“ANDREW CHAN WAS INDEED A GOOD MAN”, by Robert McJannett
The first Australian face I saw when I arrived at Kerobokan Prison was Andrew Chan’s. I was at the half-way point of entry between the front office and the back office of the prison in a medium sized room with some bench stools and a long table.
I was suffering the onset of blood poisoning and was distressed from the past eight days of devious manoeuvres by the corrupt Bali police. The paparazzi were acting as crazily as they did with Corby and the Bali Nine.
I was a mess and would have taken the suicide option if I had been pushed any further.
Andrew had somehow got past the guards and into the holding area and immediately got in my face. I mean right in my face, asking "What's this I hear, are your whimpin' out mate?" He grabbed me by the shoulders, "What's up mate, come on spit it out, spit it out, what's up with you?" And so it went on and on.
I went on the defensive and put up a brick wall trying to crawl into my shell until the bad man confronting me went away. I was hoping I would wake up in the morning and it would all be just a bad dream.
But Andrew didn't go away. I remember thinking, "This cannot be the Andrew Chan studying to become a priest guy I had been hearing about." But it turned out it was the same guy. He persisted and persisted until finally I opened up to him and told him how I was feeling about facing a lifetime in Kerokoban for the lousy amount of marijuana I was caught with. That just triggered an even bigger effort from Andrew.
He then stepped it up a notch as he must have sensed that unless I snapped out of my deep low I would be going nowhere but down further the endless hole of Kerokoban. Andrew gave me the shakeup I needed to get ready for what was waiting on the inside only about an hour of paperwork away.
During the next month it was really hard trying to make my cell liveable while battling this severe tropical infection with minimal medical facilities available. Survival was the order of the day for me and at so many steps along the way Andrew Chan was always there to point me in the right direction or procure life's necessities from the outside of the prison.
Andrew had so many visitors... he was the man! He could arrange to have your essential items brought in from the outside.
Then there was Andrew's faith in the Lord. I was born a Christian and baptised in the Church of England but, like so many, I had drifted away when they stopped religious instruction in the State schools in Queensland.
I restored my faith right there in Andrew's church and, if nothing else, I owed it to him to at least support his ministry, so I went along every Sunday when I was well enough. I was honoured to witness just how genuine Andrew was with his faith and his driving wish to help his fellow mates.
Andrew Chan saved my life, not only with my attitudinal adjustment but also by helping me get rid of the blood sucking leach lawyer I had foisted upon me by the police. He helped find the only lawyer that could be trusted and not likely to run off with what little money I had and leave me stranded.
Andrew never got involved in anyone’s legal matters but he made an exception for me because he could see I really needed to go home, that the work he had done with me could only ever be a temporary fix and a long sentence was going to bring back the roller coaster nightmare. For that I will always be eternally grateful and in debt to him.
I am 53 years old and I have been a working class man my entire adult life and have encountered so many ex-prisoners in society, I could not recall the number, but never have I seen an example of prison reform that goes anywhere near that achieved by Andrew Chan.
When I met Andrew in January 2010 in that holding area of Kerobokan Prison and he did those miraculous things for me in such a short space of time... things that nobody has ever done for me in my life... I knew then that Andrew was a special man.
I observed him helping the other seven convicts, especially the young boys, Scott and Michael. I'm certain in his heart Andrew felt responsible for getting those boys into trouble and almost on to death row.
This must also have been a constant torment for him and it gives me slight relief from my enormous grief to think that Andrew will at least now be at peace and away from all his personal torment.
Andrew did not deserve to die and he especially did not deserve to die in such an undignified manner after a decade of torment on death row and I certainly hope he did not witness the horrifying scenes at Cilicap port where his mother and brother were monstered by belligerent Indonesians after the family’s privacy had been “sold” to the paparazzi.
Then a few hours later the Indonesian Government used its power to murder eight more men and create another unknown number of widows and orphans. An abuse of power over our citizens, the likes of which we have never before seen. To me an act of war!
Vale Andrew Chan... your memory will live on in my heart forever and your legacy will blunt the relationship between our nation State and the evil of the Jakarta Empire. For many years to come, so help me, I will carry on in the quest for justice and closure.
I will return to attend the Indonesian Corruption Commission hearings in Jakarta slated to probe the bribe allegations against the Judiciary. The right amount of money could have saved Andrew and others. But hopefully before then we will see the expulsion of all non resident Indonesian officials in every State of Australia and the Ambassador in Canberra... .
So, Vale Andrew Chan... my friend always,
Robert’s story of his time in Kerokoban is here: