Throughout the Christmas-New Year break, The Interpreter will be featuring some of its best pieces from 2015. More to come between now and January 4 when The Interpreter will be back for 2016.

Jokowi makes a political spectacle of executions, by David McRae, 19 February.

Syamsuddin's beef is the way that Jokowi's government has made a spectacle of executions. 'By publicising the names of the people to be executed on a grand scale, it's as if the reportage can be enjoyed as a show and a spectacle of the government's grandeur,'Syamsuddin told the press

Syamsuddin has a point. One of the most distasteful features of Jokowi's execution of six narcotics criminals has been the President's drive to maximise the political advantage he gains from the killings.

Jokowi has repeatedly told Indonesians the country faces a drugs crisis, using discredited statistics to claim 50 Indonesians die from narcotics every day. Against this backdrop, Jokowi's 'no mercy for drugs convicts' stance (stated repeatedly in public engagements across the country) and his sharp escalation of Indonesia's use of executions have been a shortcut for him to appear to be a firm leader.

Ironically, Jokowi's tactics resemble nothing so much as the campaign strategy of his defeated presidential rival, authoritarian-era general Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo too made liberal use of dodgy numbers during the election campaign to claim Indonesia was under threat of recolonisation as its wealth leaked overseas, then presented his pitch of firm leadership as crucial to saving Indonesia.

Jokowi motivated by misplaced conviction, not politics, by Aaron Connelly, 28 April.

There was a sense among many Indonesians that under Yudhoyono's hands-off leadership, the state had become weaker – that corruption had flourished, drug use had soared, and laws had gone unenforced due to political considerations. By contrast, Jokowi promised in his election manifesto to 'reject the weak state' and in doing so extirpate corruption, drug trafficking, illegal fishing, and other scourges. 

While SBY appeared to many Indonesians to be peragu, a vacillator, Jokowi has always appeared to be a man of action. He has sped up infrastructure projects, sped up subsidy reform, and – tragically – sped up executions.

While capital punishment is anathema to most Australians, it enjoys broad support in Indonesia, and the decision to carry out death sentences issued over the last decade represents for most Indonesians a return to the regular order under a president who is unafraid to enforce Indonesian laws even when placed under intense pressure to offer foreigners special dispensation. To most Indonesians, this is reform.

Indonesia's politics of victimhood, by Catriona Croft-Cusworth, 29 April.

So it's no surprise that Jokowi did not respond to an appeal from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the weekend to call off the executions. As elaborated by University of Indonesia International Law professor Hikmahanto Juwana in an interview with local media last week: 'The Indonesian[s] also have a right to ask why there was not a statement from the UN Secretary-General recently when two Indonesian domestic workers were executed in Saudi Arabia'. 

Nonetheless, there is a contrast between Jokowi's open invitation for foreign investment at the World Economic Forum and his defensive stance over perceived foreign interference. If Indonesia is ready to engage on a common platform with other states, then there is no need to take such a defensive approach to international negotiations, whether it is on the death penalty or the global economy. 

Aside from the tragic loss of human life, Jokowi's hardline stance on the death penalty has already caused damage to otherwise healthy relations with nations such as Australia, France, the Netherlands and Brazil, among others. With lines of communication closing over the incident, it could cost Indonesia foreign investment in its development.

How Australia can campaign to end the death penalty, by Andrew Carr, 29 April.

First we’d need a good argument. But more than that, an argument which appeals to the existing views and concerns of those in the region who support the death penalty. Our concern is to persuade, not simply parade our views.

Second, we need a platform on which to talk. That might include appointing an Australian ambassador to focus on this issue full time — as we have for counter-terrorism and irregular migration — as well as building coalitions and forums of those who also want to end this practice.

Third, we need to work out a strategy for creating change. Are there key countries which everyone else looks to for leadership? Are there domestic groups we could work with? And how do we ensure our views come across as genuine moral conviction and not a stereotype of the West lecturing the East?

Finally, we need to accept that this is a long, long campaign. Any serious effort will outlast the careers of current members of the Australian parliament. The campaign needs to be based on a united genuine belief and backed by serious resources, as we did with non-proliferation and trade liberalisation.

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