Tuesday, May 31, 2005


I'm not saying that I think Schappele Corby, the 27 year old Australian student given twenty years in an Indonesian prison for possessing 4.1 kilos of marijuana, actually deserves to go to prison. I'm not saying that there weren't serious flaws in the assertions surrounding her arrest, detention and overall motive, including the fact that there was no attempt to conceal the marijuana found in her body-board bag, and that no fingerprints were taken at the crime scene. (Meaning the airport.)

I'm just saying.

When I came to Cambodia the first time, I arrived after a night spent in Malaysia, where I distinctly remember the pilot cheerfully announcing as the plane landed: "We would like to remind you that possession of narcotics carries an automatic death penalty in Malaysia."


Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand do NOT fuck around when it comes to drug possession.

For me, the case of Schappele Corby is tragic either way.

If she was young and stupid and carried some dope in her bag for whatever reason, however unlikely it seems, twenty years in an Indonesian prison seems like cruel and unusual punishment. (Much better than the death penalty that she was predicted to have received, however.)

If she's not guilty, of course, the tragedy is just magnified a thousand degrees.

But the thing is...

There was some international-law-expert-type-of-dude on CNN the other day. He basically said: Look, if you get caught with drugs, in any country in the world, it doesn't matter what you say -- you're going to get nailed. And if you're black or Asian and caught with drugs in Asia, you're fucked.

Meaning, you better have a damn, DAMN good defence ready to save your ass.

I don't think Schappele Corby does.

Her defence is: I don't know how the drugs got there. Somebody must have put them in there at the airport.


I think this is a likely, probable possibility. I have no doubt it could be the truth.

But the proof?

Some convict in prison says he overheard two guys in jail talking about the case, and how the drugs were slipped in by somebody else.


Recently Russell Crowe, a fellow Aussie, was quoted as saying that Indonesia should show some consideration, given how much coin Australia had given Indonesia after the recent tsunami.

Not to disagree with Mr.Crowe, who I admire as an actor and who I fear could whip the living shit out of me, but his comment seems to me to be completely irrelevant and totally off-the-mark.

We're talking about somebody who was caught with drugs in a foreign country. She basically has no defence, no tangible proof that somebody else placed the drugs in her bag. If the same thing were to have happened to her in Canada, or the States, or England, the penalty might not have been as harsh, no, but I'm betting she would have served some time. To bring the tsunami into it, to raise it to the level of an international incident, only fans the flames or moral outrage on one side and religious outrage on the other, and such animosity often ignites into thinly-veiled racism.

The same racism that leads Aussies and westerners to condemn those backward Muslim bastards with their hypocritical, inhumane proclamations divorced from reality. The racism that leads Indonesians and other Asians to scorn the morally disrespectful, breast-flaunting westerners who use this sacred land as their own private playpen, carting in whatever disgusting hallucinogens they see fit for their own selfish pleasure.

Distance is tough. Calm, thoughtful analysis is tough. (And I'm not saying I'm providing it. Just trying to think about it, that's all...)

I have no doubt that the Indonesian courts are not bastions of democracy and fair play. But what are they supposed to do? If they let her go, then what's to stop a wave of foreigners coming in, smuggling drugs, and then using the 'Schappele Corby' defence: It wasn't me. If they let her go, then what if it happens again, with a Thai or a New Zealander or a Canuck? Do they negotiate with the governments of every relevant country for the release of every foreigner charged with any crime? Down that way legal madness lies.

A case like this exposes a number rifts in who we are as humans, in what we expect the legal system to do, in how countries can and should intrude on each other's internal legal systems.

I don't think the judgement is fair, and I don't know if she's guilty. As I said, either way, it's a terrible, unimaginable case.

All of this talk of legal diplomacy and corrupt courts and diplomatic reticence obscures the fact that there is, in fact, a young woman at the centre of this maelstrom about to enter an Indonesian prison for two decades. She is human, torn and wounded.

I have no answers.

And I may change my feelings tomorrow.

I wish I knew more about the law. Australian law. Indonesian law. International law. How drug smugglers operate, and how they target their victims. I wish I knew more about human nature. Then my spouting off at the mouth would carry more weight, in my own mind at any rate. (The danger of having easy access to a blog is that it gives you carte blanche to blab about anything you want, no matter how ill-informed you may be.)

For the moment, I would like to look in a dictionary right about now for the exact, definitive definition of the word 'justice', but I'm almost afraid of what I would find, what abstract and ephemeral meanings would be offered and how little, if any relevance or applicability they would have to this particular woman in that specific cell, alone.

And waiting.


Ariel1980 said...

In Hebrew, "justice" literally translates to "charity", and vice-versa. Quite a concept, when one thinks on it.

Bob the Cow said...

This is possibly the most balanced perspective that anyone has put on this case. Well done!

Anonymous said...

I like the way that you said it... but in the end, someone had to make a decision, and unfortunately for her, it was 20yrs.
It made me a little angry when everyone got so obsessed about it... I mean its horrible, but there are far worse things going on. But then I imagined if it was me sitting in a prison in Bali... wouldn't I want everyone to go as nuts as they did? To be honest though, I really couldn't imagine it happening to me. Cause when you look at it... if she's guilty, she's a moron, and if she's innocent, then she's still a moron, cause four kilos of cannabis is HUGE. Although 20yrs might be a little harsh just for being a idiot.

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