Illusive Mind

The Unquestionable should be questioned

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Australian Superiority

 

One commentator said (and I tend to agree) that Australians are generally good hearted people but scratch around and you'll get racism and xenophobia. Schapelle Corby is an Australian girl who has just been convicted of importing drugs into Indonesia and sentenced to twenty years in jail. All the while she has protested her innocence with a glut of media attention and the backing of a lot of the Australian public. In response to the conviction a large section of Australians have reacted with racism and xenophobia, people have suggested that money given for Tsunami Aid should be returned, and most recently a threatening letter containing a 'biological agent' was sent to the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra.

I think this high moral groundists would benefit from reading (not that I imagine any of those kinds of people read my blog) the story of Chika Honda. I am quite sure they aren't aware of it already; I only became aware of it yesterday.

When Justice Gets Lost in Translation

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Is Schapelle Corby the victim of rough justice? Ask Chika Honda, writes Sushi Das.

She was jailed for smuggling drugs into a foreign country. She claimed somebody else put them in her bag, but the judge didn't believe her. Her lawyers fought language and cultural problems to put her case, but their efforts came to nothing.

Schapelle Corby? No, her name is Chika Honda. Arrested in Melbourne, she served 10-and-a-half years in Victorian jails before being deported to Japan. Thirteen years on, she is still trying to clear her name.

Miscarriages of justice, if that is what has happened in the Corby case, can happen in any country, even one with a sophisticated legal system untainted by corruption, such as Australia's. Even one whose citizens presume to hold the moral high ground.
Those using the Corby case to slander an entire nation, accusing Indonesia of having a barbaric legal system, where the judges are "monkeys" and justice goes awry, should reflect on the details of the Honda case.

Chika Honda was one of four Japanese tourists found with heroin in false panels in their suitcases when they landed at Melbourne Airport in 1992. (A fifth man Yoshio Katsuno, was believed to be the main drug smuggler.) All had stopped over in Kuala Lumpur where they said the van containing their luggage was stolen.

Yoshio Katsuno later told the others that their suitcases had been found, but because they were damaged, a friend of his had replaced them with new ones and transferred their belongings. All were charged in Australia with importing nearly 13 kilograms of heroin with a street value of between $20 million and $30 million. They claimed to be innocents abroad who were the victims of a set-up. But the court in Australia didn't believe their story. Just like the court in Bali didn't believe Corby's.

When they were found guilty in 1994, Judge Russell Lewis said foreign nationals convicted of importing drugs into Australia must be sent to prison.
Yoshio Katsuno got 20 years behind bars. He is still in jail today. The others, Masahara Katsuno, Mitsuo Katsuno, Kiichiro Asami and Chika Honda, alleged to be drug couriers, spent 10-and-a-half years in jail before being deported in 2002. They have never stopped protesting their innocence.

Having exhausted appeals to Australian authorities, 50 lawyers on their behalf have appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, arguing that their trial was a violation of their human rights because inadequate language interpretation affected their right to a fair trial.

Chika Honda, the only woman in the group, came to represent the group's innocence. Issues of language, money and cultural difference form interesting parallels between the Corby and Honda cases.

When charged with a crime in a foreign country, language becomes crucial, but so does the need to maintain perspective. According to one Sydney shock-jock: "The judges (in Corby's case) don't even speak English, mate, they're straight out of the trees." By the same reckoning, the judge in the Honda case should have spoken Japanese.

There's also the issue of cash. Honda's legal aid team could not afford investigators to mount a substantive defence. Money is also likely to be important in Corby's future.

Then there is the obstacle of cultural differences. The Japanese failed to aggressively assert their innocence in court. In Japan this is seen as culturally appropriate, but in Australia it's seen as a sign of guilt. In Corby's case, cultural differences were apparent in a courtroom where cameras were allowed and judges talked freely to the media.

Much Australian public sentiment has savaged the Indonesian judicial system as primitive and brutal. Perhaps the Japanese thought that about Australia's system.
On returning to Japan, Masahara Katsuno said: "The current Australian judicial system has a very serious problem." Mitsuno Katsuno said he believed racial prejudice was to blame: "I realised later on that in Australia, many Asian Australians committed crimes. That's why I think they believed we were the same as them." Chika Honda also spoke of injustice: "I was humiliated. I need some time to free my mind."

Honda has not given up her fight to clear her name. Two Australian legal experts are preparing a petition to the Governor-General requesting that he exercise a Royal Prerogative of Mercy. They are asking for her conviction to be nullified on the basis of new evidence yet to be revealed.

It would be unfair to condemn Australia because of what some believe to be a miscarriage of justice in the case of Honda and her group, yet the Corby chorus has no hesitation in slandering all Indonesia for the Corby verdict.

In what has become an embarrassing farce, with some Corby fans demanding the return of tsunami aid and calling for a boycott of Bali tourism, many are looking for reasons for the vitriol: racism, xenophobia, a feeling that Bali is an "Australian space". But maybe there's something deeper.

