Protests continue against Abbott's 'hurtful' comments
Margareth S. Aritonang
The Jakarta Post
Calls are mounting for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to apologize for his controversial demand that Indonesia pardon two Australians currently on death row as a mark of gratitude for his country's aid for victims of the 2004 tsunami.
Following an ensuing campaign in Aceh to collect coins to repay the aid, a coalition of community groups in Jakarta calling itself the Pro-Indonesia Coalition has followed suit, staging a rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to criticize Abbott on Sunday.
The protesters encouraged passersby to donate coins to help repay the A$1 billion that Australia donated to Indonesia to help the country recover from the 2004 tsunami.
'Don't let Tony Abbott hurt our dignity. Australia's money cannot buy us,' coalition coordinator Andi Sinulingga urged.
Andi added that the coalition would continue the fundraising movement until Abbott personally apologized for his statements.
In an apparently desperate attempt to gain 11th hour clemency for two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were sentenced to death for drug smuggling, Abbott pointed to Australia's tsunami aid as a reason for the Indonesian government to show mercy.
As reported by Reuters, Abbott claimed that Australia would feel 'grievously let down' if the executions proceeded despite the assistance given after the 2004 disaster.
'I was pointing out the depth of the friendship between Australia and Indonesia and the fact that Australia has been there for Indonesia when Indonesia has been in difficulty,' Abbott told reporters in Tasmania.
The change-collection movement sprang up in Aceh on Saturday as soon as Abbott's statement was reported by Australian media. Since then, the campaign has attracted supporters nationwide following a Twitter campaign using the hashtags #KoinuntukAustralia, #coinforAustralia and #coinforAbbott.
With Abbott's remarks drawing stinging criticism, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said that Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop had called him to clarify that Abbott had not meant he expected a 'return of the favor', but wanted merely to emphasize the good ties between the two countries.
Meanwhile, amid heated political fallout from the government's obdurate execution plan, the relatives of Chan and Sukumaran arranged a joint press conference, said to be the first of its kind ever, in Bali on Sunday, applauding the services the Indonesian government had provided to help both convicts face the current situation.
'Our brothers are grateful for the kindness of all people. They are faithful in facing this situation. We are also thankful for the government of Indonesia and all of the presidential staffers for arranging the holistic rehabilitation program,' Michael Chan, Andrew's brother, told a press briefing at the Kerobokan prison as quoted by Antara news agency.
Chintu Sukumaran added that 'they [Myuran and Andrew] respect Indonesians, the Indonesian culture and the judicial system of the country. They were willing to prepare programs to help locals have a better future while serving their sentence in prison'.
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