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Death of a foreign citizen

Jakarta Post Editorial - September 3, 2022

Jakarta – When one of our citizens dies an unnatural death in a foreign country, the government has a duty to find out why it happened and see to it that justice is upheld. This is true of almost any government in the world bound by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

So, when an Indonesian fisherman was reportedly shot dead by the Papua New Guinea military for illegal fishing, it was only right that Jakarta demanded an explanation from Port Moresby. And it is equally right that Peru has the right to demand an explanation about the death of one of its citizens apparently while in police custody in Bali, reportedly arrested for attempted drug smuggling.

Both tragedies happened in August. But the contrast in the way the two cases are being handled respectively by the governments of the PNG and Indonesia offers interesting lessons on diplomacy and international courtesy, even as both are complying with international norms.

No less than PNG's prime minister, James Marape, promised a full investigation into the tragic death of Sugeng, the Indonesian boat skipper reportedly shot dead during a chase with a PNG patrolling vessel on Aug. 22. The incident, widely reported in Indonesian media, angered the nation and there were protests, with the Foreign Ministry sending a diplomatic protest to the PNG ambassador in Jakarta. The prime minister's assurances however helped calm the situation in Indonesia.

We wished there was the same candor and commitment to transparency in the case of Rodrigo Ventosilla, a Peruvian transgender man who died in Bali on Aug. 11 under unusual circumstances. One report said he had been picked up by the police upon arrival on an accusation of attempting to smuggle cannabis. He died in hospital two days later reportedly of "failure of bodily functions".

The lack of transparency led to protests in Lima at the Peruvian government's failure to secure a credible explanation about the circumstances of the death. This lack of transparency led to accusations against Bali authorities of "police violence... racial discrimination and transphobia", first made by Ventosilla's family, but quickly picked up by friends in the LGBTQ community and colleagues at the prestigious Harvard University, where he is a registered student.

Indonesian police had declared the case closed and the Foreign Ministry said all procedures as mandated by the Vienna convention had been observed. In a letter to The Jakarta Post this week, responding to the protests at his government, the Peruvian ambassador to Indonesia Luis Tsuboyama said the embassy had been in contact with Indonesian authorities but said that "For reasons of privacy of the case, details cannot be given at this time".

While the Vienna convention allows for privacy at the request of the victim's family, this should no longer be invoked since the case has gone public, with the protests widening beyond just Ventosilla's death to include issues of abuse of power, discrimination and homophobia.

This lack of transparency is hurting the family and friends of the victims first and foremost, but it is also tarnishing the reputation of the Peruvian and Indonesian governments, the Indonesian police and of the holiday island of Bali, which is recovering from the pandemic recession.

And we should take our cue from Papua New Guinea and get someone higher up than a Foreign Ministry spokesman to publicly address the protests. If not the President, then at least the foreign minister.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/09/02/death-of-a-foreign-citizen.htm