Today I did something I have never done before. I tipped over the edge from just being a photojournalist and armchair activist into making a stand. Doing something real and practical and hoping like hell it will make a difference.
Today I delivered a petition with over 1600 signatures to the Consulate-General of the Indonesian Republic, to be respectfully submitted to His Excellency Joko Widodo, The President of Indonesia.
The petition to show Clemency for convicted drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, was elegantly penned by Jaqi Pascoe and illustrated with a photo by photojournalist Lukman S. Bintoro (firstname.lastname@example.org)/News Ltd and has gathered momentum over a very short period of time. And for that I am grateful to all of the people who have signed and joined their voices to mine in asking for Clemency.
I don’t know Myu and Andrew, their families, or really much about the circumstances behind why they are facing death by a firing squad on a remote island in Indonesia, other than they were smuggling drugs into Australia and the Australian Federal Police tipped the Indonesian Police off.
I have read as many media reports as the next person and I can honestly say I don’t much care about how the situation came about. All I really know is that in the photo by Lukman S. Bintoro used on this petition I can see in the eyes of two hapless men the light of life… still burning bright. What I can say, is that after years of looking at photos that I can not see them as evil monsters.
Just men who lost their way.
So are their crimes enough reason to take their life, the one very sovereign thing each of us have?
There have been a myriad of arguments both for and against these two suffering the consequences of their mistakes both in Australia and around the world. There are as many people in Indonesia who oppose the proposed executions as any population anywhere.
The arguments have ranged from they are “terrible scum” to they are “rehabilitated” and that trying to pressure the Indonesian government was trying to interfere with another sovereign country’s system and that “boycotting Bali” was wrong because after all why should the Balinese suffer for the crimes of two stupid young men.
In effect, all of these arguments are valid… and invalid in all the one breath…
But if that one breath was to be your last how would you really feel?
Today I went to the Consulate-General of The Indonesian Republic and spoke to his representative. The Consulate-General’s representative is a young man and he was very empathetic. We talked about the Death Penalty. And how, in my opinion it is not a deterrent for drug smugglers nor is it a way forward for humanity. He agreed it was a frustrating situation to be Australian and to make these representations. He pledged to carry the sentiments of the 1619 signatories to his government.
There is no right way to approach this. I don’t believe in the Death Penalty. I never have. I never will.
But because of this belief today I did something positive. I represented this point of view to a foreign government. I expressed my belief we can go forward without the deaths of these men and the others who are also on Death Row, in a better way.
It is not for Australians to be aggressive to Indonesians. Nor is it for us to determine the outcome. What we can do is share our views that we, the people of the world, will be better without the Death Penalty.
I pray that Joko Widodo, who now wears the weight of this decision between life and death on his shoulders alone, makes the right and better choice for the world by granting Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan the Clemency that will prove that humanity can go forward in compassion.