Activist: NTT Fishermen Held In Australia Deserve Clemency
East Nusa Tenggara fishermen have urged the Australian government to offer clemency to Indonesian fishermen being held in Australian jails after allegedly trespassing into the country’s waters.
Muhammad Ridwan, an advocate for the local fishermen, claimed that Australian coastal guards had treated them violently by sinking their boats and torturing them before putting them in jail. He added that the accusations that they had crossed the maritime border were incorrect.
“The boats’ positions were still in Indonesian waters, as shown on the compass and other devices,” he said in Kupang, the provincial capital, on Wednesday.
Fishermen from East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) have lost 50 boats since 2002 to Australian maritime officers, who often set them ablaze. The losses have been estimated at more than Rp 800 million ($85,000).
“[We] want fair treatment from Australia in return for the Indonesian government’s policy to reduce the jail sentence for Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby,” Ridwan said.
“We want compensation for the boats that were set on fire, the sentences for our fishermen reduced and amnesty from the Australian prime minister.”
Australia has tried to police its northern border strictly because of the number of asylum seekers who attempt to enter the country illegally on board boats departing from southern Indonesia, including NTT. The boat burning forms part of a strategy to discourage such crossings.
In the case of Corby, whose 20-year sentence for drug smuggling was cut by five years, Ridwan agreed that clemency was the president’s prerogative but said he hoped the decision was not made to serve the interest of political elites. He said the problems faced by NTT fishermen also needed attention.
In a meeting on Wednesday with the House of Representatives’ Commission I, which oversees foreign and defense affairs, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa refuted criticism that the clemency for Corby was a sign of weakness in the government’s commitment to fight narcotics.
Marty said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had consulted with the Supreme Court before deciding to reduce Corby’s jail sentence.
Antara & Jakarta Globe