JAKARTA: Indonesia’s foreign ministry told Australia on Wednesday (Feb 18) that nobody responds well to threats as tensions mount over the looming execution of two Australian drug smugglers.
As diplomatic efforts intensify to save Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked Indonesia to remember the one billion dollars in Australian aid in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that killed 170,000 Indonesians.
“We sent a significant contingent of our armed forces to help in Indonesia with humanitarian relief,” he told reporters in Australia earlier Wednesday. “I would say to the Indonesian people and the Indonesian government – we in Australia are always there to help you and we hope that you might reciprocate in this way at this time.”
Abbott said he continued to make “the strongest possible personal representations” to Indonesian President Joko Widodo and warned he would feel “grievously let down” if his pleas for clemency were ignored.
Abbott’s comments were not warmly received in Jakarta, which has repeatedly insisted its decision to execute the two ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine heroin smuggling operation was not directed at Australia.
Foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said he hoped the prime minister’s remarks did not reflect “the true colours of Australians”. “What I know is this: threats are not part of diplomatic language and from what I know no one responds well to threats,” Nasir told reporters in response to Abbott’s tsunami aid remarks.
Indonesian authorities have confirmed the Australians will be among the next set of prisoners to face the firing squad, but have remained tight-lipped about when the executions will take place and which other foreign convicts will join them.
On Tuesday, Chan and Sukumaran were given a glimmer of hope when their transfer to the prison where they are due to be shot was postponed. The Indonesian attorney-general’s office said the transfer would not go ahead this week. The delay was in response to Canberra’s appeal for more time for the families to be with their loved ones, and logistical difficulties involving capacity at the Nusakambangan island jail.
‘MAKE DISPLEASURE KNOWN’
Despite this, Indonesia insisted the execution of the Australians – who are on death row along with citizens from France, Ghana, Brazil and Nigeria – would go ahead, having lost their appeals for presidential clemency.
“We will be making our displeasure known. We will be letting Indonesia know in absolutely unambiguous terms that we feel grievously let down,” Abbott said when asked what would happen if the executions went ahead.
“I don’t want to prejudice the best possible relations with a very important friend and neighbour. But I’ve got to say that we can’t just ignore this kind of thing – if the perfectly reasonable representations that we are making to Indonesia are ignored by them.”
Relations have been on an even keel in recent months, recovering from a damaging rift in 2014 over spying revelations and people-smuggling.
Legal and diplomatic efforts to save the Australians have escalated in recent weeks, with every surviving former prime minister of Australia urging Jakarta to spare their lives.
On Tuesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi noted their pleas but insisted “this issue is purely a law enforcement issue”. However, her Australian counterpart Julie Bishop disagreed.
“Indonesia itself makes representations to other governments to stay executions of their nationals who find themselves on death row in countries overseas,” she told ABC radio. “I know that the foreign minister is part of making those representations, so when Indonesia does it, it is indeed a foreign policy matter because it involves the foreign minister.”
Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran have a court date next Tuesday to examine a last-ditch claim that Widodo did not follow the rules in rejecting their clemency bids.