Marking one year since the Bali Nine executions

SBS World News Radio: The brother of one of two Australian drug dealers executed in Indonesia says the Federal Government has failed to apply enough pressure on abolishing the death penalty.

Marking one year since the Bali Nine executions

Marking one year since the Bali Nine executions

It's been one year since 31 year-old Andrew Chan and 34 year-old Myuran Sukumaran were executed by an Indonesian firing squad for their roles in the Bali Nine heroin trafficking group.

And for the first time in ten years, Michael Chan has no plans to fly to Bali to be with his brother Andrew in Kerobokan prison.

In fact, he never wants to set foot in Indonesia again.

His family will instead gather with close friends in Sydney to mark the first anniversary of Andrew's death.

"It's easy to trick yourself into thinking he's still here. When you have certain gatherings at home over the course of the year, obviously, there's someone missing at the table. Football season's just started and usually there's a bit of banter between me and him and the Bulldogs, you know, the Panthers and the Bulldogs."

This time last year, a global campaign to save Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran's lives reached its climax.

The prisoners became household names, inspiring protests against their executions with their stories of transformation into a Christian pastor and an artist.

Sukumaran's mother, Raji, made an emotional plea to the Indonesian Government.

"I'm asking the government not to kill him, please, President, don't kill him today."

Under sudden and extreme pressure to help save the men's lives, the Australian Government took unusual steps to intervene in its neighbour's justice process.

On the day before the executions, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued a plea to the Indonesian government.

"That no steps be taken in relation to the proposed executions while there are still legal proceedings on foot."

But there was no eleventh hour mercy, President Joko Widodo refused to relax his hardline stance on drugs.

And suddenly, they were gone.

Australia temporarily withdrew its Ambassador in protest.

Since the deaths, Indonesia has not executed anyone.

But Amnesty International's Indonesia spokesman, Papang Hidayat, says that's because President Widodo's worried about losing trade opportunities.

"Indonesia prioritised economic development but recently we heard that the Attorney-General wanted to resume the third wave of executions probably somewhere in May."

The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop declined an interview with SBS.

A Foreign Affairs Department spokesman says Australia wants Indonesia to abolish the death penalty.

He said "the executions were a difficult point in the relationship, however Indonesia remains one of Australia's most important and enduring bilateral relationships."

senior research fellow at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, Dr David McRae, says a change of leader has led the countries to move on from the executions.

"I think we've seen something of a circuit-breaker effect from Malcolm Turnbull's rise to Prime Minister where the relationship was essentially broken between President Jokowi and Prime Minister Abbott, we've instead seen very public, positive atmospherics."

The last thing Michael Chan wants to see from his brother's death is a story of "out of sight, out of mind"*.

He says Andrew was willing to die a, what he terms, barbaric death, if it would help end capital punishment.

"If he was to be the last person to be executed in Indonesia, so be it, if it was to abolish the death penalty. Both sides of political parties were on board and to sort of I guess watch the ball drop to that degree is a little bit upsetting."

The Sukumarans were too distressed to speak about their son Myuran.

Indonesian representatives in Australia have refused to comment on the anniversary of the executions - a sign of just how sensitive the matter is.

Last year Australian activists poured red liquid over the gates of the Indonesian Consulate in New South Wales representing the blood of Chan and Sukumaran.

Australians Against Capital Punishment are holding a vigil in Brisbane on Friday night to mark the anniversary.



4 min read
Published 29 April 2016 at 6:00pm
By Alex Parry