Another Day In Paradise

The exhibition of Myuran Sukumaran paintings mentioned in the video I posted yesterday moved from Sydney to Canberra at the beginning of March. On Saturday I saw it for myself. It closes on the 29th April but will reopen at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria from 7th July to 16th September 2018.

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It was the most emotionally challenging exhibition I’ve experienced. Even Gloria, who isn’t generally interested in art exhibitions was deeply affected.

 

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The exhibition started with a large portrait of Sukumaran, displayed at the bottom of stairs leading up to the exhibition rooms. The painting was very reminiscent of Ben Quilty’s style, and after leaving the gallery I started to wonder whether it had actually been by Quilty – I couldn’t remember reading the attribution beside the painting, however, I’m now confident that it was one of Sukumaran’s.

The rest of the paintings were split between two rooms.

Within the first exhibition room, the first paintings are a series depicting the “Bali Nine”, very recognisable portraits of Sukumaran, Andrew Chan, and the other seven who were arrested with them and imprisoned for drug trafficking in April 2005.

On the opposite wall were a similar series of paintings (I now wonder whether there were nine of those too – I didn’t think to count) of political figures associated with the case, firstly Indonesian president Joko Widodo, the man who ensured Sukumaran and Chan were shot, followed by others including portraits of Tony Abbott (then Australian PM) Julie Bishop (Foreign Minister) and former Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

This is the Sukumaran’s last painting. It was displayed suspended from the ceiling, about 45cms away from the wall allowing the back of the board to be seen.
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The back of the board has messages written by all of those who were scheduled to be executed along with Sukumaran and Chan. The messages include one from Mary Jane Veloso, from the Philippines, who was given a last minute reprieve. Her fight to avoid execution continues three years later.

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The second room had family portraits and a wall of paintings from Sukumaran’s final 72 hours.

He made the most of that time, with some of his most emotionally raw and revealing work, as he tried to get as much on canvas as was possible while he could, knowing he had only hours to live.

The part of the exhibition that I consider to be a very moving conclusion was set up in an alcove-like area of the second room. Two large TV screens faced each other from opposite walls. On one it appeared to have a large still image of Andrew Chan facing the camera, eyes obscured by dark glasses. However tiny head movements revealed it was a close up video with Chan staring into the camera.

On the other screen, there was a similar image of Sukumaran staring back towards Chan, with an occasional blink “spoiling” the apparent stillness before finally. breaking into a smile.

This video installation emphasises what was lost with the unnecessary (and foolishly cruel) decision to  kill the two men; two men who were NOT the same people they had been when arrested and condemned to die ten years before.

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Sukumaran, Chan and six others were bound, by the elbows, to a cross like this. To each of them were allocated twelve marksmen, training their sights upon the heart of their designated victims, most of whom sang hymns until their voices were silenced by the fatal shots.

 

 

Myu’s last words were ‘Jesus, I trust in you’

(Christie Buckingham , Sukumaran’s chosen spiritual adviser who accompanied him to, and witnessed, his execution)

 

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see: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jan/14/another-day-in-paradise-review-a-raw-emotional-insight-into-bali-nine-artists-life-on-death-row

and

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/gallery/2017/jan/14/another-day-in-paradise-bali-nine-member-myuran-sukumarans-art-in-pictures

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The Pastor and the Painter, by Cindy Wockner

Reading The Pastor and the Painter was a little like reading a book about the Titanic. The tragic conclusion has already been well publicised.

Andrew Chan (the pastor) and Myuran Sukumaran (the painter) were killed by an Indonesian firing squad, upon the order of the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo.

Chan and Sukumaran had been sentenced to death by a Bali court for drug trafficking a decade before the sentence was finally carried out. Pleas for clemency were denied.

Not long before his death, Sukumaran painted a portrait of the man who would demand that the executions be carried out. On the back of the painting of the president, Sukumaran wrote “People Do Change”, stating the fact that everyone apart from the president seemed to recognise – that the two men whose lives were being taken from them were not the same men who committed the crime a decade before. They HAD changed.

The men sentenced were young, irresponsible, angry, unco-operative and undeniably guilty of the crime.
The men being executed 10 years later were repentant, responsible and highly respected by those with authority over them in jail. Unlike many in their position who buried their despair in drug use, Chan and Sukumaran turned their lives around and went to work developing and running training programs and various other activities for other prisoners within the jail.

Chan studied for Christian ministry and started a church within the prison.
Sukumaran developed his artistic skills and was mentored by Australian artist Ben Quilty; sharing what he learned through holding art classes for fellow prisoners. Paintings were sold and proceeds used for various causes, including raising money to pay for life saving surgery for a female prisoner.

While many in the past have had sentences reduced, sadly, for others Indonesian law would remain inflexible.

