Compass: Life and Death

Compass: Life and Death

For the very first time the families of Bali 9 prisoners, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, have consented to a television interview.

Compass: Life and Death airs this Sunday, March 22 at 10.05pm on ABC1.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are two young Australian men who have been condemned to die by firing squad. Final appeals against their sentences are now being prepared.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are two of the three 'Bali Nine' facing execution in Indonesia for drug trafficking. In this moving COMPASS episode their families speak for the first time about life in the shadow of the death penalty.

There are few options left for appealing their sentences, but Myuran, Andrew and their families survive each day on scraps of hope. During family visits to Bali's Kerobokan Prison, talk is of everyday and domestic matters, and not of what may come. But both young men have a great deal of time to think. Their visitors observe that they have become more thoughtful, more emotionally aware and more committed to faith.

Melbourne barrister Julian McMahon is one of the Australian counsel for Chan and Sukumaran. He well knows their families' predicament.

"They're not allowed to grieve because no one has died. They're not allowed to move on because there's hope that they might be able to save the person who is on death row… So they can't go forward, they can't go back, they're just stuck in the grey zone," he says.

Some years ago Julian represented Nguyen Tuong Van, another young Australian who was hanged for drug offences in Singapore in 2005. In Life and Death Julian recalls Van's transformation in prison, and his journey to faith.

Julian and Van's friends, Bronwyn and Kelly, remember the last weeks of Van's life. They speak about their campaign to save his life, and their grief since his execution. Kim Van Nguyen, Van's mother, tells of her ongoing suffering. Now there are other Australians facing the same horror and grief.

Through the parallel story lines of two separate cases, COMPASS examines the ripple effect of the death penalty and the damage it does to all involved.

Sally Warhaft, editor of The Monthly magazine, has visited Andrew and Myuran in Kerobokan Prison. She joins the Chan and Sukumaran families in this COMPASS program, as they speak publicly for the first time about their suffering.

"To me one of the cruellest things about the death penalty or a death sentence is that the punishment inflicts itself on people that are without any doubt innocent of a situation. And in that sense I am referring to the family members of anyone on death row," Sally tells COMPASS.

COMPASS meets Michael Chan, Andrew's brother; Myuran's mother Rajini, and his brother and sister Chinthu and Brintha Sukumaran, to learn how they and their young men cope with life in the "grey zone" - dreading the firing squad whilst still daring to hope for reprieve.

IMAGE: Rajini Sukumaran holds a picture of her son, Myuran, taken when he was a school boy.