Ministers have differing opinions on executions

Ministers have differing opinions on executions
Australian lawyer Julian McMahon speaks to journalists after visiting the two Australian death row prisoners Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Kerobokan Prison.

JAKARTA - Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned Indonesia on Friday that Australians might boycott Indonesia as a tourist destination if Jakarta did not yield to her government's pressure to halt the planned execution of two of its citizens: Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31.

However, one of her colleagues in the Cabinet, Education Minister Christopher Pyne, was more understanding of Indonesia's difficulty with rampant drug abuse.

While being interviewed by a local radio station, Bishop warned Indonesia that there would be severe economic consequences if Indonesia went forward with its plans to execute two Australian drug traffickers.

"I think the Australian people will demonstrate their deep disapproval of this action, including by making decisions about where they wish to holiday," she said during the radio interview, clearly referring to Bali, one of the most popular destinations for Australian tourists.

On a less threatening note, Pyne said that his government had made every effort it could to save the lives of the two drug smugglers and that he understood the gravity of the drug abuse issues that the Indonesian government faced.

"The problem with the way Indonesians see this matter is that they have 5 million drug addicts in Indonesia, they take a very firm line on drug smuggling," the minister told Nine Network, an Australian television network, as quoted by the AAP (Australian Associated Press). Pyne continued that as a "sovereign nation" Indonesia had the right to uphold its laws.

In response to Bishop's comment, her strongest yet, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said he believed the executions would not affect the number of Australian tourists visiting Indonesia.

"At the end of the day, the choice of travel destination falls on each individual. And they would choose a destination with facilities, security and comfort. And we have all that," he told The Jakarta Post on Friday. "The ones who might not come are probably people who want to smuggle drugs and we don't want them to come either."

On the Indonesian side of the debate, Attorney General HM Prasetyo said Australia had the right to protest but such displays of disapproval did not mean that the executions would be cancelled.

"We have sovereignty and it should be respected by everyone, this includes respecting our judicial system. We hope [the Australian government] understands," he said.

Prasetyo explained that the executions would be similar to the ones held last month. The Australian convicts would face a firing squad around the same time with the same number of executioners.

"You have to understand that the drug situation in Indonesia is dire," he said.

On Friday, Prasetyo said that before the execution date was finalized all of the death row convicts who would be facing capital punishment needed to be transferred to Nusakambangan Island, an island off the coast of Java and home to a high-security prison.

"There are some [foreign drug smugglers on death row] in other prisons. Because [the prisoners] are spread out, all of them have to be gathered together before we set the date of the execution," he told reporters at the Attorney General's Office in South Jakarta.

Since 2005, when they tried smuggling drugs from Bali to Australia, Sukumaran and Chan have been detained at Kerobokan Penitentiary in Bali. They are part of the so-called Bali Nine drug smuggling group.

In the midst of this ongoing controversy, the police stepped up their presence at the seaport in Cilacap and around Nusakambangan waters.

"We are intensifying our patrols especially in the waters surrounding Nusakambangan to make sure that it is secure," said Cilacap Police chief Ulung Sampurna on Friday.

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