A Twitter conversation on the eve of an execution: a polylogic epistalory story



Speaking to the CSIRO Forum on 25 November 2013 in an address titled Indonesia: What Asia’s Third Giant Means for Australia, and Australian Business, former Australian Foreign Minister, now Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, reminded the audience of his often quoted comment that, “No two neighbours anywhere in the world are as comprehensively unalike as Australia and Indonesia. We differ in language, culture, religion, history, ethnicity, population size, and in political, legal and social systems.”

This was no more evident in this Twitter dialogue I had with an Indonesian on the eve of the execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

After the conversation I harvested the Tweets using Storify.  Since then Storify is now available as a WordPress.org plugin.

I had the complete story here for a while but the varying bandwidths and Internet speeds available to me in Singapore and my contact in Lombok tended to throw the tweets, and therefore the story, out of sequence.

After having a few academic and journalistic friends read over the finished story I’ve decided to adjust the timeline so the chronology of the dialogue is easier to follow.  The content remains but the order will change.

The full story will be published in my next book of short stories.

In the meantime, here is a fragment.


Twitter’s jumble of countervailing opinions can be confusing yet it can take us beyond the managed news cycle of media conglomerates and ‘official’ versions of the truth. It’s 140 character thought bubbles are a rich source of opinions, propaganda, prejudice, polemic, current trends and information.

Riley is well know criminal lawyer. I’d followed him on Twitter for around four years and respected his opinions. He tended to attract followers rather than follow others. Sure this did speak of a large ego but overall his take on human rights and social justice warranted attention.

One evening Riley was engaged in an exchange of Tweets on the impending execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

I sent him a supportive Tweet, then noticed a stream of Tweets direct at him from someone called Sarling. Next moment a tweet from Sarling popped up in my notifications.

Maximos is this also u call as good law?

Why is Sarling involving me?

Of course, he’s included me because I tweeted support to @Riley. Odd that he’s singled me out. What does he mean?

Is it he? I don’t know. It’ll do for the moment. I must check some Sarling tweets to make sense of this.

Okay, it seems as though Sarling is Indonesian, from Lombok. He’s expressive in English but struggling with word choice and syntax.It feels like school-boy English supplemented by time on the fringes of the tourist industry.

There’s lots of the swearing in his tweets. That’s uncommon amongst most Indonesian women I’ve met. I reckon he’s almost certainly a young man.

Maximos They deserve to die soo many good kids die as junkies cos of them.

Another one so soon. Mmm expressing Jokowi’s position it seems.

Maximos Our justice system kill bali blast n release the queen of mariyuana corby (oops she just victims some body put it in her bag)

This is a bit controversial, so where’s this going?

Maximos none off you protest when we kill bali blast or maybe hipocrit coz u also killing at middle east.

Alluding to double standards, interesting, but directing that at me is not on. Well at least he says ‘maybe’.

He’s right about the killing in the Middle East. There’s more than a little hypocrisy in the world around that elephant in the room. That crazy Coalition of the Willing seriously destabilised Iraq and Syria.

I was clear about my opposition to capital punishment for the Bali bombers. Of course Sarling wouldn’t have the vaguest clue about my involvement in the bombing relief effort.

This is like a red rag to a bull, for me. Better tone it down though.

So what’s the best way to reply and not raise the emotional tone? He’s been struggling a little with English so definitely in Indonesian.

Sarling Why do you think I supported capital punishment for the perpetrators of Bali Blast or the war in the Middle East?

Maximos because you said nothing when your government did.

That’s better a clear response in Bahasa.

He has a point, but it’s a generic you and not one applying specifically to me. I understand why he’s saying this. Back in August 2003 , when Bali bomber Amrozi was sentrenced to death, John Howard really over stepped the mark on Australia’s opposition to capital punishment. He played the populist card as usual. I still remember the interview with Mark Colvin on PM.



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