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An Open Letter to President Joko Widodo by Dr Philip Alan West, Ph.D.

Melbourne, Australia, April 2015


An Open Letter to his excellency Mr Joko Widodo

President of the Republic of Indonesia
Dear Mr President,
My name is Dr Philip Alan West, Ph.D of Melbourne, Australia.
A number of years ago, I was privileged to be the thesis supervisor for 30 Indonesian PostGraduate students who were completing a Community Development Masters program in
Australia as part of the Indonesian CERD Project (Community Empowerment for Rural
I was also very fortunate to twice visit Indonesia as part of my work and I have since travelled
two more times to your country for private language study and further travel.
I have lived and travelled in many countries, however, Indonesians are the friendliest and most
warm-hearted people I have ever met. During my trips, I was invited into the homes of complete
strangers and treated with amazing respect and kindness everywhere.
In 2010, a photograph I took when visiting a school in Banjarmasin in Kalimantan won a United
Nations international photographic award under the theme Humanising Development. Here is
this winning photo titled As Children Should Be:

An Open Letter to President Joko Widodo by Dr Philip Alan West, Ph.D. Melbourne, Australia, April 2015


I was honoured to have spent such wonderful times in your country and to have shared the deep
hospitality and kindness of the Indonesian people.
This letter concerns the two Australian men on death row Myuran Sukumaran and
Andrew Chan. I plead with you to reconsider their appeal for clemency.
Mr President, death is final for all not just the prisoner, but their families too.
I make this plea in consideration of the following facts and issues:

Killing these men now would mean that absolutely no regard is taken of their
rehabilitation and personal transformation plus the fact that they have already
spent ten years in jail.

They and the other Bali 9members, were captured due the Australian Federal
Police (AFP) informing Indonesian authorities of the drug operation. The AFP is
an arm of the Australian Government.

Indonesians Constitutional Court recommends that prisoners on death row who

have been in jail for more than 10 years and who have rehabilitated and shown
remorse, should have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Please
follow this ruling of your Constitutional Court and examine the individual
circumstances of the two men.

Muhammad Cholil who helped make the 2005 bombs that killed 20 people in
Bali was sentenced to just 18 years and was released on parole after serving less
than eight years. How can Chan and Sukumarans crime be seen as more serious
than involvement in mass murder?

Terrorist Umar Patekwas found guilty of murder and bomb-making in 2012 and
sentenced to 20 years.

Idris, also known as Johnny Hendrawan, received a five year sentence for his
involvement in the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing which killed 12.

Despite harsh conditions in Jail, both Sukamaran and Chan became model
prisoners in Kerobokan Prison. They were not involved in violence or drug
offences while in prison. Indeed, they helped many Indonesian prisoners
rehabilitate and therefore helped Indonesian society as whole.

Chan, now a devout religious practitioner even raised money for medical
procedures for Indonesian inmates and their families. Sukumaran ran art, language
and computer classes.

An Open Letter to President Joko Widodo by Dr Philip Alan West, Ph.D. Melbourne, Australia, April 2015


Whats the point of reform and rehabilitation in Indonesia if two men who have
changed so much over ten years are simply shot dead in cold blood?

Their deaths would not reduce drug smuggling or general drug crime in Indonesia.
The death penalty acts as no deterrence to any crime anywhere. Most US states
have the death penalty for murder and rape, yet murder and rape continue. Many
have been executed in Indonesia for drug crimes, yet drug smuggling persists.

Executing the men without showing regard for the Constitutional Courts
recommendations or the mens rehabilitation and positive work in the prison,
would harm Indonesias standing and lead to repulsion by educated Australians
such as myself who have educational, business, cultural or family/friendship ties
to Indonesia. It would severely undermine Indonesian relations with Australia for
many years.

Young people from all families can sometimes go off the rails and become
involved in crime. Imagine if one of these men was your child Mr
President? Your youngest son is now at a similar age at which the two men
carried out their crime.

Like many Australians, I was excited by your electoral victory, your rapport with ordinary
Indonesians and your determination to continue reformasi, democratatisation and the fight
against corruption.
Mr President, there is enormous goodwill toward Indonesia in Australia. Bahasa Indonesia is
taught at thousands of Australian schools and thousands of Indonesians are studying in
Australian Universities. After the Tsunami devastation in Aceh, Australians opened their
hearts and donated generously and our Government provided one billion dollars to Indonesia.
Prime Minster Abbotts comment about the Tsunami aid was sloppy and regrettable.
Unfortunately, Mr Abbotts verbal language skills are generally not of a high standard. He really
meant to say that surely this past friendship and support can be remembered and considered.
I apologise for our Prime Ministers lack of clarity which appeared rude or like a threat. It was not
meant in this way.

Please consider using your clemency powers in the case of Chan and Sukumaran after
duly considering the personal situation and specific issues related to the case.

Please take into consideration the recommendation of the Indonesian Constitutional


Please consider the positive role the men performed in Kerobokan and the way they in
fact helped the authorities run a peaceful and rehabilitative prison. Killing them now

An Open Letter to President Joko Widodo by Dr Philip Alan West, Ph.D. Melbourne, Australia, April 2015


would be pointless and malicious and will not serve Indonesian justice or help reduce
Mr President, the power to send someone to their deaths (or to save them) is extraordinary. Most
world leaders do not have this power. The rehabilitation of the two men and the love and
humanity now in their hearts, developed and flourished due to your own prison system and the
warmth and generosity of the Indonesian people and culture. Killing them now makes no sense.
The Indonesian Government works hard to save the lives of Indonesians on death row in other
countries. In April 2015, your Government paid $1.8 million dollars in financial compensation to
the family of a person murdered by Indonesian maid Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad in order to
spare her life.
Why is her life and the distress and sadness her death would have brought her family, more
important than the lives of the two Australians or the grief for their families (or Indonesians on
death row in Indonesia)? My photograph of the beautiful Indonesian school children in
Banjarmasin illustrates that we all share a common humanity.
Chan and Sukumaran deserve punishment for their crime, but do not deserve to be shot through
the heart in cold blood without mercy. Satinah Ahmad who murdered her boss (she says it was in
self-defence), presumably deserves some punishment. However your government considered that
she did not deserve to die and so paid $1.8 million dollars to spare her life.
Please show compassion and save the lives of Chan and Sukumaran. They did not murder, rape
or carry out a terrorist bombing and like, Satinah, do not deserve to die. If they had carried out
the bombing of the Marriot with Idris or helped Cholil make the Bali bomb, they would now be
free. This makes no sense.
All Australia will be eternally grateful and such an act of compassion on your part will lead to
incredible goodwill and very positive relations into the future. Conversely, their killing will
undermine Indonesian-Australian relations for many, many years.
Yours sincerely,

- Phil West
Dr. Phil West, BA (Hons), Dip. Ed, Ph.D
Thesis and Field Research Supervisor (2008-10) Indonesian CERD (Community Empowerment
for Rural Development) Masters Program, La Trobe University, Australia.
Founder: The Alannah and Madeline Foundation (a national Australian Childrens Charity).
Founder and President: P.E.A.C.E. Inc. (an international childrens Foundation that heals child
survivors of war through the creative arts).
- +61 0435 611 324