Susan Carland writes on why the calls to stop travelling to Indonesia are harming, not helping.
Our anger and sadness about the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia last night is completely reasonable. What we do with that anger and sadness must be also.
Calls for boycotts of travel to Indonesia (particularly Bali, the much-loved holiday destination of Australians) or boycotts of Australian aid to Indonesia are myopic, will mostly punish Indonesians living in poverty who had nothing to do with President Widodo’s decision, and will be counter-productive.
The Australian government currently estimates it will give $605.3 million to Indonesia in aid in 2014-15. This aid goes to crucial programs like reducing the infant and maternal mortality rates in Nusa Tenggara Timur, where Australian aid helped to decrease maternal mortality by 35%, and helping to prevent the spread of HIV in Indonesian capital cities and provinces. To suggest this life-giving and life-protecting aid should be revoked because of Indonesia’s use of the death penalty is inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst.
Australian aid to Indonesia also goes to specific poverty-reduction programs that reached 86 million Indonesians in 2013 alone, offering vital services like rice subsidies and health insurance for people who simply could not afford them. Our aid also put into programs to reduce violence against women, and help them gain access to employment. To cut off assistance to the very poor or those subject to violence because of our anger at an Indonesian government policy is not just a pointless and reactive, it is cruel.
And for those who feel what happened was symptomatic of flaws in the Indonesian legal system, it is worth keeping in mind that $55 million of Australian aid was spent on a “Partnership for Justice” program, which includes a focus on addressing corruption and increasing transparency in the Indonesian legal system, and making justice more accessible for marginalised groups . It is illogical to rage against the failings of the Indonesian legal system while at the same time demanding a decent chunk of its funding be stripped. All the more so when much of this funding is earmarked specifically to tackle the very areas we criticise.