The death penalty imposed on two of the Bali Nine drug runners is
another looming difficulty for Prime Minister John Howard in
Australia’s relationship with Indonesia. Appeals against the sentences
will be heard soon and if they are dismissed, executions will be quickly
scheduled. Only the intervention of the Indonesian President Soesilo
Bambang Yudhoyono can then save the two lives.
The politics of this issue will be complex for Mr Howard. He will wish
to avoid further upsetting the Indonesians by protesting too loudly
about the death penalty but will be under considerable pressure within
Australia to do so. That pressure will largely come from church leaders
who have been leading the protest against amending the immigration laws to avoid the arrival of more West Papuans.
This “church” constituency has been very supportive of the Liberals at
the last two elections. For Mr Howard it is a real “between a rock and
a hard place” issue.