A former Indonesian judge believes a poll conducted by triple j‘s Hack program influenced Indonesian President Joko Widodo in his decision to execute convicted Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in April this year.
As Fairfax Media reports, Roy Morgan Research conducted a poll on behalf of triple j over the Australia Day weekend in January 2015, and asked respondents:
“In your opinion if an Australian is convicted of drug trafficking in another country & sentenced to death, should the penalty be carried out?”
Of the 2123 responses, 52 per cent of them replied “yes” to the statement.
Now, former Indonesian constitutional court chief justice Professor Jimly Asshiddiqie says the poll did influence President Widodo because it led him to believe that “the majority of the people in Australia don’t care about the executions — only the minority gets angry with Indonesia… so [the Indonesian government] think this is only about Abbott’s politics, not Australia as a whole”.
According to Professor Asshiddiqie, who is a respected human rights lawyer and a part of the anti-death penalty lobby in Jakarta leading-up to the executions, the results of triple j‘s poll “made the Indonesian government become more strong in their position” towards the death penalty.
“The [Indonesian] government thinks this is not hurting the people of Australia, it’s only elites, who claim to be popular by misusing public anger.”
At the time triple j‘s poll results were released, supporters of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran said the pair’s bid for clemency was being influenced by the poll, and triple j defended its decision to publish the results.
In a statement (via ABC), Hack host Tom Tilley said, “It would be a dangerous precedent for journalists not to report these things because they are fearful of how politicians may react.”
Mr Tilley also said all Hack staff held the deepest sympathies for Chan and Sukumaran and their families, and noted that it isn’t uncommon for media outlets to legitimately use polling statistics.
Professor Asshidiqie believes that aside from triple j‘s poll, a number of other Australian factors influenced President Widodo’s decision, including convicted Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby and Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comment reminding Indonesia of Australia’s $1 billion in tsunami aid.
Professor Asshiddiqie also told Fairfax that their lobbying efforts had helped pause the rush to execution on two occasions – first in March, and then in April – but could not ultimately stop it, because Mr Joko was determined. He believes by the beginning of this year it was unlikely that anything could be done to change the president’s mind.