A wave of grief and anger could sweep the nation if two Australian convicts are executed by Indonesia this week, warns a prominent psychologist.
With Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday promising the strongest possible response to the executions, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says the nation should be ready if Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are killed by Indonesian officials.
Dr Carr-Gregg says people will naturally feel a range of emotions, including sadness and anger, if the executions go ahead.
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“After 10 years they have well and truly done their time. Show your support by writing letters to the families,” he says. “I’m hoping we can be led by (artist) Mr (Ben) Quilty and be more like him, that’s a reflection of the Australia I want to live in.”
Dr Carr-Gregg says it is normal for the Australian population to feel an attachment to the two men, after they were introduced into people’s living rooms through TV and social media.
The Prime Minister on Sunday warned of a tough response if Indonesia goes ahead with the killings, saying millions of Australians are “sickened” by the prospect of Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, could die this week.
Diplomatic efforts intensified over the weekend, with Mr Abbott making a personal appeal by letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant an 11th-hour reprieve the two men.
On Monday a meeting will take place in Jakarta between Australian officials and Indonesian Foreign Ministry officials to consider the firing squad arrangements.
“Millions of Australians are feeling very, very upset about what may soon happen to two Australians in Indonesia,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Abbott also accused the Indonesian government of hypocrisy for trying to save its citizens on death row in other countries for drug trafficking while rejecting pleas from Australia.
“It certainly believes that the death penalty should not apply to its citizens abroad,” Mr Abbott said. “If it’s right for Indonesia to ask and expect some kind of clemency, it’s surely right for us to ask and expect some kind of clemency.”
Local anger rising
Amid intensifying concern about the plight of the two Australians, more than 150,000 people signed the ‘Mercy Campaign’ petition, begging Indonesia to spare the lives of Chan and Sukumaran.
Dr Carr-Gregg says although they have committed a crime, people will identify with their ability to rehabilitate and the selfless work they have achieved with other inmates in Bali’s Kerobokan jail.
“These two guys did rehabilitate and made a hell of a difference in the prison and changed the lives of so many people. From an awful situation they have risen like phoenixes from the ashes to really make a hell of a mark,” he says.
“The positive is they will have changed the lives of other inmates for ever and that is about it. Because nothing is going to change the barbarity of what will go down.
“And the fact that they get 72 hours notice and are waiting for a knock on the door – the psychological trauma is unimaginable, I don’t even want to think about it.”
Be cautious of children’s exposure
Dr Carr-Gregg says people need to be especially aware of the amount of exposure children and teenagers have to the looming event.
He says children under the age of five should be shielded completely from the executions, where those aged five to 10 might not even care about it.
He says it’s teenagers who will be asking the questions.
“I think many of them will have very clear pictures in their head of people being shot, and lots of questions like ‘what if it (the bullet) misses?’,” Dr Carr-Gregg says.
“It can be combined with magical thinking and end up being more horrible than it already is, if that’s at all possible.
“Don’t think about bringing it up with them over the Cornflakes in the morning. My advice to adults is be guided by their curiosity and form an age appropriate answer.”