The early release of Abu Bakar Bashir,the ‘Mastermind’ behind the2002 Bali bombings– that took the lives of 202 people and injured a further 209 – will be met with a mixture of dismay and anger by those directly and indirected affected by this attack, orchestrated by the terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah.
Bashir was given an early-release pardon by Indonesia’s president Joko (Jokowi) Widodo yesterday and willleave his Java prison cell, in Bogor, next week.
The spiritual leader,is now 81 years of age and in poor health. Whilst he still commands a strong following, he is hardly a ‘Mastermind’ any longer, and these facts were obviously taken into consideration by Jokowi when reviewing the case. We do not know what role Jokowi’s presidential running-mate and senior Islamic cleric, Ma’ruf Amin played in this decision and what influence Jokowi’s powerful ‘inner circle adviser', Yusril Mahendra also exercised, however the president would have been mindful that he is only three months away from the national presidential election.
Notwithstanding Bashir’s health and age, for many people his early release will be met with disbelief and concern as to what message this decision will send to the extreme Islamic conservatives in Indonesia. We should also remember that Bashir’s leadership resulted in thedeaths of 38 Indonesian citizensas a result of the bombing in Kuta Beach. The Indonesian families of those lost will share the concerns, and pain felt by most Australians.
It is unfortunate that our prime minister is now constrained in making a stronger comment about this unfortunate decision by Indonesia, as his relationship with President Jokowi is hardly warm, and also Mr Morrison needs to remember his owns words during the Jerusalem embassy issue, when he told Indonesia that,"foreign countries should not interfere with another country’s internal or sovereign issues”.Sloppy – or non existent - foreign policy often comes back to bite you.
Bali today however, is a much safer place than in 2002, and the Indonesian police continue to work closely with our AFP to ensure Bali remains relatively safe and secure as 1.2 million Australians make their way there each year.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, right, and the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, at a recent meeting on the sidelines of an international summit in Singapore.CreditMick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock