KEEP HOPE ALIVE
You may be aware that two young Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are awaiting execution by firing squad for attempting to smuggle heroin from Indonesia to Australia in 2005. They were sentenced to death in 2006. Their offence was serious and they were aware of the risks.
Amnesty International (see link below) are appealing to all compassionate people to write to the Indonesian authorities and plea for clemency – imprisonment, not death (via email or social media, using the hashtag #KeepHopeAlive).
Here are profiles of the two young men who made a stupid mistake:
Andrew was born in Sydney, Australia in 1984. He has two sisters and a brother. His parents, Ken and Helen, worked long hours all their adult lives running a Chinese restaurant.
Andrew is known to friends and family for his sense of humour, especially his love of practical jokes, and has a passion for sports, particularly rugby league and tennis.
Andrew attended Homebush Boys High School and Belmore Boys High before leaving school in year 10. He later found work at a catering company.
In April 2005, Andrew and eight others, including Myuran Sukumaran, were arrested in Bali for attempting to traffic heroin to Australia. Andrew was tried and convicted in the Denpasar District Court and in 2006 was sentenced to death by firing squad.
He lost two more appeals in 2006, and by September 2006 had been sentenced to death three times.
From that time he changed lawyers, and slowly turned his life around, facing up to wrongdoing and reforming himself.
In 2011, Andrew learned that his final legal appeals had not succeeded. Unless there is a grant of clemency by Indonesia’s President Widodo, he and Myuran face execution by firing squad.
Life in prison
Andrew and Myuran, since their arrest, have been housed in Kerobokan Prison. The prison governor, Siswanto, describes Andrew as a model prisoner and believes that he has had an extremely positive effect on other inmates. Andrew counsels and mentors inmates, helping them through down periods. Along with Myuran, he also provides them with computer lessons.
In the past few years, following a period of self-reflection and facing the gravity of his possible execution, Andrew has found the Christian faith. He is taking a course in theology, studying to become a pastor and runs the English Language Church Service in the prison. Andrew says that his faith has helped him cope with life in prison and says – “I trust that this (death by firing squad) isn’t God’s divine plan for me, and he has a better hope and plan for my life.”
In his spare time, Andrew continues to follow his rugby league team the Penrith Panthers, and reads fiction, especially the works of John Grisham and Wilbur Smith.
I apologise to the Indonesian people, I also apologise to my family and I realise that my actions have brought shame and suffering to my whole family. If I am pardoned…I hope that one day I will be able to have my own family and work as a pastor so I can give guidance to young people. I can still contribute a great deal during my life.
Myuran is an Australian citizen who was born in London in 1981 and whose family is of Sri Lankan heritage.
In 1985 the family migrated to Australia, living in Sydney’s western suburbs. Myuran attended Homebush Boys High School in Sydney, where he met and became friends with Andrew Chan.
Myuran worked in a mailroom and had clerical jobs, and later worked in the passport office in Sydney.
In April 2005, Myuran, then aged 24, and several others were arrested for their attempts to smuggle heroin into Australia. He and the eight other Australians arrested came to be known collectively as the Bali Nine.
Myuran was tried and convicted in the Denpasar District Court and on 14 February 2006 was sentenced to death by firing squad. He lost two more appeals in 2006, and by September 2006 had been sentenced to death three times. From that time he changed lawyers, and slowly turned his life around, facing up to his wrongdoing and reforming himself.
Myuran and Andrew had only one appeal option left, but in June and July 2011 Myuran and Andrew lost that final legal appeal. Their only hope now to avoid the firing squad is an appeal for clemency to President Joko Widodo.
Life in prison
Myuran teaches computer and graphic design courses, giving fellow inmates much needed job skills. His aim is to provide rehabilitation and to give something back to the Indonesian community.
Myuran is also attempting to establish a drug-counselling program in the prison.
Myuran describes his arrest as ‘a blessing’, saying:
You know, when I think back at my life, I never really contributed to anything. Now I’m doing all sorts of stuff around here. It feels good, really good.
A keen artist, Myuran mentors a number of fellow artists, organising materials and selling their work. His work was recently exhibited at Bali’s G Gallery & Living. Proceeds are returned to the jail and then allocated to pay for more art materials, the twice-weekly classes and to a local drug rehabilitation centre.
Prison authorities have appointed Myuran a ‘kelian banjar’ under a program of prison leadership set up by prison governor Siswanto, modelled on the Balinese system of village government. Myuran supervises a group of around 20 prisoners, assigning them tasks, liaising with guards, resolving disputes, overseeing penalties, and making small repairs in the prison.
In extraordinary evidence, Governor Siswanto, at the final appeal, said he believes Myuran is a well-behaved prisoner who has turned over a new leaf and was unlikely to commit similar crimes in the future. He asked that Myuran be spared execution.
To my mother and to my family, to people who use drugs and to their families, to the community in Indonesia and Australia – I do apologise.
The taking of people’s lives through Capital Punishment is barbaric. Everyone deserves to be treated humanely, regardless of their crime. Long jail sentences are a better deterrent, in my opinion, with, at least, some hope of rehabilitation.
I encourage all who share my values in this regard, to click on the link below and write to the Indonesian authorities expressing your concern about the imminent execution of these young men.