BALI Nine drug smuggler Andrew Chan, who is awaiting execution by firing squad, has penned a powerful letter to his 15-year-old self, warning of the stupidity of his actions.
The letter features in a new documentary aimed at high school students, Dear Me: The Dangers of Drugs, in which Chan chastises himself for leading a heroin trafficking ring that has landed him on death row.
The six-page letter also addresses the teenagers of Australia to warn them off a life of drugs and crime.
“I don’t know what choices you guys are making, however, if anything, I would want you guys to remember is, ‘Is it worth it?’,” he says in the film.
“You are still young and you have some serious decisions to make in your life. What you choose today will make what you become tomorrow.
“If you want to be a thug and a big bad wolf, I’ll see you soon inside.
“But for those that want to do something in life, I’d like you guys to see how important it is to put your head down and study hard.”
He laments the life he has missed out on, having been behind bars in Kerobokan prison in Bali since April 17, 2005. He was sentenced to death for leading a scheme to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin into Australia from Thailand.
“At the end of the day, I’m only 29 years old and, the truth is, I might not be able to see my 30th birthday. How many of you want to follow in my footsteps? And I hope these words will penetrate through your minds and in your hearts and that most of you, if not all of you, will achieve more than I ever did,” he says.
“I have missed weddings, funerals, just the simple presence of my family. The hurt and pain that I don’t just put onto myself but my family is agonising. A simple touch such as a hug is not possible for a condemned man like me.
“I have nothing but an iron bar to hug rather than to be embraced by those I love and who I miss. Most likely, I won’t have the chance to see such things such as the birth of my first child, let alone have a child.
“My life is a perfect example of an absolute waste. That does not have to be for you.”
Chan encourages today’s youth to seek out help, whether it be from a school counsellor, a youth centre, or a church, to avoid ending up like him.The director of Dear Me, Malinda Rutter, first met Chan at Kerobokan Prison two years ago and she says he is a changed man.
“Andrew Chan is a very different person to the person that was arrested,” Rutter told news.com.au.
“He’s funny, articulate, he is charismatic and has a very caring personality. You would not think that of a drug smuggler on death row.”
She made the documentary with the hope that it would inspire empathy for Chan and his fellow Bali Nine inmate Myuran Sukumaran.
“They realise their mistakes and where they slipped through the cracks and they’ve worked hard to turn their lives around,” Rutter said.
“I’m proud to call Andrew my friend.”
Rutter said Chan’s criminal behaviour began after he experienced bullying and racism in the schoolyard.“He was a really troubled kid and he wanted to be tougher and bigger than the other kids,” she said.
Chan explains in the film how he chose to follow a dark path.
“I got mixed up with drugs at a pretty young age and by the time I was 15 I was merged into the scene,” he said.
“I have done things which I am not proud of in my life and I made some pretty stupid decisions.
“I’m a person to say this because all you have to do is type me up on Google and I’m sure you get the results ‘death row’.”
But Chan has used his time in Kerobokan to grow. He has turned to god, studying theology and running bible groups for other prisoners.
He runs a cooking school for cellmates, and teaches them skills they can use to get a job when they are released.
He has also counselled friends of fellow inmates who had been executed.
“He was more concerned about how they were feeling that his own situation,” Rutter said.
Despite the fact that he is a convicted drug smuggler, Chan has become an unlikely mentor to many.Rutter remembers him giving advice to her daughter about the HSC.
“I will always remember sitting there with my daughter … and talking about year 12 and she was hanging onto every world because she respected his opinion, which is outrageous when you think about it. You have to ask yourself why,” she said.
Rutter has also spoken to ex-prisoners who Chan had helped to kick their drug habits. One former inmate, Arif Matius, said he felt he should replace Chan’s place in front of the firing squad.
“I would die for him,” Matius says through tear-streaked cheeks in the documentary.
The film ends with Chan’s letter to his 15-year-old self: “Dear Me, when you are older you will be in a Bali prison and you will be executed. This happened to you because you thought taking drugs was cool. Your drug taking made you think that it was OK to import drugs and make money from this. Your family and friends are heart broken and your life will be ended by a firing squad. Underneath you are not a bad person but drugs makes you different. My name is Andrew Chan.”
Rutter said she hoped Chan’s story would inspire empathy from people, but she said at the same time that Australia needed to respect Indonesian law.“We have to appeal to the president (Joko Widodo) because (Chan’s execution) would be such a loss,” Rutter said.
“Andrew knows what he did was wrong and he knows that he should be punished but, for me, I don’t believe that his life should be taken away and that’s the really sad thing because that’s the end. That’s the end of someone turning their life around.
“My heart just breaks for Andrew’s mother and Myuran’s mother.”
The Australian Government has advocated for the pair to be given clemency and Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday that they were “well and truly reformed”.
Mr Widodo has denied clemency to Sukumaran and Chan’s rejection is expected to follow soon.
Chan and Sukumaran’s Indonesian lawyers are preparing a desperate legal appeal, which has been made more urgent after six prisoners were executed on Sunday.
There are a range of views about whether Chan and Sukumaran should be executed. There are campaigns for clemency, such as this online petition; meanwhile, many Australians have commented on social media that they did the crime, so they should accept the punishment.
Rutter understands all point of view on the issue, especially seeing as her sister died of a drug overdose.
“I’ve experience that first-hand. I’ve seen the heartache … but there are human beings involved and, as a human being, you should show empathy and listen to people’s stories.”
The documentary, which was produced by Wyhldfisch Productions, will be distributed to schools.
Rutter, an Australian who now lives in Singapore, has worked in television and film for more than 30 years. She was an actor, model and TV presenter on Simon Townsend’s Wonderworld and MTV, she also produced Don Lane’s radio program.
Dear Me – The Dangers of Drugs documentary and study guide is available at the Atom Education Shop.
Originally published as Chan: ‘My life is … an absolute waste’