It seems that members of the Schapelle cheersquad aren’t quite as numerous as one would have imagined from reading the hysterical outpourings in our mainstream media. Fifty one percent of Australians think she’s innocent, but almost as many think she’s guilty or don’t know (the latter being the only position one can rationally take having not heard the evidence ourselves).
Mind you, as I discussed in my previous post, the evidence against Corby was pretty strong on its face, and it was well and truly open to the judges to find Corby guilty beyond reasonable doubt on the evidence. Moreover, although there might conceivably end up being cogent evidence flowing from investigations of corrupt baggage handlers which casts doubt on her guilt, close followers of the discussion in the Troppo comment boxes will also have noticed a couple of salient alleged facts which weren’t before the Bali court, but tend to tilt the scales rather strongly towards a conclusion of guilt.
One of our commenters claims to have inside knowledge from a travel agent that Corby had travelled to Bali some 8 times in the 18 months prior to her being caught red-handed with 4.2 kg of gunja at Denpasar Airport. I suppose it’s possible that she just has an unusually deep affection for her sister Mercedes, who lives in Bali, but cynics might speculate on a less innocent motive for so many trips.
And they might well regard their cynicism as being confirmed by the (alleged) fact that Mercedes runs/works in a surf shop in Kuta. It’s a fairly glaring fact of which I hadn’t until then been aware. As a Troppo commenter observed, Australian-owned bars, boutiques and especially surf shops are notoriously the places for young Aussie tourists to go to score dope. So we can add motive and opportunity to the strong direct evidence presented in court.
Maybe that’s why even many members of the Schapelle cheersquad seem now to have shifted ground from denying her guilt and excoriating the corrupt Indonesian system, to arguing that marijuana is a harmless drug that should be legalised.
Unfortunately, although that’s an argument that plays well to a gallery of lefties and libertarians in Australia, it goes down like a lead balloon in conservative Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world. There, the nascent democratic government is fighting a battle for the hearts and minds of ordinary Indonesians against Al Qaeda and fundamentalist Muslim clerics like Abu Bakr Bashir. Even Indonesian politicians who are both liberal-minded and pro-Australian (not an especially plentiful breed) are likely to be very hesitant about expressing any sympathy or leniency towards someone like Schapelle Corby, lest they give the fundamentalists a perfect opening to portray them as corrupt pawns of the decadent, arrogant west and its attempts to inflict the loose western morality of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity on devout Indonesian Muslims.
Now, I suppose you wouldn’t really expect any of these broader political aspects necessarily to have occurred to Mercedes and Schapelle prior to the latter being busted. They may have assumed that the probability of getting caught was fairly low, and that if they did then Schapelle could just turn on the helpless bogan sex kitten act and authorities would turn a blind eye. Certainly, until recently Bali has in practice been something of a free-fire zone for gunja dealers. The old Men at Work hit (“on the hippie trail head full of zombie“) accurately summed up both the Aussie perception and the reality of a Bali holiday. The combination of a poorly paid local police force and a mostly Hindu population more interested in cashing in on tourism than in protecting traditional Islamic values, meant that a a high level of de facto tolerance towards at least soft drugs was very much the norm. Sadly for Schapelle, September 11, the Bali bombings and the ongoing activities of Jemaah Islamiah have radically altered the situation, maybe permanently.