Indonesian President Joko Widodo on May 9, ordered the release of a group of political prisoners in Papua to
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on May 9, ordered the release of a group of political prisoners in Papua to "create a sense of peace" in a rare conciliatory gesture to the insurgency-hit eastern province. AFP Photo - Romeo Gacad

Joko Widodo promotes execution while releasing West Papuans

INDONESIAN President Joko Widodo has described the death penalty as a "positive" for his country just weeks after executing two convicted Australian drug smugglers.

Mr Widodo made the comment during an interview aired on Indonesian television on Saturday.

He said his duty as president was to carry out the law, which included the death penalty, "our positive law".

The comments follow the executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran alongside five other foreign drug convicts last month.

Mr Widodo's decision to officially announce the executions on Anzac Day also angered Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who has since focussed on trying to rebuild the strained relationship after recalling Australia's ambassador.

Funerals for both men were held in Sydney last week, with mourners reflecting on their rehabilitation over the decade they spent in prison.

Despite rejecting calls for clemency for the pair, Mr Widodo on Sunday ordered the release of a group of West Papuan political prisoners.

While the five men did not face the death penalty, their release, after convictions related to a 2003 raid on an Indonesian military weapons arsenal, has shown a different approach for Mr Widodo on clemency issues domestically.

Mr Widodo granted the clemency during a visit to West Papua, as a conciliatory gesture to the region, where separatists have long fought for independence from Jakarta.

He told reporters at Abepura prison the release of the prisoners was an effort to "stop the stigma of conflict in Papua", saying the release of the prisoners was "just the beginning" of efforts to create a sense of peace in the region.

The men, all ethic Melanesians, were among a group of Free Papua Movement rebels arrested in 2003, during the rule of then-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The former president had a controversial hold over the nation, and has been widely credited as a key influence on Mr Widodo's decision not to grant clemency for Chan and Sukamaran, a decision widely condemned by the international community.

- APN Newsdesk