Death be not proud: Abbott and Bishop dressed in black

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It’s been a whole three days since Andrew Chan and Myuran were shot by Indonesia, so get over it, says the Abbott team. Someone with actual compassion and empathy, Lyn Bender, comments.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.


AS THOUGH in mockery of a holy day, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced the execution of two Australians on Anzac Day.

Australia’s psyche and media had been immersed in the glorification of war and death for days. Not just death, but violent, senseless, tortured, untimely, gruesome death and the sacrifice of youth to the “greater cause”. The story of two more state slaughtered young men easily joined the parade. Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop extended their posing in the theatre of war remembrance and politics. But they gave too little too late to save our boys.

In remembrance and propaganda, true stories of war and its futility, terror brutality and the abuse of young lives, have been expunged.

As Captain Herbert Leland wrote around 1915, from the front to his wife:

 “Death and glory I suppose they call it."

Chan and Sukumaran did not die dignified “respectful deaths”.

Slaughter by firing squad is not respectful. It is an abomination.

War is an abomination.

Anzac Day and war have been “sentimentalised”.

The permanent disfigurement, trauma and losses of survivors and descendants of war live on, in the great, transformed, mythical land, of denial. Millions has been spent to enshrine this Anzac fairy story, come historical myth, in our memories. Those like former SBS sports reporter Scott McIntyre, who even dare to tweet its true infamy, will have the wrath of the Minister for Communication Malcolm Turnbull and government-authorised patriotism unleashed upon them. The state sanctioned killing of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has slipped with ease into this mawkish theatrical genre.

It is macabre to note that the Abbott Bishop team requested that Widodo not announce the 72 hours notice of execution on Anzac Day, but it was serendipitous. Andrew and Mya were, after all, fodder and sacrifice in the wars on terror and drugs.

As Waleed Aly wrote, they

'... never stood a chance ... [and were] ... collateral damage in the War on Terror.'

We have known for years that the Bali Nine were merely tragic pawns in a political game.

Australia abolished the death penalty in 1973, but the Australian Federal Police handed over the Bali Nine, like the head of John the Baptist on a platter, to the Indonesian police in 2005.  

Evidence is emerging that the way is still open for the exchange of information to any nation, without considerations of death penalty risk. This is in the service of the war on terror, and the war on drugs and ultimately serves political expediency.

Fairfax reported that a ministerial directive cleared the way to ignore the implications of exposure to the death penalty, when the Australian Federal Police exchange information with any regime.

'The Abbott government quietly scrapped an instruction to the Australian Federal Police last year requiring it to take Australia's opposition to the death penalty into account when co-operating with overseas law enforcement agencies.'

Assuming the moral high ground, when asked why he removed the reference to the death penalty in his ministerial directive, Justice Minister Michael Keenan retorted:

"I'm pretty outraged and offended that the Labor Party would use the tragedy of two Australians being executed to make what is an incredibly cheap and invalid point.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, has called opposition questioning of the role of the AFP in the deaths of Chan and Sukumaran a "cheap political shot”.

We'll see. The AFP face a Senate Estimates Committee grilling about their role in the affair, which leave many questions unanswered.

Also declaring:

“This matter has already been reviewed, I think it’s time we [should] focus on supporting the family.”

But the time to support the Chan and Sukumaran families had been squandered. Over ten years, successive governments had time to plead, bargain and cajole.

As with the execution in 2005 in Singapore of Tuong Van Nguyen in the Howard years, the calls for mercy, from the Australian Government came late and feebly.

When I wrote in IA in February about the impending executions of Chan and Sukumaran, Tony Abbott was facing his own threat of political “execution”. Less than two months before Andrew and Mya had drawn their final breaths, Abbott had, as yet, barely lifted a finger to save them. The limited pleas from Abbott and Bishop came late and ineptly, and only as public attention and distress mounted. Finally celebrities pleaded to “save our boys” and were slammed as tasteless.

Hush, now was not the time. We were preparing for the deaths and funerals.

The bipartisan declaration that the Government has done all that it can is political theatre. We are told: it is now time for the grief scenes, not for “recrimination”. But for many who wait on death row – and for others who may wait there in the future – the time is now.

A “Bali Nine” situation could easily occur again, as Professor George Williams from the University of NSW warned

"If you think what happened to the Bali Nine is wrong, then we are going to have to look at these guidelines. They don’t prevent the same thing happening again.”

As the bells began to toll in April for the condemned men:

  • Bishop was elegant in black in Tehran. She was brokering an intelligence sharing deal with Iran that is reputed to use torture execution and disinformation. She also sought a deal to send Iranian asylum seekers back to the death and torture that they claimed to be fleeing.
  • Tony Abbott was in Turkey celebrating the glory of war. Several days earlier, he counselled Europe to solve its refugee-drowning problem by stopping the boats, as he claimed to have done. Who knows how much this also angered Indonesia. After all, the push back boats policy returned the problem of refugees to Indonesia. It did not solve their refugee problem.

In the wake of the executions, Tony Abbott, appeared in mourning black, with dark blue tie, alongside Julie Bishop in elegant black. Abbott referred to “understandable anger” several times. Abbott also stressed that the relationship with Indonesia was a “very important relationship” several times.

Subtext: despite denials, it’s “business as usual” and be angry at Indonesia, not me.

On the morning of the execution, I was interviewed on ABC Radio Darwin by Kate O’Toole, regarding Australians deep emotional reaction to the deaths.

A listener sent a text that was relayed to me:

“It would all be forgotten in a week.”

By media, and politicians — but not families, friends and supporters.

Trauma and grief seep into the body, cells and bones, inhabiting the mind, and haunting the sufferer for years.

But Julie Bishop has not lasted the week.

She has shed solemn black mourning attire for an off white tailored ensemble, in order to announce

“I think its time for us to seek to move on.”

It’s been a whole three days, so get over it, says the Abbott team.

So it’s still not the time to seek to investigate Australia’s role in this horror?

Meanwhile true to his usual form, Tony Abbott has shown extreme insensitivity and lack of empathy. His response to the Australian Catholic University scholarships – created in memory of Andrew Chan and Myaran Sukumaran – is to declare he finds them “odd”.

Former Catholic seminary student Abbott is unable to grasp Christian concepts of redemption, forgiveness and sanctity of life.

The decision – to award these scholarships to Indonesian students – “raises profound questions” for our spiritually shallow, dunce of a Prime Minister.

No wonder he was unable to save our boys.

Let’s not forget. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Death, be not proud.

You can follow Lyn Bender on Twitter @lynestel.

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