Jokowi’s execution plan won’t jeopardize migrants

The Foreign Ministry has defended President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's policy on the execution of foreign nationals convicted of drug offences, saying that it would not jeopardize the fight to save hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers on death row overseas.

The ministry's director for the protection of Indonesian citizens, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, said on Saturday the ministry had not found any indication that Jokowi's plan had compromised diplomatic efforts to stop the execution of migrant workers overseas.

"Nothing has been affected. We executed foreign nationals in Indonesia before and were able to save 238 of our people [from executions overseas between 2011 and 2015] and none of the countries have complained [about it]," he told reporters on Saturday.

Currently, there are at least 227 Indonesian nationals hoping to be pardoned.

The majority of them, 168, are in Malaysia, and 60 per cent of them are drug convicts, data from the ministry shows.

Iqbal said no country had attempted to block Indonesia's attempts to save its citizens from execution because the country's efforts were conducted through legal means.

"So if we have exhausted all legal means, such as providing lawyers and legal counseling, but still to no avail, we will move toward diplomatic protection. That's where the President comes in," Iqbal said.

As of today, the only cases that have prompted the Indonesian government to deploy diplomatic means involved Siti Zaenab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim, two Indonesian migrant workers who earlier this week were executed in Saudi Arabia.

According to Iqbal, both President Jokowi and his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had earlier sent letters to the Saudi King regarding both cases, leading to the postponement of the executions until 2015.

"But there was a limit to what the king could do to postpone the process. Therefore, when one of them was executed, we already expected the other one to be executed within the next two days," he said.

The government had only been able to make predictions as to when the Saudi Arabian government would carry out both executions because it had not given prior notice to either the family members or Indonesian government.

Iqbal said Saudi Arabian law did not obligate the government to give notification prior to executing the death row convicts.

He said there was little that the Indonesian government could do once they had exhausted all diplomatic means.

"When the Australian prime minister [Tony Abbott] protested us [for planning to execute two of its citizens], he could not do much about it because it is our law after all. That's what happened to us as well. We could not protest Saudi Arabian law," Iqbal said.

Human rights watchdog Imparsial programme director Al Araf said that the execution of the two Indonesian migrant workers should serve as a lesson for the Indonesian government to honour the lives of foreigners facing the death penalty in Indonesia.

"Domestic politics have to be consistent with foreign politics. If in our diplomacy we protect our people who are threatened by the death penalty, then domestically, Jokowi has to abolish the death penalty," he said.

At least 467 Indonesians have died by capital punishment abroad, including 28 in Saudi Arabia, 168 in Malaysia, 15 in China, four in Singapore, one in Vietnam and two in Laos.