Fri, Mar 27, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Widodo too busy to take Australia call, envoy says

BALI NINE:Indonesia’s envoy to Australia said Widodo was busy visiting his people after Abbott said he tried to call about the impending executions of two Australians

AP, CANBERRA

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo walk past People’s Liberation Army honor guards during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. The Indonesian leader is on an official visit and is expected to meet with Chinese counterparts to boost bilateral ties.

Photo: EPA

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has been too busy during the past three weeks to accept a telephone call from the Australian prime minister to plead for the lives of two death row prisoners, an Indonesian envoy said yesterday.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters on March 5 that he had requested a telephone conversation with Widodo on the impending executions of Australian heroin traffickers Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33.

Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema yesterday brushed off suggestions of a diplomatic snub.

“The president was so busy,” Kesoema told reporters in Canberra. “Because, as you know, the first program of the president is going to his people, to the provinces. Not only in Java, in Kalimanta or Sumatra, but also in Papua. So it’s many visits that he should make.”

Australia’s efforts to save the lives of the prisoners has strained diplomatic relations between the close neighbors that share a brittle bilateral relationship.

Abbott made his last request for a talk a week after a similar conversation failed to sway Widodo, who wants the Australians to be among a group of 10 drug convicts to face firing squads soon.

“I’ve certainly put in a request because the government and the people of Indonesia need to know that this is important to us,” Abbott said early this month.

Lawyers for Sukumaran and Chan on Wednesday presented evidence to a state administrative court in Jakarta to support their appeal against a decree by Widodo denying them clemency.

The court was adjourned until Monday, when it is to hear expert evidence.

Chan and Sukumaran were the ringleaders of a gang of nine Australians arrested in April 2005 while trying to smuggle more than 8kg of heroin from Bali to Sydney.

Besides the two Australians, a Nigerian national born in Spain, two other Nigerians, a Filipino woman and four men from Brazil, France, Ghana and Indonesia are also scheduled to be executed.

The executions have been put on hold while several prisoners exhaust all avenues of appeal.

The planned executions have also soured relations between Indonesia and other countries, especially Brazil.

Widodo has vowed not to grant mercy to drug offenders because Indonesia is suffering a “drug emergency.”

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