Here are seven words you might be familiar with:
Bali. Drugs. Condemned. Execution. Politics. Myuran. Andrew.
With the way these words have been thrown around lately it feels like the media is playing hot potato, where the potato is the death penalty and it’s not just hot – it’s on fire.
Whether you’re strongly for or against the death penalty, followed recent events in Bali with great interest or are simply an observer, it is almost guaranteed you would have seen the faces of Myuran Sukamaran and Andrew Chan splashed over the newspapers and commercial television stations.
Granted, the Indonesian judicial system is fraught with controversy. Granted, their system imposes penalties different from Australia’s and granted, whenever executions are scheduled strong opinions on both sides make for provocative news stories. Unfortunately though I feel the Australian media has exploited this situation, gleefully inundating us with images of the grieving families of Chan and Sukamaran while instigating biased discussion of the ‘controversial and inhumane’ Indonesian judicial system, fanning the fire for future stories and turbocharging the sales and revenue of their products and services.
But the media didn’t always sympathise with the condemned men, did they?
The picture below, dated Wednesday 15 February 2006, allegedly shows the Daily Telegraph’s front page news detailing the amount of sympathy spared for the two ringleaders of the heroin trafficking operation at that time: absolutely none.
“NO SYMPATHY” screams the headline: “Their drug operation would have destroyed thousands of lives – now they’ll pay with theirs.”
It is interesting to see that the same publication’s headline the day following the executions proclaimed Indonesian President Joko Widodo had “blood on his hands” for going through with the execution.
But this is just business as usual for commercial newspapers and television channels whose very existence depend on both pandering to and polarising the opinions of the public – an existence that is designed purely to rake in profits at the expense of a public encouraged to think freely.
Therefore, I wish to now touch on some stories that have long been forgotten in this ‘Indonesia vs Australia’ execution debate. I don’t care whether you’re for or against the death penalty. I’m not interested in your views on the Indonesian judicial system, nor am I interested in how ‘bloody’ Joko’s hands actually are.
I’m interested in seven other words you might not be as familiar with:
Chen. Nguyen. Stephens. Norman. Czugaj. Lawrence. Rush.
These words are the surnames of the other seven people whose lives were completely turned upside down by a decision that was made in 2005. Still incarcerated, these seven inmates are currently serving six life sentences and twenty years between them – but where are their front page headlines? Where have they been asked their thoughts on the recent executions, and how they are dealing with the decisions potentially made for them all those years ago?
You see, I believe that the stories of Scott Rush, Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Renae Lawrence, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Martin Stephens and Matthew Norman would be equally, if not moreso, intriguing than those of Myuran and Andrew. While I can understand the grief and anguish the Chan and Sukamaran families would be going through, they would also be well aware that Andrew and Myuran were the organisers and enforcers of the smuggling group – tasked with the job of ensuring the drug run took place.
What does this mean for the lower level smugglers?
Manipulation. Coercion. Threat.
The lure of easy money is a great hook to initially entice people into considering a drug run, but once the excitement wears off and the grim reality of what is required to evade law enforcement becomes apparent it is the role of the enforcers to ensure the smugglers do not back out of a deal by any means necessary.
During their incarceration it was well documented that Myuran and Andrew would not name their bosses for fear of threats on their own families’ lives, so do you think it might have been a possibility that they used the exact same methods when dealing with their apprehensive mules in 2005? Is it a possibility that seven broken Australians are spending their lives in Indonesian jails due largely in part to Myuran and Andrew’s manipulative and coercive tactics, not allowing them a ‘way out’ when they needed it most? Do you think that these seven might want to share their stories too?
It is far too simplistic to blame a hunger for easy money for the incarceration and executions of these Australian citizens. When you get into the drug game, there is no easy money and you do not have ‘friends’.
All of these Australians were ridiculously stupid in their endeavours and they have all paid a hefty price for their decisions. But let us never forget that just because two souls have paid the ultimate price for their foolishness that their rehabilitation is any more important than the lives of the other seven they helped ruin over their thirst for money in the first place.