Mary Jane Veloso is lead away by Indonesian authorities. Photo by Reuters.

Mary Jane Veloso is led away by Indonesian authorities. Photo by Reuters.


New Mandala compiles the best insight on drugs, the death penalty and the imminent execution of Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and other foreigners in Indonesia.

So-called Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are about to face the firing squad in Indonesia.

The two Australian drug smugglers will be joined by seven other foreigners, including Filipina maid Mary Jane Veloso and the bi-polar Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Gularte. Frenchman Serge Atlaoui has a temporary reprieve.

First arrested 10 years ago for their role in leading a failed attempt to smuggle heroin out of Bali and into Australia, Chan and Sukumaran have always flitted on the Australian media’s radar. Here were two easily typecast villains come good – the enforcer and the ringleader, who transformed themselves into the pastor and the preacher. Their road to redemption is a compelling story.

Now that their death is imminent, the media and public scrutiny has taken on almost hysterical intensity, sometimes lurching between the shrill and the stupid – as in the case of a celebrity video plea for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to get to Jakarta and ‘ save our boys’.

To paint a clearer picture, New Mandala presents what we think has been some of the best reporting, insight, analysis and commentary from across the web on the Bali Nine duo, the other death row detainees and the issue of executions in Indonesia.

Staying the executioner’s guns?
Dave McRae, Inside Indonesia

In this essay Dave McRae examines the prospects of Indonesia dispensing with the death penalty as a punishment. Charting the then stay on executions, growing momentum for abolition, and Indonesia’s efforts to get its citizens off death row abroad, the signs seemed promising. Nonetheless McRae concludes that there is little prospect that Indonesia will abolish capital punishment any time soon.

Read the full article here.


Indonesians should be too familiar with death to support executions
Laksmi Pamuntjak, Guardian Australia

In this moving commentary piece Indonesian author and poet Laksmi Pamuntjak touches on how many Indonesians across multiple generations have been touched by the spectre of death caused by their country’s history of violence.

But even though having lost her own younger brother to drugs, and despite the fact that her country’s history of violence makes her fellow citizens all too familiar with death, this is still not enough to justify state-sanctioned murder.

Read the full article here.

“Of course I’m going to try to save my citizens from execution”
Ross Tapsell, Inside Story

Having just spent three months research Indonesia’s main newsrooms, Ross Tapsell delivers a compelling insight into the popular and political rhetoric and thinking behind Indonesian reporting on the case of Chan and Sukumaran.

His extensive research also delivers brutal insight on the damning impact that Australian media and politicians have had on Chan and Sukumaran’s chance for clemency.

“The big story was the hyper-nationalist posturing on both sides, and especially any incidents that supported the view that this was yet another Australia–Indonesia flashpoint,” writes Tapsell.

At the same time “there were very few newsroom staff critical of the Indonesian government’s new hardline approach to executing drug traffickers.”

Read the full essay here.

Indonesia’s death row convicts facing mass execution
The New York Times

The back stories, list of crimes and how they’ve spent their time behind bars makes this shopping list of despair a must read for anyone wanting to get to know the 10 inmates about to lose their lives.

Read about the death row detainees here.


The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words

In this excellent narrative piece from Rappler, Mary Jane Veloso herself tells the story of how she was framed and duped into unknowingly acting as a drug mule.

Mother of two, high-school dropout, desperate to make a better life for her family, the former maid who was arrested with heroin she now finds herself hours from death.

This piece is indicative of the superb reporting on Mary Jane Veloso and the executions by Rappler – and how they have turned a story nobody in the Philppines was following into Indonesia and the globe’s top story on the issue.

Read the story here.

Dave McRae has also tweeted a Storify piece on the arbitrariness of the death penalty in the Mary Jane Veloso case.


Indonesia uses faulty stats on ‘drug crisis’ to justify death penalty
Claudia Stoicescu, The Conversation

This essay has been massive to say the least, and is working its rounds around the globe. In it, Oxford PhD scholar Claudia Stoicescu unpacks the numbers behind President Joko Widodo’s declared “drug emergency”, demonstrating that they are not only wrong but nothing short of farcical.

Read the essay here.

Indonesia: the quality of justice
Hamish McDonald, New Mandala

Seasoned Indonesia reporting, Hamish McDonald delves deep into the facts surrounding the case of convicted drug smuggler Serge Atlaoui, who has a reprieve from the firing squad, to show the inconsistences in sentencing for drug offences.

Pointing to how Indonesian businessmen involved in the same case have seemingly been let of the hook, McDonald argues that foreigners cop the heaviest penalties while some Indonesians are shown leniency when it comes to drug crimes.

“All the foreigners ended up with the death penalty, while some of the Indonesians were shown relative leniency,” writes McDonald.

Read the full article here.

By the numbers: Indonesia’s executions of foreigners
Diane Zhang, The Drum

Examining President Joko Widodo’s hardline stance on drug offences, Diane Zhang crunches the stats on how many more foreigners are likely to be executed under Jokowi.

