Posts Tagged ‘Mary Jane Veloso’

It might seem odd, Dear Reader, to campaign for convicted drug dealers to be spared from being shot to death when the world’s attention is focused on the tragedy in Nepal, where uncountable thousands have perished.

 

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

Myuran Sukumaran takes an art class in Kerobokan

 

Except it is perfectly right to do so.

We will always be afflicted by the vagaries of the natural world. But mankind can choose how we treat one another. And the death of a single soul is as important as the communal deaths of thousands, who are, after all, individuals too, not statistics.

It is often said that “All politics is local”. But we have always preferred the notion that all politics is indivudal.

As John Donne wrote centuries ago:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The current obduracy of the Indonesian government in the face of imploring appeals from countries the world over not to execute the “drug smugglers” currently with less than 24 hours left to live is a matter of choice. President Widodo chooses not to listen to the appeals, just as he chose, with breathtaking callousness, not even to read the individual appeals for clemency on behalf of the accused, rendering, in and of itself, the Indonesian legal system into contempt.

We have always implacably opposed the death penalty in all circumstances, all our lives, if for no other reason because of the terrible things it does to us and our society, but other reasons there are many – such as that it is frequently mistaken, frequently applied unevenly across racial groups, and frequently excessive. And a system riddled with institutional corruption, such as in Indonesia, has no place putting people to death.

And we have discussed elsewhere why these executions in particular are so terribly wrong.

So as they walk into a field to be tied to a plank and shot in their choice of a kneeling, sitting or standing position, let us once more, out of respect for those about to die, remember why this action is so wrong.

 

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

Andrew chan baptises a fellow prisoner inside Kerobokan jail.

 

Chan and Sukumaran, already jailed for as long as they would serve in any civilised country, are perfect examples of the notion of prison as reform. One is now an ordained Christian minister. One is a highly accomplished painter and teacher who has earned a University degree while in jail. Both have done such good work with other prisoners in their imprisonment that the prison governor asked that they be not executed, and prisoners offered to take their place at the stake. They have asked to be reprieved so they can continue their work.

The Filipina woman slated to die claims to have known nothing of the drugs hidden in her suitcase and the prosecution failed to prove that she did.

The French man who is still slated to die (although his execution is currently suspended) was a welder who had no idea he had been working on the construction of a meth lab for just three days.

The Brazilian man who will be killed tonight is a paranoid schizophrenic who doesn’t understand what is happening to him. He walks his cell talking to the walls and “ghosts”. Two men arrested with him were freed without charge after he exonerated them.

The family of Mary Jane Veloso arrive to say goodbye forever. The effect on her sons is incomprensible.

The family of Mary Jane Veloso arrive to say goodbye forever. The effect on her sons is incomprehensible.

On their last day together, the families, friends and supporters of the eight to be shot tonight gathered together in a small outdoor courtyard. Together. Initially the guards refused to take the handcuffs off the prisoners to allow them to embrace their families for the last time. All the groups, shorn of privacy in their grief, were together. Can one even imagine the communal pain of Andrew Chan, with his family and wife of one day at his side, next to the two young sons of the young Filipina woman and her inconsolable parents, next to Myuran’s family …

To read more about the tragic case of Mary Jane Veloso click here.

Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, 51, was among the group to be put to death after losing an appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court last week. But officials told French news agency AFP Saturday that he will not be included in the batch of executions because he still has a legal appeal outstanding.

The move comes amid intense pressure from Paris on Jakarta. French President Francois Hollande had warned earlier Saturday of “consequences with France and Europe” if Atlaoui was put to death.

“We cannot accept this type of execution,” he told reporters during a visit to Azerbaijan, adding that the consequences would be of a “diplomatic” nature.

And so, back and forth, the awful slow-motion close-up circus of state murder rolls on, in its hideous rollercoaster fashion. And perhaps most frustrating of all, there is no evidence that these executions are having any effect on the prevalence of drugs in Indonesia, which is nothing like as dramatic as Presidential propaganda is saying anyway, and those caught are merely the foot-soldiers in this “war on drugs”, while the king-pins they work for – most of whom are known – walk free to enjoy the sunshine and their luxury lifestyle, protected by their ability to buy off the system.

