Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Outspoken Golkar Party legislator Bambang Soesatyo has become the latest official to protest against a presidential decision to commute a drug convict’s death sentence to life, saying it throws into question the government’s commitment to fighting illegal narcotics.
Bambang said over the weekend that the recent decision by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was contradictory in light of a policy speech made in his first term in office in which he vowed to take a hard line on drug offenders.
“The president has now gone back on his word,” the legislator said. “The president’s attitude and stance on fighting drug-trafficking syndicates inside the country is growing ever more inconsistent.”
In a July 1, 2006, speech to mark International Anti-Drug Day, Yudhoyono said he constantly received requests for clemency for drug offenders sentenced to death.
“But the chief justice of the Supreme Court and I would obviously choose to save our people and our nation, including saving the current and the younger generations, over granting clemency to those who would destroy their future,” the president said at the time.
Since then, however, the president has reneged on this commitment in a number of high-profile cases, Bambang said.
Last week, the State Palace announced that Yudhoyono commuted the death sentence of Deni Setia Maharwa, convicted for his involvement in an international drug syndicate, to life in prison.
Deni was attempting to smuggle 3.5 kilograms of heroin and three kilograms of cocaine to London in 2000.
In May, Yudhoyono granted a five-year sentence cut for Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby, whose case has attracted significant media attention since her conviction in 2005.
She was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison for trying to smuggle more than four kilograms of marijuana into Bali.
Both decisions were also called into question by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN). The agency argued that the decisions set a bad precedent in the fight against drugs, which cost the state Rp 40 trillion ($4.2 billion) per year in enforcement and rehabilitation expenses.
The decision on Deni was also viewed disapprovingly by the Supreme Court, which stated at the time that, “there were not enough reasons for granting clemency and therefore we recommended that the request for clemency be rejected.”
Former President Megawati Sukarnoputri also criticized her successor’s latest decision.
“Countless people have died because of drug abuse, so is it appropriate to reduce the sentences of the very dealers who sold the drugs?” she questioned on Sunday.
She added that when in office, she also dealt with requests from drug offenders for their death sentence to be commuted, but she did not grant any of them.
“My consideration was for all the people who had fallen victim as a result of the crime,” she said.
Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the former justice minister who earlier this year led an unsuccessful court bid to get Corby’s sentence cut rescinded, conceded that if he tried to do the same thing against the latest decision he would likely fail. He added that the House of Representatives could still challenge it by launching an official inquiry.
He also lambasted the State Palace and Denny Indrayana, the deputy justice minister, for not being clear on the administration’s policy on clemency.
“Denny previously said that the clemency for Corby was only given based on the Supreme Court’s recommendation,” Yusril said. “Now we find out that the same court recommended against clemency for [Deni], yet it was still granted. Yudhoyono’s administration is full of lies and cover-ups, but it all gets revealed in the end.”