An Indonesian minister threatened Tuesday to release a “human tsunami” of asylum-seekers into Australia unless the "provocations" over the impending executions of the Australian Bali Nine duo come to an end. The statements won't help the souring relations between the two countries as Australia is doing its utmost to rescue Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran from the firing squad, which they face over drug trafficking convictions.
Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said there are "more than 10,000 [asylum-seekers] in Indonesia today. If they are let go to Australia, it will be like a human tsunami,” according to Indonesian news Metro TV. He was delivering a speech Tuesday evening local time at the School of Law at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.
In the speech, Tedjo described Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s proposal last Thursday to swap prisoners as unethical. "We respect other countries' legal systems. Australia must learn about ethics here in University of Gadjah Mada," Tedjo said, according to Metro TV.
The former navy chief said Australia was trying to pressure Jakarta into canceling the executions by reminding Indonesia of the $1 billion aid rendered after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. "If Canberra keeps doing things that displease Indonesia, Jakarta will surely let the illegal immigrants go to Australia," Tedjo said.
The minister also said it would be “no big deal” if Australia stopped trading with Indonesia, claiming it would harm Australia more. "We have calculated, in fact, Australia enjoys the surplus on the Indonesia-Australia trade," Tedjo said at the speech. "Australia will in fact receive pressure domestically if it stops its livestock exports to Indonesia since Indonesia is Australia's main market."
Tedjo, considered a controversial figure in Indonesia, sparked outrage in January when he recommended graft suspect Budi Gunawan for the position of national police chief and lashed out against the widely trusted Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The Herald also reported that Tedjo suggested in December that unresolved human rights cases were things of the past.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott continues to plead for the lives of Chan and Sukumaran, whose executions have been delayed pending the resolution of outstanding legal reviews. Abbott has been extolling Chan and Sukumaran as having helped in the fight against drugs following their arrests, and said he hoped to hear back from Indonesian President Joko Widodo after reaching out.
"I appreciate that we have given this subject a pretty good thrash," Abbott told reporters in Kalgoorlie Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse. "I'm keen to talk to him again but, in the end, I can request, he may or may not accept." Australian politicians had called for Abbott to "pull the bloody foreign aid" to Indonesia, according to news site RT, when Jakarta had indicated it would go ahead with the executions despite Australia's pleas.
Chan and Sukumaran were part of a smuggling ring known as the Bali Nine and were sentenced to death in 2005 for trafficking heroin. Both Chan and Sukumaran lost their pleas for clemency. Chan recently proposed to his girlfriend upon learning of the denial.