Signs of the times
I, reluctantly, had lunch in Ciputra Mall today. Reluctantly, because I don't like malls. They are soulless, antiseptic and expensive, especially when prices are compared to those of the hawkers who clog up the footpaths outside. Still, we've all got to earn a living somehow, including the shopkeepers in their air-conditioned splendour. Trouble is, the majority of the shops remain empty of customers and have to resort to slogans in order to attract spenders.
I was impressed with the shoe shop which had a sign that declared: Buy 1, Get 1 Free.
Matching, right or left wasn't stated.
Another empty slogan on prominent banners at traffic intersections suggests: Hidup Sehat Tanpa Narkoba
. (Lead a Healthy Life Without Drugs.) Well, I'm sorry, but I'd sooner indulge in illicit substances than the foul gases pumped out by the badly-maintained buses, noisy motorcycles and gas guzzling SUVs which block the view of the banners.
It's easy being flippant about linguistic inanities. What is not easy is to convey my despair and anger at yesterday's execution in Medan, North Sumatra, by firing squad, of Indian national Ayodhya Prasad Chaubey
, despite appeals
by the Indian government, Amnesty International and the European Union to spare his life.
I have never seen the justification for any judicial executions; the death penalty has never been a deterrent. Another story on the same page of today's Jakarta Post, but not online, is as follows: The death penalty handed down to Brazilian Marco Archer Cordova Moreira on June 8th for attempting to smuggle 13.7 kilograms of cocaine from Peru apparently failed to deter three of his countrymen from attempting the same thing last week.
A credible argument is that if anything, the death penalty spurs even more violent crimes. If you know that if caught in the pursuance of a criminal act, the punishment is death, then you have nothing more to lose in shooting your way to freedom.
In his ten years on death row, Chaubey proved a model prisoner, converted to Islam, taught English to fellow inmates and ran the prison co-operative.
In his particular case, there is a major reason for concern. Was Chaubey guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charge of illegal possession of 12 kilograms of heroin?
He was convicted on the testimony of two Thai nationals arrested at Polonia airport who stated that the heroin 'was to have been handed over' to Chaubey. In other words, he was never proved to have been in possession of it. The heroin was never produced as evidence by the prosecutors who claimed it was kept in storage at Bank Indonesia's North Sumatra office. The bank denied this.
Some have argued that at 67, Chaubey was too old to be executed. Judging by his interview with private television network SCTV the day before his execution, he was not senile. He continued to protest his innocence and to say that the prosecutors had failed to prove his guilt.
The Indonesian legal system is notoriously corrupt at all levels. Chaubey pursued all avenues of appeal, right up to the final appeal for clemency from President Megawati. She turned it down. Is it because she wished, belatedly, to prove her decisiveness ahead of the final round in September of the Presidential election?
She left yesterday for Mecca where she will "pray for my country, because my government?s term will end in October, and for a successful runoff.
" I hope she prays, too, for the 62 prisoners, including the two Thais
(a married couple), currently on death row, some of whom have been waiting as long as Chaubey did - 10 years.
I'm beginning to think that all of us who live in Indonesia suffer from cruel and unusual punishment. Our lives are forfeit to the whims of people who don't listen to any voices other than their own and speak in slogans.