SYDNEY (AFP) – Prime Minister Tony Abbott Thursday denied threatening Indonesia over the fate of two Australians on death row by linking their fate to aid, insisting he was simply pointing out the depth of ties between the neighbours.
As tensions mount in the bid to save Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Abbott on Wednesday said Jakarta should remember the significant monetary aid Canberra supplied in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 tsunami.
He urged Indonesia to reciprocate in Australia’s time of need, but the comments were coolly received in Jakarta with the foreign ministry warning that “threats are not part of diplomatic language”.
“Yesterday I was referring to the obvious strength of the relationship between Indonesia and Australia and what we have done for Indonesia in the past,” Abbott said when pressed on whether his comments were meant as a threat.
“And yes, Indonesia has done a lot for us as well because that’s what friends do for each other.
“It was important that I point out the strength and the depth of the relationship and that’s exactly what I was doing.”
Relations between the neighbours are only just recovering from a damaging rift in 2014 over spying revelations and people-smuggling.
Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine heroin trafficking group, are set to be among the next set of prisoners to face the firing squad in Indonesia.
They were given a glimmer of hope this week when their transfer to the island prison where they are due to be shot was postponed.
Despite this, Indonesia insisted the execution of the men – who are on death row along with citizens from France, Ghana, Brazil and Nigeria – would go ahead, having lost their appeals for presidential clemency.
Legal and diplomatic efforts to save the Australians have escalated in recent weeks and Fairfax Media on Thursday claimed Indonesian President Joko Widodo did not view all the relevant documentation when he decided not to spare them.
Citing a source familiar with events, it said due to the chaotic handover to his office from his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last year, Widodo had little more than the names of those on death row and did not review each case individually.
“There was just a few pieces of papers listing names of people on death row. No documents attached to the lists,” claimed the source.
Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran have a court date next Tuesday to examine a last-ditch claim that Widodo did not follow the rules in rejecting their clemency bids.
Abbott said it was in Indonesia’s best interests to let them live.
“Your best interests will be served and your best values will be realised by not going ahead with these executions,” he said.
“Because right now they are reformed, they are rehabilitated and they are helping to fight the drug threat in Indonesia inside Indonesia’s prison system.”