Jakarta won't execute convicts - for now

Government suspends death row executions because economic growth takes priority

An Indonesian vendor preparing fruit for a customer at Ciliwung river basin in Jakarta, on Oct 1, 2015.
An Indonesian vendor preparing fruit for a customer at Ciliwung river basin in Jakarta, on Oct 1, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Indonesian government has suspended the executions of convicts on death row to focus on improving economic growth, a senior government aide said.

Growth was 4.73 per cent in the third quarter of this year, far below the level that President Joko Widodo says is needed to boost job growth and investment.

"The priority is on economic development. Executions are not a priority," said Mr Atmadji Sumarkidjo, an aide and spokesman for top security minister Luhut Pandjaitan.

"The brouhaha from death executions would distract the government, which wants to focus on the economy," he told The Straits Times on Thursday.

"Although it is the right of every nation to carry out death penalties, responding to the brouhaha would be tiring."

Separately, Mr Luhut said the death penalty issue was raised when he met Australian government representatives in Sydney earlier this week, The Jakarta Post reported on Thursday.

Australia had promised not to interfere in Indonesia's stance on the death penalty, he added.

"I have told them that we are concentrating on the economy. We will have further discussions if something comes up," he said.

Foreign countries and human rights groups have criticised Indonesia for carrying out the death penalty. The Indonesian administration executed two groups of death row convicts, totalling 14 people, in January and April.

Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Su-kumaran were executed in April, causing tension between the two countries.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, a Jakarta-based human rights group, said it appreciated the decision to suspend executions and urged the government to grant clemency for people on death row.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Jakarta won't execute convicts - for now'. Subscribe