Saturday, 28 May 2005

Schapelle Corby is the collateral damage of war

“Went through my bags like McCartney in Japan
I didn't have a thing so I didn't give a damn
You can't trick me
'Cause I've been to Bali too.”

The trial and conviction and the public responses (many representative responses here) to the twenty-year sentence of Schapelle Corby have shone a light on some of the interesting hypocrisies of our modern world.

First off: Innocent or guilty? It seems fantastic that
Corby wouldn't have noticed someone having slipped a pillow-sized 4.1kg bag of electric puha into her slim, light boogie board bag. And if the weight of Corby's bags at either her Brisbane check-in or Sydney transfer did show a 4kg discrepancy with their weight at Denpasar her defence team would be supremely incompetent not to have raised that, wouldn't they?

Since bag and board were there in the courtroom it didn’t matter that they hadn’t been weighed when the drugs were found, they could have been weighed in court. That her defence didn't raise the weight discrepancy suggests there wasn't one. Guilty? Seems likely.

Second: Innocent or guilty of what exactly? Of smuggling some recreational hash? Should that actually be a crime? Who exactly is the victim here? If users weren’t criminalised what exactly would the ‘drug problem’ be – that some people like to get high and others object to that? So what? I like to get drunk and fall over; doesn’t hurt anyone except myself. Robert Downey Jr never had a problem at work, expect that he kept getting arrested for buying drugs.

The real ‘drug problem’ is not that some people take drugs, it is that the busybody Puritanism of The War on Drugs has made drugs criminally expensive, put drug profits and control of drug quality into the hands of criminals and corrupt policemen, and has criminalised people like Shapelle Corby. Read here for example. As H.L Mencken said of such people, "A Puritan is someone who is desperately afraid that, somewhere, someone might be having a good time."

Is that really sufficient motivation to criminalise those guilty of nothing except pleasing themselves?

Third: The twenty-year sentence: There’s been a lot of justified bitching at the length of Schapelle Corby’s sentence for smuggling marijuana. Twenty years in a Bali jail for smuggling marijuana attracts comments from like this from ‘Bart’: “Finally, justice has been served. She got what she deserved. You smuggle drugs, you pay the price, it's that simple.” Bart is an idiot. The scum responsible for killing 202 people in the Bali bombing received a sentence of just thirty months, story here. No Indonesian hypocrisy here. None at all. Indonesian justice appears to be an oxymoron.

Fourth: The ‘It’s their country’ argument: ‘Need to respect the law of the land’ screams a Daily Telegraph headline. “It really doesn't matter what you think is fair or what I think is fair. It's THEIR country and THEIR rules,” says another idiot at a Free Corby Petition site. “Indonesians do get executed for similar crimes (why aren't you crying for them?), so why should the westerners be treated any differently?” continues the idiot.

Bollocks, says me. Frankly, you’re free to criticise anything as an outrage wherever it occurs and no matter the ‘culture,’ and this is an outrage. You can say she’s stupid for smuggling drugs to a country in which the stuff is cheaper than it is back home and for which a death penalty is in operation, but your main criticism should be directed at the laws that criminalise such stupidity.

It’s not an outrage that she’s been found guilty -- she probably is – it’s an outrage that the War on Drugs has found another victim. Australians and New Zealanders who have responded to the injustice they see in the Corby trial should reflect that it is an injustice they and their governments support. It’s time people question that support, and if Corby’s plight helps people do that it might just serve a useful purpose.

The Sydney Morning Herald editorialised today,

...long before the sentence was handed down many concerned Australians had elevated Corby to martyr status. But a martyr to what cause? There are 155 Australians in foreign jails on drugs charges, two facing the death penalty. However, their stories of personal tragedy, stupidity and brazen greed fail to move us, while Corby touches strangers: "If eyes are the windows to the soul, I see a soft kindness shining through," wrote one supporter.

If you are a stranger who was touched by Corby’s plight, then why not be moved to make her a martyr to a worthy cause – not whether or not she is innocent or guilty; not the state of Indonesian justice; but the abject bloody hypocrisy of the War on Drugs that makes martyrs of such as she.


  1. Just two queries for you Peter on your 'First off' para. Why would Schapelle Corby smuggle dope from Australia to Indonesia when this would result in a massive financial *loss*? And why did she choose not to take a direct flight? Why travel through two airports if you are smuggling drugs?

    (You are of course quite right about the 'War on Drugs')

  2. Hi Jonathanm you asked, "Why would Schapelle Corby smuggle dope from Australia to Indonesia when this would result in a massive financial *loss*?"

    Who knows? All I can do is speculate. Perhaps someone in Bali wanted the high-grade hydroponic stuff in the boogie-board bag rather than the Balinese lawn clippings apparently cheaply available in Bali?

    "Why travel through two airports if you are smuggling drugs?" Speculation again, but perhaps the stuff was supposed to have been taken out in Sydney? Or perhaps the cover of family and friends who I understand had booked those tickets was thought to be more important than needing to fly direct?

    I really don't know, but the apparent illogicalities that you raise don't for me outweigh the obviousness of finding a huge lump in your bag you didn't know was there and then saying nothing about it.

    But the chief issue for me is that what it seems she did should never be a crime.

  3. ...yes well.... i still feel very sad for her....i believe that guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, especially when sentences are likely to be very is the case here. Regardless of the merits of a martyrdom for Shapelle...the action that is urgently required is to somehow muster sufficient international pressure to expose the unjust and corrupt Indonesian justice system and to embarass the Indonesians with the severity of this sentence as compared to that recieved by the Bali bombers. Bring Shapelle back to Australia....asap

  4. Just a comment about Bali bombers. I think when the media was saying the Bali bomber was only sentenced for 30 months. They didn't mean the person who executed the bombing. They were referring to Abu Bakar (I think) who was a suspect behind the planning. Abu Bakar was trialed as a suspect behind Jemaah Islamiah and the bali bombing as well as other terrorist activities, but there may not be enough evidence. I think he was sentenced for 30 months for other things (mostly immigration issues). If this is the case, ofcourse you can't compare the two.

    I'm not sure about this, but may be someone can get a more accurate source.


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