When Jakarta governor and Indonesian metal fan Joko Widodo was elected president of Indonesia, metal fans and Indonesians alike rejoiced. The son of a wood seller, Widodo was seen as a champion of social welfare and a break from the authoritarian past of the country’s rulers. However, the President showed that he won’t be swayed by his musical idols, as two drug smugglers were executed despite an appeal from Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose to spare their lives.
Rose’s letter was the most recent in a string from notable metal bands. Widodo has been spotted in a Napalm Death shirt in the past, and frontman Barney Greenway was among the first to reach out to Widodo asking that Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran be punished, but not executed. Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi also reached out to appeal, asking for clemency. While it’s pretty clear that Axl’s letter likely wouldn’t have swayed Widodo to spare the pair’s lives, he might have waited a bit long anyway, sending his letter just hours before the executions took place. From Guns N’ Roses’ Facebook page, here’s an excerpt of the letter:
I appeal to you Mr. President, Mr. Joko Widodo to use your power in ways to strengthen international relationships between your country and others, to show your country’s strength and allow the world to witness an extraordinary act of humanity and bravery on yours and your country’s part.
To show each of us that there can be hope and true redemption in times of hopelessness and despair, that rehabilitation and turning one’s life around is not just for one’s place in what if any afterlife there may be or one believes in but here on this earth where it can do each of us the most good in this life now. Where true justice is better achieved in not killing, not ending the lives of and not destroying others but instead in this case, this situation, right now in this moment in your hands in sparing the lives of these two able bodied young men who’ve proven in the Indonesian prison system they are more than capable of being productive and positive contributors to society.
Their crimes were now long ago, their hearts and minds forever changed by their crimes, their trials, the hurt they’ve caused their loved ones, their countrymen, their rehabilitation, remorse, the lasting and deeply embedded fears of the crushing reality of very real and drastic life and death consequences and their deepest desires to become different and better people and if not to be forgiven to be shown mercy and given the opportunity to prove themselves.
It’s true I do not know these men nor have I met them but their story has touched me deeply. I as well as many others could easily have found ourselves in their unfortunate and unarguably self-inflicted position. People make mistakes, sometimes big and horribly regrettable mistakes and sometimes more importantly people learn from their mistakes and make new choices, strive and succeed at true positive change. To not acknowledge and give such change the opportunity to prove it’s value would seem in this case a greater crime than those originally committed.
This is clearly not a case of hardened, unrepentant, violent or greed driven killers with no regard for the lives of others. They are not con men lying and faking their behavior over all these years only to return to the people they once were and are no longer. That these individuals must die purely as an example to others is in my opinion akin to a kidnapper or terrorist killing hostages to make their point and have their demands met. In carrying out their death sentences the example shown here is one of draconian justice where the punishment in this stage of the condemned’s lives by virtue of their rehabilitation and genuine remorse over all these years no longer fits the original crime.
I realize I am no one and no one to get involved with your affairs or those of your government and how this letter reads or anyone other than yourself thinks of it is irrelevant. Only the lives of these three human beings are what’s important now. That said I did not speak in jest or empty flattery when I spoke of how I and my organization were affected by the depth of warmth shown us by the Indonesian people during our performance and stay in Jakarta.
Metal Sucks points out that Rose sent out a series of tweets, calling the executions “inexcusable,” saying that by Widodo being out of the country and refusing to take calls or read any pleas was “cowardice” and that the people of Indonesia deserve better. It’s encouraging to see Rose invested in a cause, and his letter is eloquent and well-written. It’s unfortunate that Widodo didn’t give the smugglers a reprieve, but at the same time, part of being a leader is sticking to your resolve. But yeah, don’t look for GN’R in Indonesia any time soon.