Boycotting Bali over the death sentence

Bali island Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption An Australian online movement to boycott the island of Bali has caused a backlash in Indonesia

The beautiful tourist island of Bali is at the centre of a social media confrontation between Australians - who want their nationals to be taken off death row - and furious locals.

In Indonesia, those found guilty of drug trafficking face execution by a 12-man firing squad. Authorities in the Indonesian island are about to carry out this harsh penalty against several foreign nationals. Now, an online movement urging Australian tourists not to visit Bali has triggered a Twitter spat between the two nations.

Australian public outrage has focussed on the cases of two men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, both Australian citizens, and both of whom were sentenced to death in 2006 for leading a drug trafficking group dubbed the "Bali Nine". This month, a local court rejected a petition to review their cases, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo also decided not to grant their request for clemency (although there are reports that their execution may be postponed).

In a bid to save Chan and Sukumaran, Australians on social media have started a #BoycottBali hashtag calling on their countrymen to stop spending their tourist dollars on holidays to the tropical island. "Bali bombers get clemency but the two Australians get executed? Messed up government in Indonesia absolutely disgusted," read a typical tweet, and the hashtag has appeared more than 18,000 times in the last week.

Here's how some Indonesians reacted: "Dear Australians, if you think we prefer tourism than drugs which killed our kids future? please #BoycottBali and find a cheaper one," was one fairly typical tweet. Balinese punk rock band Superman is Dead called the Australian campaign an "over-reaction", and argued Bali could survive without Australian tourism. "Those threatening to boycott Bali probably do not realise that many of us Balinese feel sick to our stomachs, to see the way SOME Aussie tourists completely disrespect our people and our culture," they wrote on their Facebook page.

The Indonesian version of their message has had over 46,000 likes, and the English-language one over 18,000 likes - both have been shared thousands of times on Facebook and Twitter. "I am personally against death penalty," JRX, the drummer of Superman is Dead, told BBC Trending. "But what concerns us now is the Bali boycott issue. We are not saying all Australians are bad... But it is time for Australia to educate their people about how to behave as tourists".

"We would side with Australia if they pushed for a lighter sentence for the convicts, but by asking people to boycott Bali, they are crossing a line," he adds.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A concert held in Sydney in January aimed to show support for Sukumaran and Chan

But many Australians online are sticking to their position. An Australian Facebook group Boycott Bali for the Boys has a rival message on its page: "We merely want the Indonesian government to listen to the Australian people! It will have a lasting impact on the economy of Bali and Indonesia if the goodwill between us is damaged in this way!"

There has been official commentary in the case too. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, said Chan and Sukumaran were "sincerely remorseful" and expressed hope for mercy from Indonesia. "In urging Indonesia not to proceed with the executions of Andrew and Myuran, we are by no means underestimating the problem of drug-related crimes. Nor are we downplaying the gravity of the crimes these two men committed," she said. According to reports, she also said in a radio interview that Australians may "reconsider" their holiday plans if the executions are carried out. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a television station the country would find "ways to make our displeasure felt." Meanwhile, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said they will not be influenced by calls to boycott the country if the executions are not stopped.

Two Britons have also been sentenced to death for drug offences in Indonesia. Lindsay Sandiford, 57, from Cheltenham, was convicted for smuggling after she was found with cocaine worth an estimated £1.6m in Bali in 2012. She is currently trying to seek help from the UK government for legal help or funding for an appeal. Gareth Cashmore, from West Yorkshire, was originally handed a life sentence but the penalty was raised to a death sentence in 2012, according to reports.

Blog by Samiha Nettikkara

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