Belfast Telegraph

Ulster pastor's death row plea fails as Australian drug smugglers are executed in Indonesia

By Adrian Rutherford

A Northern Ireland-born pastor who supported two Australian drug smugglers killed by firing squad last night has criticised their executions.

Christie Buckingham spoke out as Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan - part of the Bali Nine - entered their final hours.

The pair were arrested in 2005 on the Indonesian island over a plot to smuggle around 8kgs of heroin to Australia.

They were executed last night after Indonesia's president rejected a last-minute plea for clemency.

Sukumaran asked Ms Buckingham, a senior pastor at Bayside Pentecostal church in Melbourne, to be his spiritual adviser and to witness his execution.

However, Australian media reported the men had been denied their choice of spiritual adviser in their final hours.

Speaking ahead of the executions, Ms Buckingham said it was no longer certain she would get to see Sukumaran, but criticised the Indonesian government.

"The boys are so courageous and it's hard to believe Indonesia is about to kill two of their most potent weapons in the war on drugs," she told Australian radio station 3AW.

"They are the perfect example that people can change, people can reform and everyone deserves a second chance.

"Even the guards yesterday were so sad this is moving the way it is."

Ms Buckingham paused at length when asked whether she was "ready" for the possibility of witnessing the pair's deaths.

"I have no idea, to be frank... Is anybody ever ready to witness such a barbaric act in 2015?" she added.

She also told Australian state broadcaster ABC: "These boys should not be executed. We're in 2015. We're in 2015. These boys made a horrendous mistake… and they just want to slaughter them."

Chan (31) and Sukumaran (33) were among nine mainly foreign prisoners scheduled to be killed yesterday.

Only one prisoner, Mary Jane Veloso from the Philippines, was given a reprieve.

The pair were ringleaders of a group of Australian smugglers who became known as the Bali Nine.

They were arrested at the main airport on the holiday island in 2005.

The other seven are serving either life or 20 years in prison.

Yesterday relatives were visibly distressed after spending what they believed to be their final moments with the men.

Sukumaran's sister collapsed and had to be carried.

After the meeting, the men's brothers made an appeal via the media for final clemency, with Michael Chan describing the goodbye as "torture".

"I saw today something that no other family should ever have to go through. To walk out of there and say goodbye for the last time, it is torture. No family should go through that," he said.

Chintu Sukumaran said: "I ask the president [of Indonesia] to please show mercy, please don't let my mum and my sister have to bury my brother."


Originally from Portstewart, Christie Buckingham moved to Australia in 1986 and, since 1994, she and her husband Rob have been serving as senior ministers of Bayside Church in Melbourne. Ms Buckingham is co-host with her husband on a morning talk show, The Exchange. A mother-of-three, she has been the Australian and New Zealand Director of Revival Ministries International for over 10 years.

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