Indonesia has been rightly promoting its many positives.
It’s the third largest democracy with Asia’s freest media; it’s the globe’s most moderate Muslim nation and ASEAN’s economic powerhouse.
The biggest archipelago is a resource-rich environment open for business and tourism. It’s inviting the world and her husband to pack their bags, jump a Garuda and head for Wonderful Indonesia. As the ads say - ‘know it, love it’.
What’s not to like?
Only a cruel and illogical approach to the drug problem by maintaining the death penalty – with authorities checking carbines and cable ties for the next round anytime soon.
Indonesia’s stubborn refusal to discard this primitive and ineffective practice – now being proposed for rape - is corroding all the splendid qualities which make the 17,000 plus islands and their multi-ethnic peoples a delight.
Why does the government allow twisted thinking to dash down all the exciting images it has been building over the years? Why continue to drive on the wrong side of history when most have switched to the other lane?
Only 37 nations still have judicial murder on their statutes and exercise the law.
Apart from Indonesia the key culprits are China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia plus several rogue states. Does an otherwise progressive and reformed Indonesia happily stand in this company of brutes?
A further 50 countries still have the law though haven’t used it for the past decade. Six retain it only for mass killings.
Like the Dutch beheader’s sword now hanging idle in Jakarta’s Kota Tua, the gallows, stakes, electric chairs and chopping blocks from 102 nations now rust and rot in museums - examples of how their ignorant forebears behaved before they elevated human rights above all else.
Every day President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo faces a mountain of compelling issues, including repairing the nation’s infrastructure, boosting the economy, calming inter-faith tensions and eradicating poverty.
Despite the workload he’s found time to back the death penalty, arguing that it’s necessary to curb drug trafficking. So far 14 peddlers of illegal addictives have been executed under his 18 month watch.
During the ten-year rule of his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, only one of the 19 victims had been condemned for drug trafficking. The others were murderers.
Last year’s clutch included men from the Philippines, France, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Indonesia and two Australians who had reformed during their decade in detention.
The killings led to widespread condemnation. Australia, Brazil and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors. This is the diplomatic equivalent of publicly walking out of your neighbor’s house because you find their behavior repellent.
Inside Indonesia, Komnas HAM (the National Commission on Human Rights) wants capital punishment abolished. So do ten other NGOs that have written to Luhut Panjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Police, Law and Security Affairs asking for ‘a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty’.
Last month President Jokowi told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that shooting traffickers was necessary because up to 50 citizens died every day from drug abuse.
The figures come from a 2008 study by Universitas Indonesia and Badan Narkotika Nasional (BNN – the National Narcotics Agency). Academic researchers have labelled the findings ‘ambiguous’, inaccurate’ and ‘over simplistic’.
Even if the statistics are accurate, an annual total of 18,250 deaths is about four per cent of the World Health Organization’s estimate of smoking-related fatalities.
Using the President’s logic then Philip Morris, the largest trafficker of addictive substances in Indonesia, should be tied to a stake and shot to shreds. As the British businessman died in 1873, directors of the American company could be executed instead.
Indonesia will win the World Cup before this happens, even though it’s the logical extension to the President’s reasoning. Apart from an international outcry it would cause a stampede of investors. The economy would collapse, as it did when Soekarno nationalised Western businesses in 1958.
President Jokowi has also argued that ‘shock therapy’ will curb the drug menace. Curiously the threat of death, even a painful and prolonged sentence through metastatic lung cancer doesn’t change behavior. So why should a quick 5.56 mm bullet dishearten?
Every time one of Indonesia’s 60 million nicotine addicts pulls out a fag they’re confronted by a fume-wreathed skull and the slogan Merokok Membunuhmu (Smoking Kills You). Yet still they smoke.
Drug traffickers are indisputably evil. Traders in jail are daily reminders of tough penalties. The facts show the present policy is not a deterrent but a distraction.
The collateral damage caused is extreme.
Those gleefully announcing the killings to come don’t do the foul deeds themselves. They’re distant from the macabre prison rituals. They don’t see the ripped flesh, hear the death rattles before dawn, smell the vomit, sweat the nightmare.
They don’t pass their remaining lives forever recalling they’ve helped slaughter defenceless beings in cold blood, the worst thing anyone can do to another human.
All involved in the vile process are corrupted. So is the reputation of a fine nation, crippled by a flawed ideology that has no place in a moral universe.
(First published in The Jakarta Post 26 May 2016)