Make Noise on West Papua, be quieter on Schapelle

Like many people, I think Schapelle Corby has had a raw deal. I also think comments along the way from Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty have not been helpful and the assistance provided by the Australian Government has been fairly lame.

However, I don’t see how public attacks or antagonism towards Indonesia about the trial are going to help her at all (or many innocent Indonesians). If anything, it may make things even harder for her if this report in the Jakarta Post (via Tim Blair) is any guide. We all like to think that legal systems and judges are not swayed by public and political controversy, but they are all made up of human beings and it is far from improbable that the excessive sentence may in part have been due to judges wanting to categorically show that they wouldn’t be swayed by public pressure.

I think the best things people can do are (a) make sure she has the funds to get the best possible legal team to run her appeal, (b) send her private personal messages of support (c) hassle the Australian Government to do all it can to assist and (d) shut up. Public attacks on Indonesia and its justice system about the case are not likely to increase the chances of a better outcome than the one Schapelle is already facing.

If people want to criticise the Indonesian Government about something, they could pressure them for their failure to stop the continuing human rights abuses in West Papua. These abuses have been going on well before Schapelle Corby’s case and are far greater in their severity and scale. I’m sure Australians don’t just get upset about mistreatment of other human beings when it involves other Australians and this is an area where public international pressure is needed and is not likely to be counter-productive.

For more detail, read this paper prepared for the Indonesia Human Rights Network last year. Among other things, it found that:

  • Indonesian military and police forces have engaged in widespread violence and killings in West Papua. This paper documents a history of massacres of the West Papuan people, from the killing by aerial bombardment of several thousand Papuans in Jayawijaya in 1977 to the use of napalm and chemical weapons against villagers in 1981 to the massacre of 32 West Papuans in Wamena in October 2000.
  • Indonesian authorities have also been responsible for numerous extrajudicial killings, including torture killings of detained prisoners, assassinations of West Papuan political, cultural, and village leaders, and brutal killings of civilian men, women, and children.
  • Indonesian military and police force have subjected West Papuans to arbitrary and mass detention, torture, and other cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment. Detained Papuans have suffered electric shocks, beatings, pistol whipping, water torture, cigarette burns, and confinement in steel containers for months on end.
  • Many West Papuans have been “disappeared” and likely tortured or killed, their family members subjected to psychological trauma and often severe economic deprivation as a result.
  • Indonesian soldiers have also committed numerous acts of rape and sexual violence against West Papuan women, frequently in public and sometimes accompanied by mutilation or murder or both.
  • At the same time, the Indonesian government’s systematic program of resource exploitation, destruction of Papuan resources and crops, compulsory and often uncompensated labour, transmigration, and forced relocation has caused pervasive environmental harm to the West Papuan region, undermined traditional subsistence practices and the social fabric and governance systems of indigenous communities, and led to widespread disease, malnutrition, and death among West Papuans.
  • Mining and logging operations, undertaken in support of PT Freeport and other multinational corporations, have caused devastating environmental damage and the sickness or death of thousands of West Papuans. To facilitate mining operations and resettle transmigrants from elsewhere in Indonesia, the government has intentionally forced West Papuans from their traditional lands to unfamiliar locations, often leaving them without means of subsistence.
  • The government has consistently refused to provide adequate medical care to the West Papuans and has discriminated against them in the provision of basic health care and reproductive services.
  • Indonesian military forces have directly attacked West Papuans’ property and crops and have occasionally forced Papuans to work without compensation or below subsistence wages, under threat of arrest.

These sorts of actions are indefensible and pressure should be put on the Indonesian Government to address them. I’d encourage people to make some noise about this outrage, while providing their support for Schapelle behind the scenes.

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  1. The problem is, and unfortunately her legal team seems to know this, support only comes if the case is in the public eye. If it gets put on the backburner the fear is that public interest is then drawn to the next shiny thing that crosses their path.
    I do agree with you that things seem to be a little too overt, such as the “Honk if you H8 Bali” banner hanging over the Vulture Street overpass on the way into work on Monday morning. It speaks volumes of Australia’s ongoing fear and distrust of Asia.

  2. Well call me an idealist, but I prefer to get Australia’s house in order before I condemn other countries for following their established justice system.

  3. I don’t think it’s idealism. I think it’s a smug feeling of self-righteous superiority that some people get from putting down other Australians.

  4. thanks andrew.
    very few people in public life give a shit about the forgotten people of west papua.
    have you ever heard kevin rudd, even mention the words west papua?
    the ALP betrayed east timor and they are betraying west papua. ditto downer.

