JUSTIN SMITH When you saw that picture yesterday – I don’t want to make this too emotive – but when you saw that picture yesterday, what was your reaction to that?
JULIE BISHOP Profoundly disappointed and dismayed. I felt that the two prisoners were not being afforded appropriate dignity. After all, they were in the middle of being transferred from a prison to an island where it is proposed they will be executed. It is a very sad and sombre occasion and …
JUSTIN SMITH [interrupted] Probably the last journey of their life?
JULIE BISHOP I hope not. I’m not giving up hope. While they are still alive I’m continuing to make representations to the Indonesian Government that no good purpose will be served. I was profoundly disappointed that the pictures appeared online and we have made [inaudible] position to the Ambassador.
JUSTIN SMITH Have you managed to speak to the Ambassador yet?
JULIE BISHOP No I haven’t. He was in Perth and I was in Canberra yesterday. The Deputy Secretary – who is a former Ambassador to Indonesia – made contact with him by telephone and registered our protest and we indicated that when he returned to Canberra we would call him in to officially protest about the treatment it appears the two men have received.
But also to make a point that we were concerned about what appeared to be a disproportionate use of military equipment and paramilitary personnel. After all they are just two young men whom the Bali prison governors themselves have described as model prisoners and I thought it was a disproportionate display of military force.
JUSTIN SMITH What was that about? Was it posturing? What was it?
JULIE BISHOP I cannot comprehend it. I just don’t understand, particularly as it seemed to be different treatment to other nationals who are finding themselves in the same position. The two Australians – Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan – are not the only prisoners facing execution by firing squad, There are a number of other nationals who are in the same position. Yet it would seem their transfer hasn’t attracted anywhere near this level of military and paramilitary presence.
JUSTIN SMITH It seems to be two things here and I hope I am wrong because it feels like we – you representing us – we are yelling into an echo chamber here and that nothing is coming back. The message we are trying to get to the Indonesians is not happening. Is it like that?
JULIE BISHOP Well, I don’t think I’m yelling, I’m trying to be as diplomatic as possible. We have made many written and personal representations. As recently as yesterday, I sent another letter to Foreign Minister Marsudi setting out grounds upon which we believe a permanent stay of execution should be granted.
I have pointed out many times that we are not asking any more of Indonesia than Indonesia itself asks and receives from other countries in relation to their citizens who are on death row including for drug offences. And I have appealed to President Widodo’s strength and humanity and asked him to show mercy and forgiveness to two Australians who made a terrible mistake 10 years ago.
They are paying their debt to society, they are paying the price for their serious crimes by being in prison. But during their time in prison they have made the most remarkable rehabilitation – they are changed men. Andrew Chan is now a pastor – he has undertaken a theology degree. And Myuran Sukumaran is now an accomplished artist, he is teaching other prisoners to paint and take part in prison life.
There have been glowing reports from the prison governors themselves saying they are making a positive contribution to prison life. And as I have said on many occasions, Indonesia can be proud that their penal system has produced this level of rehabilitation. A remarkable story that countries around the world will be proud to own.
JUSTIN SMITH It should be a celebration, absolutely, I agree. Do you think that the President is a good man?
JULIE BISHOP Of course I believe that President Widodo is a good man. He has been elected by the Indonesian people. I met him at the G20 conference here in Brisbane. He seemed like a good, decent person and that is why we would appeal to his humanity, his sense of mercy. These are concepts that have as much relevance in Indonesian law as they do in Australian law. So we will continue to make these representations for as long as we have to.
JUSTIN SMITH Your predecessor was talking today – Bob Carr – was talking about a pact that Australia could form with other countries to say to Indonesia, “look, we will get together here and we will help you fight drugs if you spare the lives of these two men.” Do you put any stock into that?
JULIE BISHOP We have already done that. We have tried everything. I have put forward many proposals about drug rehabilitation programs. Indeed, the Government has offered money to put into a drug rehabilitation program. I have had offers from private donors that I have passed on. We have offered to have a regional process such as we have with the regional process for people smuggling, we can regional level of co-operation with all countries in the region who are victims of drug trafficking. And that has not been taken up.
Of course, Australia already does provides a lot of support in coordination and cooperation in law enforcement in relation to drugs and already support a number of rehabilitation programs. But I have already offered a substantial package that has also been elaborated upon by our Ambassador-designate in Jakarta. All of these proposals have been on the table for some time.
That’s why this week I also put forward a proposal – not detailed – I just suggested that our officials could get together so there could be a pause or moratorium in the proposed executions so that we could discuss some kind of prisoner swap or transfer or get a stay of execution so that we could return Indonesian prisoners who are in Australian jails on drug offences. We have not had a formal reply from Foreign Minister Marsudi, although it seems the authorities have indicated in commenting to the media that they are not interested in pursuing such a proposal.
JUSTIN SMITH I don’t want to read you wrong here, but we can hear the frustration in your voice. Is that how it feels to you, is it frustrating?
JULIE BISHOP Well I’m continuing to make representations…
JUSTIN SMITH [interrupting] You will stay positive.
JULIE BISHOP Absolutely. I am a optimist at heart and I’m going to continue to be optimistic. I have spoken to the families on a number of occasions. No one could not be moved after speaking to the families about the fate of their sons, brothers, grandsons.
So having spoken to Mrs Sukumaran and having spoken to Andrew’s bother Michael on a number of occasions, having met them and talked to them about the remarkable and extraordinary progress that they have made in changing from being convicted criminals to rehabilitated prisoners – it just keeps you going.
So I will continue to fight for their lives and continue to appeal to President Widodo to spare their lives of these two Australian men who have changed. Who are deeply and sincerely remorseful for their actions.
JUSTIN SMITH Absolutely. One last question, if this thing does go ahead – I want to stay positive – but if this thing does go ahead, will something get broken between Australia and Indonesia that will take a long time repair?
JULIE BISHOP I will be deeply saddened if this happens, not only for the young men and their families but for the relationship between Indonesia and Australia. It is an important relationship and a significant relationship. We cooperate on so many levels, on so many fronts and it has to be a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. So that is why we will continue to appeal to President Widodo to spare the lives of the two Australians.
JUSTIN SMITH Do we know why the 10-day delay has now happened?
JULIE BISHOP There are still legal proceedings on foot. The lawyers of Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan lodged an appeal against the decision of the State Administrative Court to deny their clemency pleas and I understand there is further [inaudible]. There are also further allegations of bribery arising from their original trial which is before a judicial commission. And I understand that that commission has asked for statements from Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan so there could be other reasons for a delay. I hope in my heart that it is a change of mind, I hope this represents a change of mind.
JUSTIN SMITH Minister, thank you very much. I will let you get on with your evening. Thank you.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you Justin.
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