This was the sunset over Jakartass Towers last Tuesday around six pm. I gazed at it and wondered if something similar was over Nusakambangan Island, off the south coast of Central Java. Was it an omen? I knew, the world knew, that in a short six hours eight drug traffickers on the prison island were facing their final curtain, the final act of a farce performed live on TV sets worldwide.
I don’t pray often … who to, what to? … but that evening I prayed that the eight would have the strength to face their executioners with dignity. A ninth, a Frenchman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, had been given a temporary reprieve because his appeal process had not been completed. He was lucky … but only if he has some quality time ahead of his delayed demise.
The Brazilian, a certified paranoid schizophrenic, wasn’t aware until the final moments that he was about to be shot at by 12 uniformed military men, three of them with live rounds. When he finally understood, he said quietly and softly: “This is not right, I made one small mistake, and I shouldn’t have to die for it.”
The Indonesian, the one non-foreigner, had attempted to carry c.60 kilogrammes of marijuana from Aceh to Java. He was caught 15 years ago; marijuana is not part of the ‘drug problem’. There are no recorded cases of anyone dying from it. Besides, at that time, the men behind the illegal trade were the police and army, maybe even now.
Of the Africans, little was told. Media racism?
The main focus has been on the two Australians who were caught, along with seven others, trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia … not in. So, what possible danger did they represent to Indonesian youth?
Then there was … and for the moment, thankfully still is … Mary-Jane. A mother of two, seeking work as a domestic worker here in order to support her family back home. Her contact, journey arranger, slipped … wrong word … placed? sealed? two kilogrammes of heroin into her suitcase. An innocent abroad, with minimal English matched in her incomprehension by the court appointed Indonesian speaking interpreter who didn’t understand Tagalog, Mary-Jane’s mother tongue.
She was prepped in her cell ready for the walk to the distant field when she learned that she’d been given a reprieve, “only temporary” gloated the Attorney-General, because Mary-Jane’s recruiter in the clear case of human trafficking had turned herself into the police fearful for her own life.
Some of the above was revealed to us afterwards.
As the hour approached many of us prayed, knowing that eight were to simultaneously face their personal twelve. Relatives and religious counsellors gathered in the tents erected in the adjacent field.
Dressed in white, with black crosses across their hearts as targets, the eight sang hymns as they were lead to their fate. Tied to the poles which were to prevent them slipping, they all refused blindfolds and sang Amazing Grace as they stared ahead. When the shots echoed through the night, their relatives became hysterical.
And the executioners wept too. They were just doing their jobs.
The eight died with dignity.
Those who condemned them must now live out their lives with indignity, with black clouds of shame heaped upon them at home and abroad.
The Governor of South Sumatra, a hitherto unknown actor in the circus, stepped forward to refuse burial space to the Indonesian, but didn’t consult with his kampung who would have accepted his remains.
The affair will simmer on. Will the French man and Mary-Jane be given a permanent reprieve? And will the now surfacing allegations of judicial corruption which condemned the two Australians be proven?
What of the others on death row, over one hundred of them.
This question is now surfacing: why are the kingpins of drug trafficking in Indonesia sentenced to terms in prison where they are able to carry on their trade? Will British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford be next in the firing line while her recruiters, who reputedly paid £1 million in order to be dealt with leniently, serve out their short sentences of a maximum of six years?
How many more sunsets will she see?