Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dozens of Australian journalists were summoned to Ngurah Rai Airport the day Schapelle Corby was arrested.  For nine hours they waited in the luggage pick-up area while she was being interrogated hoping for a glimpse of her.  The only things of any interest to these journalists during their wait was the rest or Schapelle’s luggage that had been left on the ground next to the customs luggage check counter, tagged with Schapelle’s name, unopened and not searched.

Mercedes was the first to ask the Indonesian authorities to weigh Schapelle’s luggage.  She pointed out that the weight was recorded in Brisbane and recorded on Schapelle’s ticket and that should the luggage now be less by 4Kg then Schapelle would be guilty but if not she was innocent.  They promised her that they would see to it.

Later, when a Bali Policeman moved through the packed crowd of journalists with the marijuana above his head to display the incriminating evidence for photos and video coverage one of them shouted out, “Why don’t you weigh the rest of her luggage?  The policeman didn’t respond immediately and the silence that followed the question was quite remarkable considering the lack of concern journalists seem to have for each other’s questions.  “It’s not necessary” the policeman finally said.

Many hours later, with the remainder of Schapelle’s luggage still at the customs counter, a senior policeman was giving a press conference and another journalist asked him why wasn’t it necessary to weigh Schapelle’s luggage?  This policeman answered with, “all we need is the marijuana itself for a conviction.”

This was a deliberate lie.  After all, why were they interrogating Schapelle for nine hours if all they needed was the marijuana itself?

During all this time with Schapelle exhausted from her flight, dozens of police arrived to yell at her, shout abuse, and to demand that she sign a confession.  At one point they pretended to relent and gave her a document written in Indonesian explaining that it was her statement in her words written in Indonesian for the court.  They asked her to sign it but still she refused because she had no idea what the document said.  Luckily, Mercedes arrived and saw the Indonesian word for marijuana on the document.  They were using deceit to get a false confession because they were desperate for a confession or a means to tie Schapelle to the drugs.  As Sugiato, Bali Police’s head of Narcotics said later, “Only half of the investigation had been done.”

In court, an expert witness on Indonesian law explained that to convict Schapelle on the charges the prosecution required two proofs as well as the marijuana itself.  They had to prove that the marijuana was imported and that Schapelle did so knowingly.

So, in what way was the empirical proof of a weight discrepancy that was superior to argument or even witness testimony in any way “unnecessary”?  What if Schapelle had been guilty and had brought the marijuana from her home?  Her luggage would have weighed around 4Kg less without the marijuana.  They could have gotten their confession simply by escorting her to one of the many luggage scales in the airport, weighed her luggage and confronted her with her guilt.  They didn’t do this because they already knew that Schapelle was innocent and that weighing her luggage would get her acquitted.

They certainly understood what weighing her luggage could do.  Mercedes had explained it to them, a journalist had asked them and another journalist had asked them to clarify their explanation.

But, what if they only suspected Schapelle was innocent?  After all, they knew that no one imports marijuana into Indonesia because this was the first recorded instance of a commercial importation into Indonesia, ever.

They left the rest of Schapelle’s luggage with the journalists for nine hours.  If they had doubts one way or another they would have taken that luggage to a back room somewhere and weighed it in secret.  How could they not?  If they did not plant the drugs themselves how could they continue without knowing whether Schapelle was in fact guilty or a victim of some Australian plot?

They weighed the marijuana and it came to 4.2Kg and they did this away from public scrutiny but no one questions whether they simply made this up or not.  They could have done the same with Schapelle’s luggage and announced any weight that suited them but they chose not to.  Instead, they invited journalists from every radio station, every TV network and every newspaper to look at Schapelle’s unopened luggage for nine hours to send a message to the Howard government that their days of making demands of the Indonesian government and the Indonesian Justice system were over.

And what did Mr Downer, the Minister for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have to say about theis gaping hole in logic?

"Well, umm... there seems to be errr... ummm some problem errr.. with the weights...  they were group weighed... or something."  So, the Bali Police had trouble finding luggage scales in an international airport?

From this moment, all collaboration between the Australian and Indonesian police ended.  Howard’s joint Australian/Indonesian task force to combat transnational crime was never mentioned again in the media nor were Australian police ever invited back except when they delivered the Bali 9, a gift of apology and a bribe to not shoot Schapelle.  Downer never again demanded that Abu Bakr Bashir be arrested as the mastermind behind the Bali bombing and his rhetoric that Jamaah Islamiah should be outlawed in Indonesia was never repeated.

And, what of the journalists?  Well, they went to Denpassar to get one of the biggest stories in Australian history – a pretty white Australian woman was to be dragged to a beach somewhere in Bali and shot for a marijuana offence.  They came home and for about five weeks the only thing we saw was a single column or two about a woman arrested for drugs in Bali on about page seven of our newspapers.  No one even saw the marijuana or the airport with the crowds of journalists until late November/early December.  The anger and fury from the Australian public came from talk-back radio and many of them were suggesting a military response.  I guess they suspected the Bali Police of planting the drugs as well.  They certainly weren’t angry because the Indonesians had arrested someone with drugs in their bag.