Bottom line: this tragic farce – this excuse for law – is barbaric, and should have no place in a modern world. Anywhere in a modern world.

President Joko Widodo, playing to a domestic audience he believes will be pleased by the executions, (which is by no means certain), must never be allowed to forget his role in these judicial murders. He will be held to account. And Indonesia is about to step into a dark abyss of international condemnation from which it will not emerge while Widodo remains at its helm – actually controlled by former President Megawati Soekarnoputri, making a mockey of Indonesia’s so-called democracy.

The utter failure of his lacklustre and murderous Presidency is laid out in fine detail here.

 

Megawati - the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

Megawati – the hard woman behind the Widodo throne.

 

“Megawati said to him at the party congress, ‘Why haven’t the executions been carried out already – you aren’t buckling to foreign pressure, are you?'” says Greg Fealy, a leading ANU scholar of Indonesia.

He continued: “The politics is that death penalty is extremely popular in Indonesia, Jokowi is slipping in the polls, he’s desperate to turn it around, and of the available issues this is the most readily available on which he’s looking strong, according to most Indonesians.”

In the meantime, Andrew and Myuran wait, comforted by their spiritual advisors, who will not only wait the last terrifying hours with them, but will witness them being killed, as well.

Sukumaran has asked long-time friend and supporter Christie Buckingham, a senior pastor from Melbourne’s Bayside Church, who has been visiting both men for years. Chan has nominated Salvation Army minister and family friend David Soper.

They, too, deserve to be remembered today. They are living their religious commitment in the most bare and painful way possible.

Respect.

Myuran Sukumaran has said he will refuse a blindfold when he dies, preferring to look his executioners in the eyes. We should all look his executioners in his eyes, on his behalf.

Now, and forever.

Death row Filipina s family begs Indonesia for her life

The family of a Filipina on death row in Indonesia made a tearful appeal for her life on Wednesday, insisting that an international drug syndicate duped the single mother of two.

Mary Jane Veloso, 30, has been in an Indonesian jail for five years after being caught at Yogyakarta airport with 2.6 kilogrammes (5.73 pounds) of heroin, and is among a batch of foreigners facing imminent execution.

But in an interview with AFP in Manila, her parents and sister said a crime syndicate involving a friend had deceived her, and she did not know the drugs had been sown into her suitcase before flying from Malaysia.

“Please don’t kill my sister. She is innocent. If you kill her, you will have blood on your hands,” Veloso’s elder sister Marites Veloso-Laurente said in a plea to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

With tears streaming down his cheeks, Veloso’s father said the syndicate that used her as an unwitting drug mule had pledged to kill all family members if they reported the racket to authorities or went to the media.

“Life’s been hard. We’ve been living in fear. My daughter’s recruiters have been threatening us – they threatened to kill us one by one,” said 59-year-old Cesar Veloso.

The family is from a poor farming town about three hours’ drive north of Manila, and Veloso had sought to provide for her two young sons by working as a maid overseas.

The single mother initially worked for nine months in Dubai in 2009 but was forced to come home after her employer tried to rape her, according to her father.

A family friend then offered Veloso work as a maid in Malaysia.

When Veloso got to Malaysia she was told the job was no longer available but there was another one in Indonesia if she flew there immediately, according to her parents.

“My sister’s a loving person, she’s so kind. But she trusts too much. We don’t engage in vices or anything illegal, no cigarettes, no alcohol,” her elder sister said.

When Veloso was arrested, her sons were aged just one and seven and they too have become victims.

“It’s as if they lost all hope… they are worried about what would happen to them if their mother never came back,” the Veloso matriarch, Celia, said as her two grandsons sat quietly next to her.

She said the eldest son, Mark Daniel Candelaria, 12, was struggling at school and may have to repeat eighth grade.

Veloso’s youngest, Mark Darren, 6, copes by singing his mother’s favourite song, a Filipino ballad called: “Just wait”, which has become an anthem of hope for the family.

Veloso’s mother, 55, insisted that if her daughter was involved in the drug trade, her family would have seen some benefits of it.

Instead, she shares a cramped brick and wood shanty with her husband and six grandchildren, including Veloso’s sons.

“We beg you, Mr Indonesian president, if my daughter was involved in drugs, we wouldn’t be this poor,” she said.