“If Widodo maintains his hardline stance of no mercy for drug crimes, approximately 40 more foreign citizens may be executed as Indonesia clears its death row of narcotics prisoners,” writes Zhang.

“More foreigners have been executed or are slated for execution in 2015 than the total for the previous 16 years. Prior to Widodo’s administration, only seven of the 27 people executed were foreigners. By contrast, five of the first six people Widodo has executed have been foreigners and nine of the next 10 slated executions also involve foreigners.”

Read the full article here.

Hikmahanto: show strength by ignoring death penalty outcry
Jakarta Globe

The Jakarta Globe reports on outspoken international law professor Hikmahanto Juwana, who while at the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference, called for President Joko Widodo to ignore the growing global outcry about executions.

“The principle of non-intervention in Asian and African countries as outlined in the Dasa Sila [results of the first Bandung Conference in 1955] is still relevant today, including when Indonesia carries out the death penalty,” Hikmahanto said, adding that if the government bows out now, the nation will become a global laughing stock.

Read the report here.

Indonesia’s stance on the death penalty has become incoherent
Tim Lindsey, The Conversation

In this article Tim Lindsey surveys Indonesia and President Joko Widodo’s seemingly hypocritical approach to the death penalty – which sees efforts to get clemency for Indonesians on death row abroad while repeatedly stating his determination to show no mercy to drug offenders facing execution.

“Despite the obvious contradictions in his position, Jokowi is unlikely to be willing – or politically able – to abolish the death penalty now,” Lindsey writes.

“However, he should immediately suspend all executions indefinitely until calmer and more measured consideration can be given to his now-incoherent policy, the arguments against the death penalty and the implications for Indonesia’s international standing.”

Read the full article here.
Listen to a podcast by Tim Lindsey on the political and legal issues surrounding the Bali Nine executions here.


A failed deterrent: tackling the death penalty in Asia
Greg Barns, Policy Forum

Australian lawyer Greg Barns argues that Australia and other countries need to do more in order to tackle drugs in Southeast Asia. One thing is sure, says Barns, the death penalty and executions are not the way.

“It is time that Australia and other countries in the region recognise the simple fact that the death penalty is not and never has been a deterrent against the distribution of illicit drugs.

“The disastrous policy of prohibition means that the risk reward equation for citizens in Asian countries, including Australia, is always skewed in favour of risk. No amount of policing or threats of draconian penalties will deter a participant in a market where the profit margins are so high courtesy of prohibition.”

Barns also claims that Australian police should not share intelligence about drug trafficking operations with nations where to do so would put Australian citizens at risk of the death penalty. –

Read the full article here.

A key domino? Indonesia’s death penalty politics
Dave McRae, Lowy Institue for International Affairs

In this ‘Analysis’ paper McRae argues examines Indonesia’s stance on the death penalty and the prospects for abolition in Australia’s key regional neighbour.

“Though it will be Indonesia that determines whether or when it will abolish the death penalty, Australia can and should do more to promote abolition through multilateral diplomacy and by seeking to create space for bilateral advocacy,” writes McRae.

Read the paper here.

Why executions won’t win Indonesia’s drug war
Clarke Jones and James Giggacher, CNN edition

Citing prison rehabilitation programs, ANU researcher Clarke Jones and James Giggacher argue that in his war against drugs, President Joko Widodo would be better off to enlist Chan and Sukumaran as examples of reform, rather than execute them.

Here, the authors claim, are clear examples of successful rehabilitation that should be held high with pride by the Indonesian government, not shot down in history.

“By default and not by design, prisons like Kerobokan share many positive aspects that are often overlooked by contemporary prison reformists. As Indonesian corrections don’t have the resources to care or provide for inmates, the inmates take it upon themselves to fund and run their own rehabilitation programs.”

Read the full article here.

Indonesian President Widodo under corrupt thumb Megawati
Peter Hartcher, The Sydney Morning Herald

Building on Liam Gammon’s excellent report for New Mandala on the recent PDI-P party conference, where President Joko Widodo suffered a tirade from party chairperson and political paymaster Megawati Sukarnoputri, Peter Hartcher outlines Jokowi’s current ‘rock and a hard place predicament’.

He is under no illusions that Jokowi is under pressure to not only act as a “party functionary” for Megawati, but the dear old lady of Indonesia politics is pushing him to the brink on the issue of the executions.

“Megawati said to him at the party congress, ‘Why haven’t the executions been carried out already – you aren’t buckling to foreign pressure, are you?'” reports Hartcher.

Touching on what Jokowi thought of the 45-minute humiliation at the conference, where he wasn’t even allowed to speak, he is quoted as saying:

“It was very good.”

Like any episode of Game of Thrones, the jostling between a purported puppet president and the real power behind the throne, leads to bloodshed.

Read the full article here. Read Liam Gammon’s report from the PDI-P conference here.

Bali Nine: decade of turmoil for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran nears a gruesome end
Michael Safi, Guardian Australia

Michael Safi charts the 10-year story behind the youthful drug smugglers who quietly reformed themselves while Indonesia’s legal, political and diplomatic currents swirled around them until the moment of death.

Read the article here.