Australia recalls ambassador over Indonesian executions

The New Mr. President
No mercy: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo



Australia will recall its ambassador from Indonesia following the execution of convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran who were put to death by firing squad overnight near the town of Cilacap.

Ministerial visits will also remain suspended Prime Minister Tony Abbott said during a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday morning.

The sharp diplomatic reaction to the executions is the first time Australia has withdrawn its ambassador from Indonesia and sets a new precedent in terms of relations between the two nations.

The move to withdraw Australia’s top diplomat from Indonesia follows consistent indications from the Abbott government that it would respond strongly in the event pleas for mercy and clemency were rejected by the Indonesian government.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran’s family and friends at this extremely difficult time,” Mr Abbott and Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop said in an official joint statement.

“Australia respects Indonesia’s sovereignty, but deeply regrets that Indonesia could not extend the mercy it so often seeks for its own citizens.

“We will withdraw our Ambassador for consultations once the men’s bodies have been returned to the Chan and Sukumaran families,” Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop said.

“It is very unusual, indeed unprecedented, for an ambassador to be withdrawn so I don’t want to minimise the gravity of what we’ve done,” Mr Abbott told reporters during a press conference.

“Ministerial contacts have been suspended for some time. Once it became apparent that the executions were likely, ministerial contacts were suspended, and they will remain suspended for a period,” he continued.

Ms Bishop also sharply criticised the manner in which the passage of families and relatives to pay their final visit to farewell the condemned men devolved into an undignified spectacle were authorities used police dogs in an effort to control a crowd of media and onlookers that had gathered.

Ms Bishop said described the situation the families were put through as “ghastly”.

Australian and international revulsion over the overtly public parading of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has been growing consistently, especially over the way senior Indonesian posed for so-called trophy photographs with the condemned men while they were on a plane transferring them from Bali.

Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, is expected to return to Australia by the end of the week after official formalities associated with the identification and repatriation of the executed men are taken care of.

The federal Opposition has locked in behind the government’s strong stand.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Tanya Plibersek both said that “Labor condemns the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, in the strongest possible terms.”

“It was completely unacceptable for Indonesia to proceed as it did when critical legal processes were yet to run their course, raising serious questions about Indonesia’s commitment to the rule of law,” Mr Shorten and Ms Plibersek said.

“Indonesia’s actions demand a strong response from the Australian Government.”

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