Bali Nine: Vigil calls for mercy


Ben Quilty said he could “quite literally flood this place with tears”

A vigil in support of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran has heard emotional statements from the pair, who say the “compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity” has made them feel “truly blessed”.

Indonesia has delayed transferring the Bali Nine pair from Bali’s Kerobokan prison to the island where they are due to be executed, and says it is “almost certain” the Australians will not face the firing squad this month.

On Wednesday night vigils were held across Australia in support of the Australians, including at Toongabbie in western Sydney, which was read a letter from each of the men.

“Please tell everyone at tonight’s vigils in Australia that we are amazed at how kind and supportive everyone has been and it has touched our hearts,” Sukumaran said, in a letter read by The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel.

“It has helped our families so much. It makes us even more determined to be better people and to do more to help people; to show more kindness like that which everyone has given us, especially our families.

“Whatever happens, I know that me and Andrew are good people now and that even though we’ve been in prison with a death sentence, we have been truly blessed.

“Blessed to have beautiful family and friends. Blessed to have received so much compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity and supporting our change for the better.

“As we face what’s coming, we thank everyone who has supported us. There are no words for this kindness.”

Reucassel also read a letter from Chan to the service.

“I would like to thank you for attending this vigil on the grounds of mercy and hope,” he said.

“This campaign is more than just about myself or Myu. It represents a second chance and forgiveness. It represents kindness and help for those in helpless situations.

“Mercy represents us all here. I would like you to take a moment and reflect just on the word mercy. Please don’t let this just be about myself and Myu but about others all over the world who need your help.”

Ben Quilty and Alan Jones call for mercy at Sydney vigil

The Toongabbie vigil was organised by artist Ben Quilty, who has befriended the men and said he could “quite literally flood this place with tears”.

“Maybe because I have been spending a bit of time in a prison lately I felt a bit nervous calling Blacktown police to tell them about tonight. But as soon as I told them what I was ringing for instantly I heard a compassionate voice down the phone,” he told the gathering.

Quilty said he hoped to help raise awareness of the pair, and “bring compassion to their story”.

“I’ve felt that their families have faced some pretty negative stuff. I wanted that to end, and I wanted some quiet for them to get through this very difficult period, that’s really my aim,” he said.

Radio presenter Alan Jones speaks at the Ampuni Mercy vigil for Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan at the C3 church in Sydney. Source: AAP

Broadcaster Alan Jonestold the crowd that “we stand for mercy because we are all imperfect”.

“We’re all fairly ordinary people at the end of the day. But in a way what we’re saying to the world in this little place at Toongabbie tonight is that one aspect of us is full, and it’s our heart,” he said.

“To have a heart that is full and compassionate is to be a real human being.

“These two young men are the same as other Australians, other Indonesians, other Americans. They are our brothers. When we ask for mercy and clemency we seek it for others in a similar predicament. We know for example there are Indonesian families in exactly the same predicament that these families are in.

“It’s not a night to be angry, I can appreciate families are angry and that we’d like to blame people. Those are futile sentiments. We are not seeking recrimination. If it was our family or our mum or dad looking on an imperfect son or daughter they would have the same request that we have – we stand for mercy.”

‘They’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor’

Vigils were also held in cities including Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten attended the Melbourne vigil, where singers Clare Bowditch, Missy Higgins and Bob Evans performed.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has long campaigned against the death penalty and was involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005.

Addressing the Melbourne vigil, he said he had visited Chan and Sukumaran in jail in Bali several times and was in no doubt the pair had redeemed themselves.

“The reality is that if Indonesia go ahead and execute these two men, they’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor,” he said.

“The drug traffickers have gone. The drug traffickers’ left in 2005.”

He said he kept hoping for the best outcome, that Chan and Sukumaran’s lives would be spared.

“We’ve all got a chance to pull back from what is such a final, complete and what would be a tragic outcome,” he said.

Edith Visvanathan (right), the grandmother of Myuran Sukumaran, is accompanied by Pastor Mithran Chellappah as she speaks at the Ampuni Mercy vigil for Sukumaran and Andrew Chan at the C3 church in Sydney. Source: AAP

A minute of silence was held outside the Supreme Court in Adelaide by members of the legal profession.

“Regardless of whether you are a person who supports the death penalty or not, we all feel that in this case, in these two young men’s cases, there’s a very strong argument for showing mercy, for showing leniency and allowing these people to live,” Claire O’Connor from the state’s Council for Civil Liberties said.

“We thought it was an excellent way for the community to be reminded that the death penalty is in fact a justice issue and that lawyers are particularly concerned about the death penalty anywhere, but sheeted home at the moment of course is the fact that these two young Australians are facing execution.”

In Perth, Federal Labor Member for Fremantle Melissa Parke said there was a deeply felt commitment by Australians that the death penalty was wrong, regardless of who the perpetrator was, their nationality or the nature of their crime.

“The application of the death penalty is the practice of torture,” the former human rights lawyer said.

“Andrew and Myuran have been on death row for 10 years in an endless churn of fear and uncertainty and anxiety and hope and dread.”

Doctor Ameer Ali of Murdoch University said to kill one human life was to kill humanity.

“To save one human life is to save humanity,” he said.

“Godliness is to shower mercy and compassion and where there is no mercy and compassion, there is godlessness.”

Indonesia warns ‘threats’ not part of diplomatic language

Earlier on Wednesday Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was able to speak directly to Chan and Sukumaran over speakerphone.

“I think the delay in the decision to proceed with the planning of these executions came as a great relief to them and obviously to their families,” she told Fairfax Radio in Melbourne.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was an encouraging sign that Indonesia had delayed moving the pair to their place of execution, but that it was not an indication of any serious prospect of clemency.

He urged Indonesia to remember the contribution Australia made to the tsunami relief effort and to spare the lives of Chan and Sukumaran.

Supporters of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran gather for a vigil at Federation Square in Melbourne. Source: AAP

“When Indonesia was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami Australia sent a billion dollars’ worth of assistance,” he said.

But Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir warned threats were not part of diplomatic language.

“No-one responds well to threats,” he said.

“OK, it will be difficult for me or for Indonesia to see that any fallout in a bilateral relationship only affects one country. I hope the statement made does not reflect the true colours of Australians.”

Chan and Sukumaran are on death row for attempting to smuggle drugs to Australia in 2005 as part of the so-called Bali Nine group.

Legal officials from several parts of Indonesia met in the capital Jakarta on Wednesday to discuss arrangements for moving several prisoners to Nusa Kambangan island, where they are expected to be executed.

The attorney general’s office said it was the latest preparation but did not provide any further details or dates.