GARY ADSHEAD Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins me now. Thanks very much for your time Minister.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning.
GARY ADSHEAD Was the Australian Government notified of this transfer? Do you get a heads up on it?
JULIE BISHOP We learned of it through our consular officials in Bali, although it appears that the Indonesian media know about it before we do, but yes we have been informed that they have been transferred. We were expecting it to be around lunchtime today, but it was earlier than we expected, but we have been informed formally.
GARY ADSHEAD What do you make of the sort of way it was done, you know, heavily armed, over 100 military or police were there, heavily armed armoured personnel carriers to do the transfer, gun turrets, what do you make of it? How do you see that?
JULIE BISHOP I find it very difficult to comprehend. These are two young men who are reformed, they’ve shown genuine remorse for their crimes and who by all accounts are making a positive difference to the lives of their fellow prisoners and a real contribution to the Indonesian prison system. Indeed Andrew Chan has studied theology, he is now a priest. Myuran Sukumaran is an accomplished artist and he’s taking art classes. The governor of the prison has assured our consular officials that they are model prisoners and that they are making a positive contribution to prison life.
Indeed I’ve said on a number of occasions that the story of their remarkable rehabilitation is one of which Indonesia should be proud, that this has been achieved in their prison system, something that prison systems around the world aspire to achieve and that is the rehabilitation of people. That’s why I feel that it is so devastating that having been rehabilitated in this way, the Indonesian authorities appear to be determined to execute them by firing squad.
GARY ADSHEAD You’ve seen those heavily armed vehicles coming out of Kerobokan Prison gates, is that the point of no return as far as you’re concerned? Is there anything now, any chance at all?
JULIE BISHOP For as long as there is still hope, I will continue to do everything possible to persuade Indonesia to change course, to change its mind, to change heart and agree to a stay of execution. I’m informed that there are still legal avenues open to them. I believe that the lawyers of the two men have sought to lodge an appeal. There are still claims of corruption in the original trial currently before Indonesia’s judicial commission. I understand that Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran have been asked to provide a statement for those commission hearings, so while legal proceedings are still underway, I believe it would be utterly unacceptable, indeed unthinkable, that plans could continue for the execution of two prisoners while legal avenues are open.
GARY ADSHEAD Okay, now we hear about it, and you may be in a better position than me, but the 72 hour notice in terms of their execution. Is that accurate, that that’s how this plays out, that 72 hours notice must be given, or will be given?
JULIE BISHOP That is our understanding and we’re judging on what happened in January when executions did take place. You see, over the past 10 years successive Australian Governments have made numerous representations on behalf of the Bali Nine, particularly Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who received the death penalty. Australia opposes the death penalty at home and abroad, and then over the last few years, at least the last five years, I think there’s only been one execution carried out in Indonesia and that was not against an Australian citizen. So it appears there was a softening of the hard line on the death penalty, but then in January, executions were actually carried out and then we were notified that Andrew and Myuran were next on the list. So we are not asking Indonesia to do anything more than they do when Indonesian citizens are on death row in other countries. The Indonesian Government has been very active in its strong efforts to seek clemency for Indonesians on death row in other jurisdictions, including those on drug offences.
GARY ADSHEAD What do you say to people who are suggesting that the Prime Minister may have overreached….on the statement of the billion dollar aid following the tsunami, that may have done more damage than it could possibly have done good?
JULIE BISHOP I don’t believe that’s the case. I spoke directly with the Vice President Jusuf Kalla about it because I noted what the Indonesian media were saying and I wanted to make it clear that the Prime Minister was highlighting how close we are as neighbours, as friends, how we stand by each other in difficult times and that we would continue to ask the President to show mercy and forgiveness to Andrew and Myuran, which it can do under Indonesian law.
GARY ADSHEAD So just on that, from now until the moment comes, I mean how many times will he take a phone call from our Prime Minister, or yourself, or their Foreign Minister from yourself. How open are the lines of communication to keep talking about this at the highest level?
JULIE BISHOP I spoke to the Foreign Minister last night at length, she undertook to get back to me. I asked her to make these representations to the President, she undertook to do that. I asked that she contact the Attorney General of Indonesia so that we be provided with more information on what is being proposed, what is planned, and she undertook to get back to me again. So we must keep lines of communication open. Prime Minister Abbott spoke to President Widodo recently, it’s not the first time they’ve spoken on this topic and I continue to speak to my counterpart. Our Attorney General has made representations to their Attorney General and Minister for Justice, our Governor General, and the heads of our relevant agencies. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials continue to make representations. Our Ambassador designate in Jakarta continues to contact officials in the Jakarta administration….in the Indonesian administration. Of course this won’t be the end of it, there are other nationals of other countries also on death row. Other countries are making representations: France, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, a number of citizens of other countries are also included in this group that we understand they propose to execute.
GARY ADSHEAD Our consular people in Indonesia, what sort of access do they have to the two men at the moment? Or what sort of access do you know will they have leading up to the actual execution?
JULIE BISHOP Our Consul General Majell Hind has been with the families and they have had access to them. Michael Chan was not allowed access this morning just moments before they were taken out in those armoured vehicles. We understand that the families will have access at the so called execution island early tomorrow, and so we have a team on the site. We also have offered the families whatever consular assistance they may need, both in Bali and in Jakarta.
GARY ADSHEAD Just finally Minister, to people that still are holding the view that these men knew the risks of what they were doing and they’re going to meet their fate as was intended at the time that they were arrested and convicted. What do you say to the Australian people and what’s your sense of what the Australian people think of these pending executions?
JULIE BISHOP I know that views are very divided on this and I understand that. From people who have been affected by drug trafficking, there are deaths in Australia as a result of drug trafficking into this country and I understand peoples concerns, but people should be given a second chance if they have been truly remorseful, if they have been truly rehabilitated. What good purpose is going to be served by executing the lives of two men who can make a positive difference to prisoners who are also going through rehabilitation in Indonesia and we are seeking mercy for these two young men, just as the Indonesian government seeks mercy for Indonesians on death row in other jurisdictions. I can see no positive purpose to be served by executing these two young men who have made a remarkable rehabilitation and are reformed. They have changed.
GARY ADSHEAD Alright Minister, appreciate your time, thanks very much.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555