Human rights

EXCLUSIVE: Joko Widodo's son begs him to spare the lives of Chan and Sukumaran

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Rifts develop as former Australian resident Gibran Rakabuming Raka, son of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, begs his father to spare the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are now being readied for execution, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.

ON BEHALF OF HIS AUSTRALIAN MATES, Indonesian President Joko Widodo's son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, has again begged his father to spare the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

In a military style operation this morning, both men were taken from Bali's Kerobokan Prison in a fortified convoy led by armoured vehicles flanked by police and militia for their doomed journey to "execution island" Nusa Kambangan.

There they will face a firing squad that might as well have been handpicked by the Australian Federal Police. Such is the blood on their hands.


It is little known that Gibran, who turns 28 in October, is a 2010 graduate of the University of Technology (UTS): Insearch*, Sydney.

Former fellow students, including Indonesian nationals and close friends living in Australia asked Gibran, the eldest of Widodo's three children, to approach his father and implore him to reconsider his legally flawed blanket refusal to grant clemency to the "Bali Two" and the rest of the estimated 133 inmates on death row destined for execution.


Independent Australia understands that despite his father's public belligerence in favour of the death sentence for drug traffickers, Gibran remains ideologically and morally opposed to capital punishment and has already had several emotional arguments with the President over this contentious issue, which we are told has caused a split within the family.


It is believed that Iriana, the President's wife, who is a former leader of the nationwide women's movement Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Keluarga, better known as the PKK, shares her son's views.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, friends of Gibran said that at the exhortation of mates in Australia, he had more recently 'begged 'his father to show mercy.


But President Widodo not only rebuffed Gibran's latest entreaties but is said to have also unfairly admonished him for ' being a puppet' for Australia and doing the bidding of his political enemies.

It was yet another "loss of face" rebuff for Gibran from his metalhead father.

Insiders say it is to Gibran's personal credit that he at least tried to plead for mercy.

The relationship between father and son is strained at the best of times and has been played out in public and in the media.


Who can forget the broadcast footage of President Widodo's pre-inauguration press conference and formal introduction of Indonesia's new "first family" to the media. There was Mum and Dad and Gibran's younger siblings, Kahiyang Ayu and Kaesang Pangarep. 

It didn't go according to plan.

Far more than a mere "Dad moment" for Gibran, the footage exposed the underlying tension between the two; not abnormal family dynamics of course, but there is more at stake here.

Gibran is said to have no interest in following in his father's political footsteps and was almost invisible on the Presidential election campaign. Not a good look for a first born son.


He was lampooned in the media for this and, at one stage, referred to as Widodo's "bastard son" to explain his non-appearances.

In response to a question from the media, Gibran referred to this outright, much to the visible dismay of his father, who tried to shut him up with an awkward smile imprisoned behind anger.

Gibran took exception to this attempt to muzzle him and turned to walk out of the conference but was persuaded to come back by his father. But it was an uneasy truce by the look of the below photo:

(Image via                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

There are many who are disappointed at President Widodo's lacklustre performance during, and now beyond, his first 100 days. He seems to have capitulated to populist political expediency.

It is said by some that he is surrounding himself with acolytes and that there are few insiders who dare debate or contest ideas with him. Undoubtedly, he has betrayed his promises to repair Indonesia's dismal record on political corruption and human rights.

It may be that his ire with his son stems from Gibran's refusal to put on a "performance" for the cameras. It may be that Gibran tells "Jokowi" what he doesn't want to hear.

There are serious concerns that President Widodo's repugnant adherence to the death penalty, regardless of the individual merits of any particular case, drills down to the lonely pathos of a father making irrational political decisions because of angry family conflict — indeed to 'get back' at his own son.

Insiders say that Gibran reminds "Jokowi" of what he once was — a campaigner for humanity and justice.

President Widodo, like the Australian Federal Police should "man up" and do the right thing.

And the underlying contests that sometimes fester between father and son.

Read Tess Lawrence's update of10 March 2015: 'The Song of the Bali executioners: Jokowi vs Gibran'.

* Editor's note (10/3/15, 7am AEST): A previous version of this article had Gibran graduating from UTS and not UTS: Insearch. The error was made in the editorial process and was not that of the author. We unreservedly apologise for this mistake.

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