Australian “bullying” gave Indonesia no chance to exercise clemency

I sometimes felt that Australia’s attitude and rhetoric about the execution of the Bali 9 was going to be counter-productive but generally assumed that governments must have exercised their collective minds and knew what they were doing. I did wonder sometimes why Indonesia was always being painted into a corner with no exit route. I assumed that some quiet diplomacy was ongoing but apparently it was not.

The drug-runners were initially arrested following an Australian police tip-off to their Indonesian counterparts. And when the Australian police sent the tip-off they were very well aware of

  1. Indonesia’s hard-line and death sentences for convicted drug dealers, and
  2. that Australian citizens were the subject of their tip-off.

In fact the chain of event which led to the death penalty and the executions were started by Australia.

But now this from the New Zealand Minister of Internal Affairs suggests that the Australian strategy – if there ever was a strategy – and their rhetoric may not have been very well thought through. They made it almost impossible by their public noise for Indonesia to exercise clemency without also being humiliated.

Stuff: Peter Dunne, the Minister of Internal Affairs, is accusing Australia of “playing international bully” in its handling of Indonesia’s execution of two of the Bali nine.

In his regular newsletter, Dunne Speaks, the MP for Ohariu said Australia seemed more interested in pushing Indonesia around than saving the lives of two of its citizens.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad early Wednesday morning (NZ time) on drug smuggling charges.

Australia has led international condemnation of the executions, two of a number of foreign nationals killed in Indonesia today, but Dunne turned attention on Australia’s diplomatic efforts.

“While nothing excuses the barbarism of Indonesia’s actions, the various interventions by Australia… all served to make it virtually impossible for Indonesia to get off its high horse with any semblance of dignity,” he wrote.

“From the crass linking of Australian aid after the Boxing Day tsunami to favourable consideration of this case, through to independent commentary in Australia on the eve of the executions that the actions of President Widodo actually showed his political impotence, Australia appeared hell-bent on humiliating Indonesia into submission, rather than saving the lives of its two citizens.”

Dunne said the episode could provide a lesson for New Zealand, with Antony de Malmanche currently on trial on drugs charges in Indonesia.

“We need to be talking quietly to the Indonesians now, letting them know our views, and working with them to see if a reasonable solution can be effected. The process needs to be ongoing, not just left until the last few months.”

Foreign Minister Murray McCully’s office pointed to comments he had made on Wednesday about the executions.

“While we respect Indonesia’s right to set and apply its own laws, and understand the immense harm the country suffers from drug trafficking, we are dismayed that these executions have proceeded in the face of continued appeals from some of Indonesia’s closest friends.”

What did the government of the Philippines do that Australia did not?

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