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book review the pastor and the painter

At 12.35 a.m. on 29 April 2015, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were led out in front of a firing squad. Strapped to wooden crosses, they looked straight down the barrels of their killers’ rifles. On that day, the Indonesian government did not execute two drug smugglers, they executed a pastor and a painter.

But who were Andrew and Myuran?

Cindy Wockner was the Indonesia Correspondent for News Limited and first met Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in 2005. Myuran (24) and Andrew (21) along with 7 other young people had been arrested in Bali for trying to smuggle heroin, crudely strapped to some of the member’s bodies into Australia. The tabloids named them collectively The Bali 9. The two young men were surly, cocky and full of attitude and self-importance. Dubbed the Kingpin and the Godfather, the young men did very little to endear the Australian public to their plight as they were put on death row at the notorious Kerobokan prison.

The Pastor and The Painter is an intimate account of the background, case, and lives of Andrew and Myuran (Myu) told by Cindy Wockner, who followed the case and visited the pair many times over the 10 years they were in prison. Wockner reveals how their families coped, the recognition of their crimes, their rehabilitation and documents the complicated and frustrating court proceedings in Indonesia.

Duffy’s Review Of The Pastor and The Painter

I am not here to preach about the death penalty and I don’t care which side of the fence you sit on. Whichever side, this is an important, yet very difficult book to read. There are so many questions raised in Wockner’s account of the last decade of these young men’s lives. What happened to the mastermind behind the drug operation, are they still pumping heroin into Australia? Why did the Australian police force allow these young people to be arrested in a country where the death penalty was in place? Were the trials fair and just? Ultimately, did the punishment fit the crime?

sukumaran and chan
Self-portrait and portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran. Painted at Nusakambangan Island while awaiting execution

It is clear in the book that Wockner had great empathy for the men and a special bond with Sukumaran. The hardest parts for me were about the families. How would you feel if your little brother or son did something really stupid in the vain hope of chasing a life off of minimum wage? What if you found out your little brother or son had intimidated and threatened young drug mules? What if someone you loved orchestrated importation of a class A drug, or were paraded in front of news crews as they were lead to their death? What would the last 72 hours feel like?

As we near the anniversary of the executions, The Pastor and The Painter has left me with a heavy heart and many, many questions.

If you are interested in law, biographies, open to the possibility that people can change and want to start a conversation, then The Pastor and The Painter is a must-read.

Buy it on Kindle here  Available in bookshops in April.

Thank you to Hachette for the review copy.

the pastor and the painter book review