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The concept of mercy is a topic which will no doubt get a lot of coverage in Australia over the coming days as two young Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, move closer to the dreadful fate of facing an Indonesian firing squad in a paddock on a remote island in Indonesia.

The facts of this case have been well documented and one of things not being questioned is the guilt of these two young men. The crime they committed was a serious one and they knowingly committed the crime in a country that is very clear about its harsh drug crime related penalties.

It is also a reasonable assumption, in my view that if these two Australians, with their other 7 accomplices, had succeeded in “getting away” with their crime it may have resulted in the deaths of individuals with drug related problems back in Australia.

Amidst all the emotion, the severity of their crime should not be forgotten.

So where does this leave us with regard to the nature of their punishment?

If the intended outcome of punishment is to show the perpetrator the error of their ways with the hope of rehabilitating them so they can resume a normal and productive life, what good can come from execution other than a morose sense of satisfaction that one has rid society of someone and “taught other would be offenders a lesson”.

Certainly in cases of cold blooded and gruesome murders, I think we can all, to a degree, understand how execution seems the only reasonable outcome, if nothing more but at least for the victim’s family.

With Sukumaran and Chan, who have already spent 10 years in a Balinese jail, it feels as though the intended punishment is not only disproportionate and a complete waste of human life, but also feels politically motivated. Joko Widodo is a new president who throughout his election campaign ran a strong anti-drugs line.

I do not doubt, as a decent man, Widodo would be tormented by the situation he is faced with. Offering the two young Australians clemency may be interpreted by more conservative sectors of the Indonesian society as “weak”, but I am sure he would also be aware that in Chan and Sukumaran, we have two remorseful and reformed criminals who have clearly turned the negatives in their lives around and tried to contribute as much as humanly possible to creating a more positive atmosphere / outcomes at Kerobokan Jail.

In his book An Intelligent Life, Julian Short reflects that life’s challenge is about finding that balance between dignity (power) and kindness (love). Perhaps Indonesia could consider at this sensitive time that, “you must never lose sight of the fact that ultimately love (kindness) is more valuable than power.”

Whilst most Australians would understand and appreciate Indonesia’s right to self-assertion, particularly when it comes to the laws of their country, we ask them to consider the obvious remorse and 10 years of kindness (love) Sukumaran and Chan have shown towards all those in Kerobokan.

The granting of clemency to Chan and Sukumaran is the braver, stronger and merciful path.


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