The Australian government Friday demanded the country’s human rights chief retract claims linking the execution of two Australians by Indonesia with Canberra’s hardline asylum-seeker policy, calling it “an outrageous slur”.
June 5, 2015
SYDNEY: The Australian government Friday demanded the country’s human rights chief retract claims linking the execution of two Australians by Indonesia with Canberra’s hardline asylum-seeker policy, calling it “an outrageous slur”.
Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said it was no wonder Jakarta refused to back down on the death penalty for Bali drug-smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran when Australia was turning back boats full of migrants.
“Boats have got to stop,” Triggs told The Australian newspaper Friday, referring to asylum-seekers trying to get to Australia, many of whom depart from Indonesia.
“But have we thought about what the consequences are of pushing people back to our neighbour Indonesia?
“Is it any wonder that Indonesia will not engage with us on other issues that we care about, like the death penalty?”
Indonesia executed Chan and Sukumaran by firing squad in April, ignoring impassioned pleas by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other high-level government figures, with Canberra recalling its ambassador in protest as relations took a dive.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Triggs’ comments were out of order.
“I think Professor Triggs has an important responsibility. She holds a quasi-judicial office and for her to be out there making unfounded statements is a complete disgrace,” he told reporters.
“It is offensive to the government, to the Australian public, but most of all it’s offensive to the families of the two men involved,” he said, adding that Triggs should publicly retract her comments.
Despite heading up a government-funded commission, Triggs has been a thorn in Canberra’s side when it comes to boat people, leading criticism, in particular, of the detention of asylum-seeker children.
Their differences exploded earlier this year when Triggs alleged the government broke the law by offering her an inducement to resign.
Australia’s conservative government introduced tough immigration policies in 2013 to stop an influx of would-be refugees.
Asylum-seekers arriving by sea are sent to Pacific camps and boats are turned around when it is safe to do so, or taken back to their country of origin.
Since the military-led operation began, the numbers attempting the route from Indonesia to Australia have declined dramatically, but turning back the boats irked Jakarta.
The policy was not mentioned by Indonesian President Joko Widodo during his defence of the death penalty and refusal to debate the Chan and Sukumaran issue, insisting that Indonesia was facing an emergency due to rising narcotics use.
Along with the Australian pair, five other foreign drug convicts were executed with them, sparking global condemnation.