Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran speak exclusively to Tom Allard about faith, giving back - and execution by firing squad.
Helping others ... Myuran Sukumaran, left, and Andrew Chan with inmates in Kerobokan prison’s computer room. Photo: Jason Childs
MYURAN Sukumaran struggles for the right words. His hands begin moving awkwardly in front of his chest, fingers clenching and then relaxing, then flying in the air. ''If I wasn't doing this, I don't know how I could do it in here … I'd just explode.''
Sukumaran, one of three Australians on death row at Bali's Kerobokan prison for attempting to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin into Australia in 2005 - and the most famously media shy - is standing in a room full of computers in the prison's library.
Around him, a dozen or so Indonesian prisoners are busy learning the ins and outs of spreadsheets and word processing, a project the 28-year-old has driven from its inception along with Andrew Chan, his former schoolmate at Sydney's Homebush Boys High, who is also sentenced to die by firing squad.
In an exclusive interview with The Age, conducted inside Kerobokan, Chan and Sukumaran reveal their personal transformations within the walls of the prison, as well as their attempts to bring about reforms within the notorious jail.
''Before this, there was one time when I like … pwaar,'' says Sukumaran, letting out a guttural groan to express the anguish of a life now lived in the shadow of execution.
''Since I've had this stuff … I've calmed down,'' he says, waving his arm around the crowded computer room. ''At the end of the day you feel like you have done something instead of just sitting around.''
Speaking in a disarmingly soft, lilting voice - sometimes smiling and talking in Indonesian to the students - Sukumaran seems far removed from his media portrayal as the hard man of the heroin trafficking gang known as the Bali nine: a martial arts exponent and cold-blooded enforcer who organised the drug run.
Earlier, he was laughing at the jokes of Kerobokan's governor, Siswanto, as he addressed the prison's leadership group. Under a new structure being implemented by Siswanto, and modelled on the Balinese system of village government called banjar, Sukumaran has been appointed a kelian banjar - the head of a group of 20 or so prisoners, including those facing execution and housed in the prison's maximum security wing, known as the Tower.
His role includes assigning tasks to prisoners under him, liaising with the guards, resolving disputes and even overseeing modest penalties for those who transgress in their jobs cleaning, gardening and making small repairs in the prison.