 

Laws are like spider webs: if a fly or mosquito gets near, it gets trapped, but if a wasp or bee goes near, it breaks it and leaves. The same applies to the law: if a poor man strays he gets caught, while the rich and powerful exempt themselves from the law and walk away.

(Andrew Chan – from The Pastor and the Painter)

The absurdity of executing fully rehabilitated young men, who had not only turned their own lives around but had made significant contributions to the rehabilitation of their fellow prisoners, became even more extreme when the time came for them to be transported to the place where they were to be held prior to facing a firing squad. It was a full-on military exercise with armoured vehicles, armed soldiers and fighter jets escorting them on their journey.

On 27th April, two days before he and Myuran were executed, Andrew Chan married Febyanti Herewila, a local church minister, in a ceremony within the prison.

All up, about 20 people gathered, After Muran led them in prayer, he started singing ‘Bless the Lord’, a song also known as ‘10,000 Reasons’, and one they all knew and loved.

There was still some time for jokes amid the sad pall that hung over the Besi prison visiting area. As Myuran got stuck into some more junk food, someone told him it wasn’t good for him.

He smiled. “There are worse ways to die”.

(From The Pastor and the Painter)

 

On 29th April 2105, at 12.25am, Andrew and Myuran and six others were brutally killed by Indonesian president Joko Widodo. The weapon used: firing squad.

They were strapped by the elbows to wooden crosses and sang until their voices were silenced by the fatal gunshots. The song in the video above is the last they sang.

 

 

The eight people who were executed in Indonesia on 29 April 2015. Top row from left (including two of the Bali Nine): Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Nigerian Okwuduli Oyatanze and Nigerian Martin Anderson. Bottom row from left: Nigerians Raheem Agbaje Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin. Two others (not pictured) who were scheduled to be executed were given a temporary reprieve. Photograph: The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/29/bali-nine-who-are-the-nine-people-being-executed-by-indonesia )

Something is rotten in the state of Maryland

I’ve been reading Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry. I found it after I’d discovered a true crime podcast SERIAL that looked at the conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, Maryland.

The SERIAL podcast raised some interesting questions about the case, and while the presenter Sarah Koenig didn’t come to any conclusion about Syed’s guilt or innocence, she thought there was sufficient room for reasonable doubt that he should not have been found guilty based on the evidence presented in court.

After listening to SERIAL, I moved on to another podcast, one that takes a much more in depth look at the legalities of the case. Undisclosed is presented by Rabia Chaudry (author of Adnan’s Story) Susan Simpson and Colin Miller, attorneys who have studied Syed’s case in depth.

At the beginning of Undisclosed, Chaudry advises listeners to hear SERIAL before tackling her own podcast. Doing so gives the basic background to the case and introduces all of the main players, allowing the presenters of  Undisclosed to tackle the case in more depth without having to cover introductory material already handled in the older podcast.

SERIAL left the story with a state of ambiguity.  Did Adnan Syed kill Hae Min Lee or not? Maybe, maybe not!

Undisclosed has no time for ambiguity. It isn’t using the case as the basis for an entertaining listening experience.  It digs deeply into the evidence and presents it in a very accessible way. It wants to find the truth and present it to a wider audience. The bonus for the listener is that it still manages to ‘entertain”.

Rabia Chaudry is a friend of Syed and his family, so its not surprising that she should take up his cause and try to present a case for his innocence, so I started my listening and reading journey into this murder case with a degree of caution. However, the people she gathered around her didn’t have that personal connection and their help was sought after they had already been investigating the case for themselves.

The further I got into the podcasts and the book, it became clear that any bias held by Chaudry was not only due to her family connection to Syed. There is more than enough evidence available to indicate that several very untoward things had happened leading to Syed’s conviction and imprisonment. From very dodgy policing through to the equally questionable tactics of the prosecution.

Here are two examples relating to the prosecution case.

  1. They used phone records to “prove” Syed was at the site where the body was found, around the time her burial allegedly took place. Apart from the circular argument that set the burial time according to the phone record, and then used that phone record to say Syed was there at the time of the burial, the phone documents themselves specifically stated that they should not be used to determine a phone’s (and by extension it’s owner’s) location. (1)
  2. The primary evidence against Syed was the testimony of Jay Wilds who claimed that Syed had killed Hae Min Lee and then recruited Wilds to help him bury the body. Apart from the fact that Wilds’ story changed significantly every time he told it, the following information came out a few years ago from the defence attorney representing Wilds in the plea deal he made to escape prosecution for his own alleged part as an accessory after the fact of the murder:  “Urick [the prosecutor in Syed’s case] said that Jay had two choices: either accept a plea deal as accessory after the fact in exchange for testifying against Adnan, or Urick would charge him with the murder of Hae Min Lee and prosecute the case in Baltimore County, where a majority white jury would be much more likely to find a black man guilty, and he could end up facing the death penalty”.

