The song of the Bali Two executioners: Jokowi vs Gibran

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Jokowi and Gibran have a strained relationship

As time seemingly ticks down on the condemned Bali Two, contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence makes a last ditch plea for their lives to Indonesian President Joko Widodo's son.

EVER SINCE Independent Australia revealed that President Joko Widodo's son Gibran pleaded with his father for mercy for Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Jakarta has been in damage control.

Within hours of IA's revelation that Gibran had not only lived in Australia and had close friends here, but that he also graduated in 2010 from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS): Insearch, Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia sought to ameliorate any perception of conflict between father and son.

Gibran's relationship with his father has been a difficult one.

From that same article:

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.


The episode is captured in this YouTube footage:

At noon Queensland time on Wednesday March 4, managing editor David Donovan posted our exclusive article.

That same afternoon in Perth, Indonesia's ambassador to Australia, the ABC reported his excellency Nadjib Riphat Kesoema speaking about Indonesia's use of capital punishment:

"Give us space to internally discuss about this matter," Mr Kesoema said.

"It is not an easy game to play. We are not trigger-happy..."

If his excellency appeared uncomfortable uttering those words, for President Widodo they didn't go far enough.

The ambassador was compelled to write to Federal Parliament about the pending executions of Chan and Sukumaran and defend his President's resolve they would go ahead regardless of foreign protest.

Tellingly, he made an oblique reference to the familial turmoil within Jokowi's household, right now causing more angst than his increasingly disaffected political colleagues and opponents, and supporters.


From The Australian [IA emphasis]:

'6.21pm: ...Mr Kesoema said the decision not to pardon the pair was very difficult for President Joko Widodo on both a personal and humanitarian level.'

Despite recent government-staged rallies in Indonesia calling for executions and supporting Jokowi's stand with signs obligingly written in English to accommodate the phalanx of foreign media in attendance, there is a growing impatience with Jokowi's trashing of Indonesia's reputation.

He has resorted to expedient popularism in what is clearly an unsuccessful attempt at a reversal of political fortune.

He campaigned on a platform that included deploying human rights and anti-corruption mechanisms.


His love for heavy metal music now seems to have solidified into a greater love for the heavier metal of  the executioner's bullet.

He has certainly resiled from his other self, the popular humanist Jokowi who was once a mayor and then governor "for the people" and in whom was vested the future of Indonesia as a more inclusive and compassionate nation.


Late last month, in a blistering no-holds-barred and courageous editorial, the influential Jakarta Globe last month called the emperor out on his lack of clothing:

Okay, Mr. Tough Guy. We Get It. Now Stop.

What will be the exit strategy for Indonesia to extract itself from the diplomatic mess our leaders and countrymen’s insistence on executing foreign citizens for drug trafficking has caused? There’s no way out in sight, unless the executions stop.

With a total of 58 foreign nationals on death row, Indonesia is going to face increasingly intense and coordinated diplomatic protests from other nations, such as France, Britain and China, if the government insists on proceeding with all of the executions.

These countries will lodge protests because their governments will look bad domestically if they don’t go after Indonesia. There is a strong risk that relations can be harmed to such an extent as to disrupt trade and investment, as well as endanger Indonesia’s own citizens abroad.

The execution of foreign citizens is not merely about those sentenced to death: It’s also about the pride of all their countrymen. Heads of state and their diplomatic corps have a moral duty to defend the human rights of their citizens, an obligation that plays out in public for their own popularity.

Sadly, similar pride and vanity has also taken hold of President Joko Widodo, who is attempting now to look tough in the midst of a leadership crisis.

People on death row will be shot for the sake of macho posturing. Our national standing is at stake, and pressing forward with a cruel and unusual punishment, by international standards, is no way to advance our interests in the world.

Joko should consider how far he wants to pursue this course of action before it gets out of control. Now’s the time to stop without losing face. Message delivered, Mr. President. We get it, the whole world does: You mean business. Now knock it off.


The Globe is right. Jokowi is indeed indulging in 'macho posturing'. We do the same in Australia. 

The president is also aware of the Globe poll on granting clemency to Chan and Sukumaran.

At the time of writing this, the overwhelming majority of voters registered 'Yes':

(Poll  results as at 4.30pm, 9/3/15, AEST)


However, Saturday's interview with Al Jazeera showed a softening by Jokowi towards the abolishing of capital punishment.

It seems he is taking heed of the Globe's words that surely echo the views of thousands of Indonesians who, sadly, might not individually dare to voice such opinions, such are the current inhibitions on freedom of speech.

President Widodo was also asked about Indonesia's duplicitious conduct, given it vigorously campaigns against the death sentence imposed on hundreds of Indonesian nationals working overseas. In Saudi Arabia the government has paid official "blood money" for its citizens to be spared.


Jokowi put it this way [IA emphasis]:

...As a head of state of course I'm going to try to save my citizens from execution. That's my obligation as a president, as a head of state ... To protect my citizens who are facing the death penalty but on the other hand we have to respect other countries that apply capital punishment ...

The constitution and the existing law still allow the death penalty. But if the Indonesian people want to change it in the future, then it's possible.