  5. Spot on Andrew – the west papuans might be on the other side of the world, as right there on our northern borders. The indonesian rape of our neighbours in west papua is a cruel malignancy that the media smothers while the Howard Government and that idiot Downer say precisely zilch. Much easier to bully the East Timorese into surrendering their birthright. What a bunch of moral cowards.

  6. Completely agree Andrew. If you look at the immense good we did post-Tsumani as a deposit of goodwill to leverage in future I would much prefer to bash my head against a pole over Irian Jaya than in undermining a fledgling justice system. Sure the laws in Indonesia are harsh, but we should be supporting the impartiality and independence of their legal system. We should not be trying to influence it by disgracefully biased media coverage, which to a great extent has raised xenophobic feelings culminating in someone in this country believing they should undertake a terrorist act against Indonesia in retribution for what was basically a fairly impartial prosecution.
    Not sure if this is the place, but I would really like the Australian media, notably Channel 9, to be made accountable for misleading / emotive reporting (note, not journalism) which has undermined an incredibly important strategic relationship. In my own way I have started a boycott petition of Channel 9 – I don’t really think this will create an enormous response, but I believe it is an important responsibility of an Australian citizen. After all, the media is our portal on the world and the lack of coverage of Irian Jaya is their decision.

  7. I think the point is that Corby was expressing her feelings so freely, openly and honestly, that many people naturally opened up their hearts to her. Not all, because some people couldn’t seem to handle that level of emotionality….and it is interesting to note who these were.
    Personally I’m am appalled at the Indonesians having the death penalty for drug trafficking, and the way they think lives are expendable up that way.
    Such heavy handed legalities create fear and very fertile ground for corruptions in the way of planting and bribery. Nearly every second person knows about someone here who has had to sell up property or cough up heaps to buy off Indonesian authorities this way. Sounds like the Indonesians are doing a roaring trade on poor unfortunate tourists.
    Megawatti whilst in power was seen to be reticent to deal out the death penalty, and that is one reason why she was judged as weak. Bambang is ex-army and pro-death penalty. John Howard loves him.
    We have a problem here.
    I was appalled at what happened in East Timor whilst the Howard Government had coaxed them into going for independence vote, which was consider high risk and very naive; sent like lambs to the slaughter. It was like we literally just stood there and watched.
    Then voila it turns out to be John’s big chance to play armies. Sorry about my cycnicism but you can’t help noticing these things.
    We have been turning a blind eye to what the Indonesians get up to for a long time. How come I am never surprised when I hear about their shocking human rights record.
    My heart went out to the people of Aceh and Sri Lanka with the Tsunami destruction. I was going to donate to the appeal, but when I saw Howard rush in giving away a billion of hard earned Australian tax dollars without parliamentary vote or public approval, I backed off thinking something funny is a-foot here.
    Isn’t it strange that during the week of the Corby case, Bambang was in Washington asking to buy arms off Bush? Is that where our billion aid is going?
    How do we know that the Federal Police weren’t working in with Indonesian Authorities with Corby’s case? That the Bali 9 bust could have been the second of it kind as far as the two countries authorities working in with each other. Remember there was public outrage about this matter with the Bali 9.
    It came out only recently that there was a cocaine shipment intercepted at Sydney airport the day Schapelle Corby and her group transited Sydney, so the Federal Police/drug squad would have been there for sure. Was there a intended coverup behind the fact that this raid was not allowed to be released earlier? That the Feds had planted someone to be busted, in order to hype up more of Howards xenophobia. Except this time it has surpassed him.
    The Balinese Police were just a little too cocky, arrogant and unhelpful. The judges far too condemning and not at all mindful of the lack of proper investigation of the evidence from their end.
    John Howard was a little too shocked and rushing to get centre stage when such a high percentage of Australians were behind Schapelle. His almost fixated respect for the Indonesian law and advising Australians to do the same went down like a lead balloon. Do I see a Death Penalty person behind that facade or what?
    Downer looked decidedly dark and annoyed when she said she would never admit guilt in order to get a pardon, when she was innocent. “Lay down lady and submit!” the man says. Is this really happening?
    Howard and Downer were too quick to blame the white powder sent to the Indonesian Embassy on people outraged by Corby’s sentencing. They wouldn’t stop until other notables said this was not necessarily the case.
    Are these men, so gleeful of their ability to create havoc and take all opportunities to maybe even create it, let alone revell in it, really our leaders?

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