Regarding the policing, evidence given suggests that witnesses were actually coached by police regarding the testimony they gave, and that witness evidence shifted and changed several times to make it fit a “flexible” timeline. That might seem like an extreme claim to make against hard working detectives, keen on seeing justice within their city (Baltimore, Maryland), however, the very same detectives have later had at least four of their cases overturned and the alleged perpetrators released due to questions raised about the cases they’d built against their suspects. Undisclosed provides information about the way the police used similar tactics to that attributed to Urick, the prosecutor, where vulnerable “witnesses” were scared into testifying on their behalf to avoid threatened charges against them, such as blaming them for the crime.

Susan Simpson, Chaudry’s fellow podcaster explains on her blog:

The murder of Hae Min Lee was investigated by Detectives William Ritz and Gregory MacGillivary. To date, three four* defendants who were convicted of murder pursuant to investigations by either Ritz or MacGillivary have been found to have been wrongfully convicted and released from prison. (see here)

This subject is discussed in depth in the Undisclosed podcast  – episode 9 – “Charm City”

 

This was all compounded by a defence attorney’s weak performance. She not only overlooked the above mentioned statement regarding the phone records, she also avoided contacting an eye witness who could account for Syed’s actions elsewhere at the very time he was allegedly committing the murder. The defence even lied to her client, telling him the alibi witness wasn’t valid because she realised she’d remembered a different day. That was not the case. Not long after Syed’s trial, his defence attorney was disbarred.

I could write more an more about this case, but I’d only be retelling details that can already be found in the podcasts and the books. The podcasts are easily and freely available to anyone willing to take the time. It’s probably not the kind of thing that most people are interested enough to follow up. They might not be interested in the plight of one young man who has spent almost 20 years of his life (starting age 17) at a crime he most likely didn’t commit. But one thing seems clear to me – how safe can anyone be if the legal system that is supposed to protect them actually targets them for its own convenience? When achieving results (any result) is more important than achieving justice.

A few days ago Adnan Syed was granted a new trial, giving him the opportunity to have the case reheard, hopefully resulting in a verdict fitting to the facts, not manipulated and distorted to suit any agenda, but a verdict that serves justice.

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(1)

 

Here are two YouTube videos addressing the science of the case.


Caution, some of the details spoken about in the following video can be disturbing.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: More Relevant than Ever! by Olivier Melnick

Yom HaShoah was voted by the Israeli Knesset as an official national memorial day in Israel in 1953. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion established that day as a yearly memorial for the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Every year since that day, Jewish people remember the Shoah or “Catastrophe” as they perpetuate the memory of the loved ones they lost in the Holocaust. In Israel, on that day, two minutes of silent reflection is observed at 10:00 AM as a siren is heard all over the country. It isn’t unusual to even see motorists stop in the middle of the road and get out of their cars to observe that solemn moment. This year, it takes place on the 27th of Nisan which happens to start at sundown on April 11.

Full article here:
http://www.newantisemitism.com/antisemitism/holocaust-remembrance-day-more-relevant-than-ever

 

 

Whatever Will Bee will Bee

In almost 60 years I had only ever been stung by a bee twice.

The first time was when I was in High School. I was watching a basketball game being played on an outside court. I was sitting on the concrete surface beside the court and rolled my knee onto a bee. Why it was there I wouldn’t know – but I definitely found out quickly that it WAS there.

The second time, also in my teens, I was walking along a grassy path at the beach and stepped onto a clover patch and an unlucky bee. This time the whole back of the bee ripped off and I could see it pumping its poison into my toe.

Apart from the initial pain, I don’t recall any other adverse reaction from either sting.

Fast forward more than four decades to 2018 and within a matter of a month I have been stung twice. The first time I was picking zucchinis from one of our plants. At first I though I’d been jabbed on the arm by one of the prickles on the stalk of a zucchini leaf, but the pain intensified. Later the arm started swelling and turned red. I started to suspect the sting was due to something more.

On the weekend I was stung again, this time on my finger and clearly by a bee, I saw the remains of it.

We were working in the garden and Gloria handed me some weeds to put in our green-waste bin. The bee was within those weeds and didn’t waste time showing its displeasure.

It was initially painful. Now my finger has swollen quite a bit. It’s uncomfortable but no longer hurts, and will probably take a day or two to return to normal. The reaction is the same as what happened to my arm, so that was most likely caused by a bee as well.

Despite all of that I know it could have been worse.

From: https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/39786070/coles-shopper-matt-luxford-says-redback-spider-found-on-broccoli/