On Saturday on behalf of Independent Australia, I wrote to Gibran to again plead for the lives of the Bali Two and all others destined for a last public appearance before the firing squad:

Dear Gibran, greetings from Australia,

Thank you for your compassion and courage. I am sending you a copy of an email I sent Ambassador Kesoema yesterday — that I'm sure he would have already forwarded to you and your Mother and Father. But just as back up, am sending it to you, because of the obvious urgency and in case it gets held up in the bureaucratic process that sometimes delays communications.  

Can you please respectfully check with your parents if they have received a copy of this email from the Ambassador's office.

You are probably catering for several weddings today and, by all accounts, your events are happy and delicious celebratory affairs. 

Perhaps you should consider opening up a branch in Australia one day. As you know we have wonderful multicultural tastes in Australia.

And you have very loyal friends here. Clearly.

Please keep tying to save these precious lives in the immediate future — and help us abolish the death sentence altogether. For all. And not just in Indonesia. Saudi Arabia and America included.

Indonesia has fought so hard to save the lives of Indonesian nationals sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. So often, the victims are maids who have themselves been tortured and raped by their "owners" given they have invariably been treated as little more than slaves. And I know that Indonesia has at times paid blood money to secure the release of those destined for beheadings or stonings to death. 

The measure of grief and despair felt by Indonesian mothers and families of those that the Indonesian Government could not save in Saudi, would surely be of equal measure to the grief experienced by the mothers and families of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and all others about to be executed. 

You remain a strong and powerful hope to secure Mercy, Gibran. And you have the power to change the course of history between our two countries, through compassion and a shared humanity, an not through conflict.

It's a big call, Gibran, but I am not the only one who feels you can make it. 

Your Sister in Advocacy, 


So there it is, complete with typos and if it had been typed on paper and not the air, there would be both tears and tea stains on it too.

As well as the above letter, I also sent Gibran a copy of the email I sent to him and his mother and father, Iriana and Jokowi via the Indonesian ambassador, his excellency Nadjib Riphat Kesoema.


On the 6th, 7th and 8th of March, copies were also sent to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop; Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek (who also studied at the University of Technology, Sydney); Australia's ambassador for women and girls, Natasha Stott Despoja; and Australia's consul-general in Bali, her excellency Majell Hind.

MARCH 6, 2015

G'day Your Excellency, 

I am respectfully enclosing an article published on Independent Australia two days ago.

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

I wish to personally and publicly add my individual voice to the thousands of others who have pleaded for mercy for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – and for all of those on death row – and to salute Gibran Rakabuming Raka for his compassion and humanity.

Would you please ensure that a copy of this email in toto and the Independent Australia article is sent to President Joko Widodo and to Gibran and to the First Lady, Iriana Widodo, whose community work involving the empowerment and equal opportunity for women, especially in regional areas, is so highly regarded. 

This Sunday is International Women's Day. How wonderful it would be if, in acknowledgment and deference of this symbolic and important day and in view of her known compassion, and as a gift of shared humanity to mothers, grandmothers, sisters and their families, the First Lady Iriana Widodo, as their Indonesian representative, announced on behalf of the President, the clemency/amnesty/permanent stay from execution for Andrew and Myuran and all others on death row. 

How wonderful it would be if President Widodo took the initiative on this. 

Thank you Your Excellency.

* Am including an editorial published in the Jakarta Globe because I think it is important to acknowledge material and viewpoints published in Indonesia as well as Australia.

In hope for Mercy from those who have the power to grant it.

tess lawrence



Yesterday, News Ltd's Paul Toohey published a report claiming Gibran had angrily denied lobbying his father to save the Bali Two, that he supported the Death Penalty and that he had never even studied in Sydney.

The News Ltd story, though it did not link to or explicitly name the original IA story, was presumably referring to IA when it went so far as to say:

Reports from Australia suggested a network of old unnamed friends from the UTS had been talking to Gibran, who said he was deeply unsettled by the coming executions.

The reports, it appears, are invented.

Joko Widodo’s son denies he asked his father to spare lives of #Bali9 duo Andrew Chan,Myuran Sukumaran @mercycampaign

If the News Ltd report is accurate about the angry response of Gibran, the question the reporter might have asked himself was: why would Gibran deny studying in Sydney when there is a wealth of easily obtainable evidence that, in fact, he did? 

Some elementary research would have revealed that Gibran did in fact study in Sydney – at UTS Insearch – thereby casting extreme doubt over his other claims. The Jakarta Globeofficial biosWikipedia and numerous other media outlets report Gibran studying in Sydney from 2007 and graduating in 2010. 

There is the suggestion Gibran may be under significant pressure from his father – and perhaps other sources – to react in this fashion. The News Ltd report missed this angle entirely, choosing to simply dismiss ours out of hand. 

It is passing strange that News Ltd would have allowed themselves to publish their account – rashly calling IA's "invented" – without first checking the basic facts of their own story. We hope it is nothing to do with IA's has a record of strongly holding Australia's dominant media player, News Ltd, to account (and praising them when they do good journalism).

Independent Australia and Tess Lawrence stands by its story and its sources.

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