In the early hours of April 29, eight men convicted of drug offences and sentenced to death by the Indonesian courts were taken from their cells, tied to poles and shot dead by a 13-man firing squad. Among them were Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, ringleaders of the ‘Bali 9’.
In 2006, the pair had been found guilty of a plot to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin, valued at $4 million, from Indonesia to Australia. Seven of the nine people involved were handed lengthy prison sentences, ranging from 20 years to life. However, Chan and Sukumaran were condemned to death.
The Indonesian National Police (INP) had been alerted of the drug smuggling plot eleven days before it was carried out. The father one of the men involved had alerted the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to the drug trafficking plan before the group left Australia for Bali.
He was reassured that his son would be prevented from departing. Instead, the AFP handed his information over to the INP. The AFP advised the INP to “take whatever action they deem appropriate”. When the Bali 9 were sentenced both the then Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley backed the role of the AFP despite knowing it would likely lead to their executions.
While shedding crocodile tears, no senior politician from either of the major parties has come out to condemn the AFP for effectively facilitating the deaths of these two young men.
After the then Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono imposed a four-year moratorium on the death penalty in 2009, it seemed likely that their death sentences would be commuted. In June 2014, the governor of Kerobokan prison, Farid Junaedi, even made personal pleas to reduce their sentences such was their good behaviour.
However, hopes for the men were dashed when Joko Widodo won the Presidential election last October. Although initially popular, Widodo’s support in Indonesia has declined. Against the backdrop of a slowing economy, falling oil prices, and demands from the World Bank for an overhaul of the Indonesian economy, Widodo’s support has dipped from a record high of 71% to 42%.
In a bid to shore up support among key figures of the Indonesian establishment, and to divert attention away from the real problems that ordinary Indonesians face, Widodo has adopted a hardline approach to crime, and has vowed to escalate Indonesia’s ‘war on drugs’.
Despite countless appeals, legal challenges and pleas to spare their lives, Widodo rejected Chan and Sukumaran’s bid for clemency in January. Widodo vowed he would show no mercy to any of the 64 drug offenders on death row, nor would he “compromise” on Indonesia’s use of capital punishment.
Capital punishment is a barbaric method of social control. Socialists demand that the death penalty be abolished. The capitalist state, a biased body that allows a rich minority to rule at the expense of the majority, should not decide who gets to live and die.
Only a system that is based on meeting the needs of the majority could put an end to politicians using people’s lives as a means to further their own political ends. While campaigning to abolish the death penalty in the here and now, this is the type of society that socialists strive to build in the future.
By Conor Flynn