, Julie. Start the process of saving face and respect Indonesia’s sovereignty through action, not just words. Make a proper deal with Joko so that this doesn’t ever happen again.