Is Indonesia a Good Neighbour?

IndonesiaThis question starts to become a question when we hear our politicians reminding us to the importance of our relationship with Indonesia and in that sense urging some moderation in our outrage over the impending execution of two of our citizens, who most certainly offended and seem to have seriously turned their lives around and made new and positive beginnings.

Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia puffs his chest, and suggests that any plea for clemency or mercy from Australia is an attempt to exert undue influence on Indonesia and violate their sovereign rights. Of course this claim needs to be seem in context, and part of that context is that over the past few years Indonesia has sought clemency and mercy for it’s citizens facing the death penalty overseas on a couple of hundred occasions. His apparent decision not to take or return calls from Tony Abbott – our Prime Minister – perhaps indicates what they really think.

There is no doubt that Indonesia has not been as helpful as a good neighbour might have been in terms of the resolution of the Boat People issue. Many of us suspect that they have been complicit, at least by omission, in facilitating a situation where the people smuggler trade was able to survive and prosper. One suspects that Indonesia does not accept application for asylum seekers. The stats show that of the 1,942,520 Asylum seeks who found new countries of residence in the period 2007-2011 Indonesia took none of them. Australia took 40,320.

Indonesia’s track record in West Iran seems on the basis of reports to indicate many less than desirable approaches. The people of West Iran are notably more Micronesian than the average Indonesian, and one wonders how much media scrutiny Indonesia’s troops in West Iran would welcome. The have been numerous reports of the the rape, humiliation and abuse of women in West Iran, designed to instill fear and compliance.

The death penalty is a violent and inhumane punishment that has no place in today’s criminal justice system.

The statement from Amnesty International seems to make perfect sense. The brutality of the punishment seems to diminish those who administer it as much as those who are administered with it. It seems to represent an absolute giving up on the person as being part of our society any longer. In the case of Andre Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, these represent two people who a large percentage of Australians, myself included, would not wish to give up on.

No doubt Indonesia does represent a significant trading partner, and no doubt as being next door to each other we will have many common interests. Neither of those things assures me that they are a good neighbor.


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