(Transcript from World News Radio)
Indonesian activists have launched a campaign to send money to Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
It follows comments he made last week linking clemency pleas for two Australians on death row to past Australian aid to Indonesia.
Santilla Chingaipe reports.
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“Let’s not forget that a few years ago when Indonesia was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia sent a billion dollars worth of assistance.”
That was Tony Abbott linking the fate of convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to Australia’s relief aid to Indonesia following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Mr Abbott later denied he was suggesting that Indonesia should show its gratitude for Australia’s generosity for granting clemency to the men.
But his comments have sparked an angry response in Indonesia, with activitists launching a social media campaign to collect coins to – as Twitter users put it – ‘pay back Australia’.
The campaign is using the hashtag #KoinUntukAustralia, or Coins for Australia.
The Twitter campaign then spread onto the streets of Jakarta – where passers-by were asked to donate coins to pay back Australia’s tsunami aid.
Coins were thrown onto photos of the Australian Prime Minister laid out on the ground by protest organisers.
One of the organisers, Ryan, explained why they were demonstrating.
“(Through translation) What I want to focus is on the collection of coins. I don’t want to make a comment on the executions, but I only hope our next generation will be better with government policy.”
Protester Hendro Prasetyo says linking capital punishment and aid is unfair.
“(through translations) Humanitarian relief for the Aceh tsunami is totally different from executions. The executions are (going to happen) because Australians who came to Indonesia were involved in drug trafficking, there is a justice mechanism for that and the result is the death penalty. So you can differentiate between humanitarian relief and executions and the death penalty must go on,”
Another protester, Andi Maya, expressed her outrage at Tony Abbott’s comments.
“(through translation) With regards to Abbott’s comment, I actually feel offended as an Indonesian. I feel it is absurd that he is bringing up humanitarian aid. His bringing up this issue does not justify stopping the executions which are a result of narcotics-related offences, from taking place. “
Associate Professor Greg Fealy is an Indonesia expert at Canberra’s Australia National University.
Dr Fealy says he’s not surprised by the protests over Tony Abbott’s comments.
“Well Indonesia has a very nationalistic mood at the moment and a lot of politicians are speaking in very strongly nationalistic terms. There’s a lot of talk of Indonesia’s sovereignty and dignity and so Tony Abbott’s remarks really hit a nerve. That would have always hit a nerve, I mena that would have always hit a nerve, but particularly so at the moment. Because Indonesians believe that there country is now a rising economic power and that remarks that they interpret as seeking to threaten or intimidate them will not be tolerated and it’s not entirely surprising that there’s been a response like this.”
The protests in Jakarta were organised by a group calling itself the Coalition of pro-Indonesians.
Associate Professor Greg Fealy says although he’s not familiar with the group, such protests are not uncommon.
“If there is a particular hot topic in Indonesia, the groups will very quickly spring up and seek to mobilise people on that issue. It could be with all sorts of things, not just foreign relations or aid. So this is not unusual in Indonesia and for them to hold a protest at the central round about in Jakarta is pretty common. Most days, there’s some kind of protest there.”
Dr Fealy believes it’s unlikely the protests will spread.
“Unless there are further comments by the prime minister, further inflammatory comments, I think this would likely disappear before too long. The fact that (Foreign Minister) Julie Bishop contacted the Indonesian vice president and had quite an accommodating response from him. But a lot depends on the issue is fed by any Australian political leaders. I fthey are more careful with what they say, I’s be surprised if this issue takes off.”
Indonesia resumed executions for drug trafficking in 2013 after a five-year gap.