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Chan and Sukumaran’s best friend in politics

Forbidding Kerobokan Prison where Renae Lawrence began her road to redemption.

Forbidding Kerobokan Prison where Renae Lawrence began her road to redemption. Photo: AAP

A man who has never met Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan has worked tirelessly with his contacts developed over decades in politics to stop their deaths by firing squad.

Liberal MP Philip Ruddock has avoided spotlight and foregone grandstanding at rallies in the fight to save the two Australians, but he has been one of their fiercest advocates at the highest levels of diplomacy.

As Chan and Sukumaran were being moved to Nusakambangan island – notoriously known as ‘Indonesia’s Alcatraz’ – Mr Ruddock told The New Daily he has worked quietly with Amnesty International and Bali Nine member Scott Rush’s family to avert the final punishment.

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About 18 months ago he also raised the issue of the death penalty with the Indonesian parliament’s Komisi Satu or Commission One, which campaigns to avert the punishment for about 400 Indonesians convicted abroad.

“I thought that we might well be able to work together to help save Indonesians. I hoped they would see … the hypocrisy of wanting to execute people in Indonesia when they’re working so hard to see their own nationals relieved of the death penalty abroad,” Mr Ruddock told The New Daily.

Officials are preparing for the executions of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Officials are preparing for the executions of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

His offer of help was rejected, and it looks set to cost Chan and Sukumaran their lives.

“One ought to be asking, if the Indonesian criminal justice system is capable of producing reformed characters, isn’t that something that we ought to celebrate?” Mr Ruddock said.

“The death penalty is just so final. If you can fundamentally change the way in which people behave in relation to what is criminal behaviour then I think the criminal justice system that is able to achieve that should be celebrated.”

Hopes fade

Mr Ruddock’s comments came as the two men prepared to learn when the final 72 hours of their lives would begin.

The pair were among a group of 11 prisoners slated to be executed on Nusakambangan.

Just minutes before they left their Bali prison on Wednesday morning, Chan’s brother Michael turned up at the gates and attempted to be allowed inside, but he was denied access.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Government was “revolted” by the prospect of the two men being killed and was continuing to press Indonesia for a stay of execution.

Unstinting effort

Mr Ruddock’s work to save the Bali Nine caps a lifelong opposition to the death penalty. He has worked alongside Amnesty in the fight against it for over 40 years.

More recently, Mr Ruddock became the co-­chair of a parliamentary grouping opposed to the death penalty. The grouping is co-­chaired by Chris Hayes MP, has 36 members with more expected, Mr Ruddock said.

But Mr Ruddock’s behind-the-scenes efforts to save Chan and Sukumaran stems from the period he was Immigration Minister – March 1996 to October 2003 – and the contacts he made in Indonesia.

“There are people I know who have linkages in the Indonesian political system, and I’ve endeavoured to engage with them informally with a view to trying to ascertain whether there are ways and means of influencing Indonesian decision makers,” he said.

“There are any number of ways that you can develop linkages over time and I have used them where they are available.

AAP

Indonesian police secure the perimeter of Kerobokan prison before the removal of the Australian prisoners. Photo: AAP

“The Indonesians don’t respond well to what we call ‘megaphone diplomacy’, and if you have informal linkages which you can use it’s better to protect them than to expose them.”

His point on ‘dialogue ­by ­media’ recalls the reaction in Indonesia to Mr Abbott’s comments reminding Australia’s neighbour of our contribution to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami recovery effort.

A backlash on Twitter saw an embarrassing meme #koinuntukaustralia emerge where Indonesians pledged coins to pay back relief funding, as a reminder of Indonesia’s sovereignty.

Mr Ruddock played down the outrage over the comments, saying Indonesians knew how much Australians had helped their country in the past.

But he flagged consequences for the relationship between the two countries if the death penalty was carried out.

Bali Nine Duo Prepare For Imminent Transfer To Nusakambangan Prison

Kerobokan prison. Photo: Getty

“I suspect this will impact on the bilateral relationship in ways that might be unexpected in the future, not necessarily in ways I would encourage, but inevitably some people will be disappointed if this happens.”

While Mr Ruddock has never spoken with Chan or Sukumaran, never exchanged a greeting card or left a voicemail, he is in regular communications with the Rush family.

And his bond with the Rush family has lasted.

“Mum and Dad (Rush) have, sort of, said he hasn’t heard from me for a while and I said ‘what happened to my Christmas card?'”.

Rush had been moved and the card arrived at his old location, Mr Ruddock said.

“We’re remedying that.”

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