Jakarta suspends death sentence

Kerobokan Prison in Bali, where drug smugglers have been held. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Indonesia has suspended the execution of death-row prisoners, the archipelago’s top security minister announced.

Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said the government’s priority was to address the economic slowdown during bilateral meetings aimed at boosting trade with Australia.

In April, relations between the countries soured after Indonesia executed several foreigners, including two Australian drug traffickers.

“We haven’t thought about executing a death penalty with the economic conditions like this,” Panjaitan told the media in Jakarta.

He did not say when the next executions would next take place or explain their connection with the economy.

Its economic growth dropped below 5 per cent for two consecutive quarters in 2015.

The country’s tough drug laws have strained its international relationship while foreigners languish in its prisons.

This year it has executed 14 people by firing squad, including citizens from Brazil, the Netherlands and Nigeria.

Many more are on death row, including British woman Lindsay Sandiford. Jakarta observed a four-year moratorium on executions before they resumed in 2013.

Australia recalled its ambassador after its citizens were executed, with then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott condemning the acts as “cruel and unnecessary”.

But the countries are keen to build bridges and last week new Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull held talks in Jakarta in an attempt to boost trade.

Australia’s bilateral trade with New Zealand dwarfs that with Indonesia, a vastly larger market.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has appointed Bank of America Merrill Lynch, CIMB, Citigroup and HSBC as book-runners for a US-dollar bond offering that could raise as much as US$4 billion.

The size and timing of the issue are yet to be decided but the ministry of finance is looking for a large offering as it tries to plug an increasing budget deficit.

The government is planning to borrow around US$11bn from global markets in 2016, which accounts for up to 30 per cent of its total government borrowing, sources say.

Jakarta has already issued overseas bonds totalling US$8.2 billion this year.

Indonesia was expected to run a fiscal deficit equivalent to 2.6 per cent of gross domestic product this year, a finance ministry official told Reuters.

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