About 10 million Filipinos work overseas, with most heading abroad to escape deep poverty.

Many work in menial jobs or face dangerous work conditions, but even salaries of $300 a month are more than can be earned at home.

The government has previously warned Filipinos heading abroad about the dangers of drug traffickers trying to exploit or dupe them.

The are 125 Filipinos on death row around the world, with many of them convicted of drug trafficking, Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of overseas workers’ rights group Migrante, told AFP.

The Indonesian Supreme Court last week denied Veloso’s request to review her conviction.

The Philippine government said Wednesday it would file a second appeal.

Veloso’s parents and sons also visited the Indonesian embassy in Manila on Wednesday to lodge a letter appealing to Widodo for mercy.

Aside from Veloso, convicts from Australia, Brazil, France, Ghana and Nigeria are set to face a firing squad after they had their requests for presidential clemency rejected, although a further appeal in the case of the Australians Chan and Sukumaran is planned.

The death penalty was abolished in the mainly Catholic Philippines in 2006.

The obduracy of the Indonesian government in the face of serious concerns about either the guilt of the accused or whether they deserve being executed is disgusting.

Another of the batch to be executed suffers from paranoid schizophrenia: it is a widely accepted rule of law that it is wrong to execute someone whose mental impairment may have contributed to their behaviour, as it goes to the issue of their culpability.

Rodrigo Gularte is relaxed about the death penalty. He knows it has been abolished across the world. The people that monitor and control him via satellite through the microchip they have implanted in his head have told him so.

Gularte, 42, is a deeply disturbed paranoid schizophrenic who is facing imminent execution by firing squad, along with ten others.

He has no concept of what is happening to him. When his family visits, he is constantly distracted as he searches the skies over Nusakambangan prison for the manned satellite that is stalking him.

Gularte, from Curitiba in Brazil, was arrested in 2004 with two other Brazilian couriers bringing 6kg of cocaine into Indonesia. He’d been treated for depression since his teenage years. He had become a drug addict and was an easy target for Brazil’s drug cartels, looking for people to ship cocaine to Indonesia.

Troubled teen ... Rodrigo was struggled with depression Pictures: Supplied

Troubled teen … Rodrigo struggled with depression from an early age.

Proof that Gularte was unwell was evident by what he did when he was arrested: he told police that the two men with him had nothing to do with it. He took all blame.

The two were allowed to go home to Brazil and the following year Gularte was sentenced to death.

The hearing was itself a travesty. Gularte’s mother, Clarisse, now 71, and his cousin, Angelita Muxfeldt, 49, flew to Jakarta a week after his arrest. As they waited to see Gularte, a lawyer arrived for an unexpected late-night meeting.

The lawyer said he could get them into the police station, right at that moment, to see Gularte. He was trying to show them how influential he was. They were suitably impressed, and paid him “a lot” of money.

He then abandoned his client.

When Gularte was sentenced to death in 2005, he was totally alone. The lawyer had fled with the cash, failing to tell the family and embassy officials that he was to be sentenced. He did not stand a chance.

Alatoui's wife campaigns ceaseless for him to be saved.

Alatoui’s wife campaigns ceaseless for him to be saved.

Another inmate was arrested for working on a “drugs lab” as a welder, but had no knowledge of the eventual use of the construction site he was working on and had only been there three days: he had no involvement in drug trafficking whatsoever.

Serge Atlaoui, a father of four children, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory designed to produce ecstasy. He was sentenced to death in 2007 on drug trafficking charges. Already imprisoned in Indonesia for ten years, he has always denied the charges saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory. What a nightmare for him and his family and friends. The French President and Foreign Minister have campaigned vigorously for him not to be executed.

It becomes increasingly clear that these impending executions have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with playing internal politics in Indonesia. Indonesian President Widodo did not even READ the case files on these poor people before rejecting their appeals for clemency.

In reality, the only thing that may be keeping these people alive is international attention. It needs to be more embarrassing for Indonesia to carry out the death penalty than it is for them to back down.

Wellthisiswhatithink urges you to share this story, and any others you see, to ensure that the visibility of these poor people’s situations is maintained. Tweet this story, Facebook it, re-blog it. Thank you.

(From AFP, Daily Mail, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and others)