"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Myuran Sukumaran was a good man

Australian artist Ben Quilty teaches Sukumaran to paint in Kerobokan Prison. Photo: Jason Childs
Australian artist Ben Quilty (R) teaches Sukumaran (L) to paint
in Kerobokan Prison. Photo: Jason Childs
I had met Chan and interviewed him inside Kerobokan prison, but Sukumaran I came to know. He was a remarkable character and a good man.

Our first encounter was in February 2012 in the ashes of Kerobokan's administrative centre, after rioters chased out all the guards and tried to burn down the prison.

As we squatted on a clear bit of floor, Sukumaran told me how he had stood throughout that night with a crowbar near to hand, guarding the prison's armory as gang members tried to beat down the doors to get to the guns inside.

"I was hoping they wouldn't succeed," he said, "because then I'd have to fight them."

By the time of the riot, the young Australian had already set up the prison art room, a computer centre, T-shirt printing facility and silver shop. The aim was to rehabilitate himself and others, and give his fellow prisoners something to do other than fight and take drugs.

One of many of Indonesia's infuriating hypocrisies is that much of the drug trade is controlled by the police and army (which is why low level smugglers are the only ones ever prosecuted). Drugs, and the gangs who sell them, are rampant inside prison. Sukumaran himself stood staunch against both.

He deployed enormous effort to keep gang members and drug users out of his beloved studio.

In February, 2013, over a two-day art workshop with artist Ben Quilty, his character was on full display. He described his work with other prisoners as also "a kind of art".

The best hope to save his life, he believed, was for the former president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to grant clemency as his term as president came to an end late last year. It would have been a brave move, but would have carried no political cost because SBY could not run again.

As the election neared and there was no news, Sukumaran expressed his frustration.

"Now it's already July and SBY is soon to leave office and theirs [sic] still no indication if he will make a decision," he emailed.

Then in October, he said, the consulate relayed news from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop after a meeting in Bali with her counterpart Marty Natalegawa that SBY "cannot make a decision".

Like most, though, Sukumaran viewed the election of Joko Widodo as the next best outcome. Surely the new president, an apparent humanitarian, would recognise that these men did not deserve to die.

It was not to be. In December, 2014, mouthing the words of hardliners in his camp, Joko announced that there would be no clemency for any drug smuggler. Sukumaran was desperate for more information.

"Just read your article!!! Is it true? What else do you know?" he emailed urgently.

Over the month, Joko firmed in his decision, despite admitting he had not read individual case files and did not even know that Chan and Sukumaran had been trying to export drugs from Indonesia rather than import them.

"We were hoping things would get better with Jokowi, that he would abolish the death penalty but things seem to have gone from bad to worse!! After almost 10 years inside you know we should feel like we're on the down swing of all this, not be facing a firing squad ... I don't even know what to do or think about this stuff anymore."


Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Bachelard, April 30, 2015

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com