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Jakarta Post

EDITORIAL: Jokowi’s license to kill

  • Editorial

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 14, 2016   /  11:33 am
EDITORIAL: Jokowi’s license to kill An Indonesian police officer walks past large portraits of Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The portraits are put up as a part of the preparations of the meeting of the two leaders in the capital city on Friday. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Whether visiting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte actually pleaded with his Indonesian host, his presidential counterpart Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, for mercy for Philippine death row drug convict Mary Jane Veloso last week, one sure thing is that Indonesia under Jokowi is resolute in its choice of capital punishment to fight drug crimes, which is unfortunate for a nation that has always claimed to champion human rights.

Jokowi said on Monday that preparations for the execution of Veloso were underway, which means there is to be no third-time-lucky for the 31-year-old woman. She has escaped the firing squad twice since Jokowi decided last year to use his license to kill to save the nation from what he calls “the state drug emergency” based on statistics that are used to claim narcotics are responsible for the loss of an average of 50 lives every day.

Veloso was spared execution at the last minute in April last year after Manila intensified its diplomatic efforts, which included then president Benigno Aquino III making a personal approach to Jokowi. Manila insisted that the migrant worker deserved justice after Kristina “Tintin” Sergio, the woman suspected of recruiting her and tricking her into carrying drugs to Indonesia, turned herself in to authorities in the Philippines.

In the third and latest round of executions last July, Veloso was not on the list of 14 inmates set to face the firing squad. In the end the lives of 10 convicts were spared, although in practice they still hang in the balance.

Many have found it difficult to understand Jokowi’s penchant for the death penalty as a panacea for the apparently rampant drug abuse and trafficking the country has been facing for the last decade. The heightening pressure, both from domestic and international anti-capital punishment groups, has failed to change his mind.

In defying the world community’s appeals for mercy, Jokowi has underlined the need for foreign parties to respect Indonesian law, a legacy of the Dutch colonial government, which maintains the death penalty. But when upholding capital punishment as part of the prevailing law, Jokowi is simply reducing the matter to a technical procedure.

The grave problem facing the country in the field of law enforcement is a deficit of trust in the law enforcers, which to some extent has been typified by corruption in the judiciary.

While there might be no indications that bribery was involved in the death sentences handed down to convicted drug traffickers like Veloso, the existence of miscarriages of justice and unfair trials is difficult to deny. Seck Osmane and Humphrey Ejike, two of the four convicts executed in July, had been given no chance to exercise their right to seek clemency, while in Veloso’s case the Filipina, who does not speak English fluently, was only allowed the help of an unlicensed interpreter during her trial.

That Jokowi has opted to go ahead with the planned execution despite the lingering doubts over whether justice has been really served has sparked speculation that he badly needs “an achievement” to trade off his foot-dragging priority programs. Suppose he wants to wow his people, then ending the death penalty would be his most revered legacy.

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