By Michael Burge Photo: Reuters.
SINCE convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby’s parole from Bali’s Kerobokan Prison in Indonesia last week, speculation about the legal ramifications of giving a paid interview has resulted in a rare silence from the Corby family.
Only one photograph of Schapelle has been released, then quickly withdrawn, while authorities have offered warnings against the 36-year-old Australian from Queensland’s Gold Coast making aspects of her story public knowledge.
In Indonesia, the beers Corby and her brother thrust at the camera were apparently a problem, a symbol of Western excess. Not so in Corby’s native Queensland, where a beer in the hand is considered a human right in many quarters.
Victim. Villain. Money-hungry. Misunderstood. Everyone has an opinion on Corby, it seems.
Release into the Bali community came with some strict parole requirements for her, but also some weighty expectations from the Indonesian people, who may prove to be sterner jail masters than any she may have encountered inside Kerobokan.
And they seem determined to silence the young Australian their media dubbed ‘The Ganja Queen’.
Australians, however, have expectations of our own, especially when it comes to Bali.
An Aussie holiday destination, perhaps ‘The Holiday Destination’, the tropical Indonesian island is often dubbed ‘Perth’s Northernmost Suburb’.
Like many Aussie jokes, this one is only half funny. A large number of Australians would probably let themselves off the hook for thinking Bali is an unofficial Australian state.
It was there that the terrorism of the Bali Bombings cut an unwelcome gash through the Australian psyche.
We have deep connections to the Asian nations to our north. Some have become symbols of national pride or shame which can be referenced using only one word: Kokoda, Balibo, Changi. Over time, a sense of ownership and entitlement creep into our dealings with these sovereign nations, particularly Indonesia.
Nothing seems off-limits in this relationship, from live export of Australian livestock to asylum seekers.
Convicted drug smugglers like Corby, the Bali Nine, and Barlow and Chambers before them, get caught up in the foreign justice systems, but also a tide of Asian public opinion which many Australians take personally.
Schapelle Corby’s case highlights that while foreigners are welcome to party in places like Kuta, and relax in places like Ubud, they are also expected to conduct themselves according to the laws and public opinions common within the world’s largest Muslim population.
The Kerobokan Prison has obvious reasons for Corby’s silence. The Australian Government has cited the Proceeds of Crime Act as a warning, although this does not prevent Corby from speaking without payment. Network Seven found itself the subject of a federal police raid this week, linked to the alleged Corby interview. Various Australian commentators have rushed to express their belief in Corby’s guilt, but also their unwillingness to hear from Corby herself.
All of which ignores the fact that Corby served her time, as decreed by the Indonesian judicial system, despite the numerous attempts by her prosecutors to increase her penalties.
Many forget, these men sought the death penalty for Corby.
The Corby case has never been a simple case of an Australian woman caught-up in scandal while on holiday in Bali, because it challenges the notions that Australians have about Indonesians, replacing the idea of a tourism-friendly population intent on pleasing us with the reality of a people who have opinions, thought and beliefs of their own, in addition to their thriving tourism industry.
In a sense, Corby has finally started the Bali holiday which was so suddenly curbed in 2004, although, with fairly strict parole conditions, it’s set to be less a beer-soaked boogie-board ride and more a mindful retreat from Australian customs, which may be more of a challenge than time inside Kerobokan.
If she achieves it, Schapelle Corby might teach we Aussies a thing or two about the real Bali. I’d pay to hear that.
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