What lies at the root of the Corby hysteria is a Eurocentric view of the world - a view that ultimately celebrates the rise and triumph of the West over the East. At the heart of this idea is an attitude that, broadly speaking, the West is dynamic, intelligent, rational, free, tolerant, honest and civilised, while the East is stagnant, ignorant, superstitious, enslaved, intolerant, corrupt and barbaric.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the truth is the world is a global network of rich and poor countries. Only by ditching a Eurocentric perspective can it be possible to see that the world today is a result not only of European advances, but massive contributions by the East. What's required is perspective and respect.

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5 Comments:

Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

It's also somewhat of a media circus. Amongst my discussion group, there is some disagreement over whether the principles of sovereignty outweight the principles of fairness. (We all agreed that guilty or innocent, the sentence was unfair.)

We also question the competency of the defense team.

It's a mistake of yours to use one example of injustice to justify another.

You do sometimes see racism in Australia, but I'm not sure that's what's happening here. People are reacting to what they consider a brutal sentence, and I think that's fair enough. You would have seen an outcry if this had happened in any other country.

Also, saw some good Corby jokes. A new sign outside her shop "Back in 20"

And the new lawnmower being sold "Holds 4.5 kilos of grass, guaranteed for 20 years".

-MP

6/01/2005 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Illusive Mind said...

I don’t think the sentence was unfair, it was quite light given Indonesia’s policy on drug offenders. I think the judgement was unfair, the trial was unfair. All three judges admitted to not once acquitting a drug offender in their careers as judges. It hardly seems likely to make an exception in this case, so even if the evidence was handled properly and the trial conducted fairly they judges would most likely have still found her guilty (which indicated an unfair prejudice and thus an unfair trial.) This is not to mention the appalling role of the Federal Police in providing evidence of the drug smuggling rings in Australian Airports which is now coming more and more into light.

So what is probably really unfair is Indonesia’s policy towards drug offenders and that way it is instituted in its courts.

I never suggested that one injustice justifies another. What I think the case of Chika Honda demonstrates is that “Miscarriages of justice, if that is what has happened in the Corby case, can happen in any country, even one with a sophisticated legal system untainted by corruption, such as Australia's. Even one whose citizens presume to hold the moral high ground.”

You would not see this outcry happen in any other country. If she wasn’t a white Australian and didn’t speak with an Australian accent you wouldn’t see this outcry. If she were tried in Australia you wouldn’t see this outcry. Schapelle Corby gets an outcry because she’s a victim of a foreign legal system over which we hold no control and hold enormous resentment towards over the Bali Bombings and the prosecution of those responsible. Corby gets an outcry because she is somewhat attractive and very emotional.

“How can she be guilty is she is so distraught?” Lindsay Chamberlain was prosecuted by the media too, for not being emotional enough. Australians deemed her guilty, she was later found to be innocent and pardoned, and there is no outcry over that miscarriage of justice. There a plenty of such miscarriages that go on in our own country, as Chika Honda demonstrates, they get little to no public outcries.

You don’t think there is racist backlash against Indonesia for this verdict?
What do you call demanding the Tsunami Aid back?

There are signs of a backlash against Indonesia over the verdict, with charities saying they've been asked for tsunami aid to be returned.

That is an injustice if ever I saw one.

Or how about what Malcom T. Elliot said on 2UE:

Malcolm: The judges don’t even speak English, mate, they’re straight out of the trees if you excuse my expression.

Caller: Don’t you think that disrespects the whole of our neighbouring nation?

Malcolm: I have total disrespect for our neighbouring nation my friend. Total disrespect.

And then we get this joke of a trial, and it’s nothing more than a joke. An absolute joke the way they sit there. And they do look like the three wise monkeys, I’ll say it.

They don’t speak English, they read books, they don’t listen to her. They show us absolutely no respect those judges.

This is not to say, all Australians are racist or have responded to the Corby case with racism, but a lot of them are, and a lot of them get their views heard by mainstream media. It sickens me.

I watched 60 minutes when it first aired the Schapelle Corby story. Is she innocent? No way. She was a stupid, ignorant, bludger from Queensland who gets what she deserves for involving herself in drugs. But the victim story played better, and Channel Nine has played it for all it has been worth and then some.

(Most) Australians don’t outcry against brutal sentences or miscarriages of justice. Who the hell gives a shit about David Hicks? One of ‘our boys’ who has spent four years in prison without charge. He doesn’t ‘look’ nearly as innocent as Schapelle, so we won’t run that story.

It makes me sick.

6/02/2005 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger MelbournePhilosopher said...

"I don’t think the sentence was unfair, it was quite light given Indonesia’s policy on drug offenders."

I think there are objective reasons for believing Indonesia's policy on drug offenders to be unfair, thus making this a specific example of an unfair principle.

Your comments about local injustice are spot on. That has, however, no implication for the fairness of the Corby outcome.

“How can she be guilty is she is so distraught?”

I didn't say that, or imply it, or frame it.

I agree with your comments about the media, but I don't pay the media too much attention these days. I said it was a media circus, if you'll notice.

How many people that you know are acting like this, versus what's in the paper? To what extent are journalists driving the hate campaign?

6/02/2005 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger Illusive Mind said...

Your comments about local injustice are spot on. That has, however, no implication for the fairness of the Corby outcome.

You’re right it has nothing to do with how fair or unfair Corby’s sentence may be. It has everything to do with the degree of outrage we are entitled to feel towards a specific injustice, and most of the outrage has nothing to do with the injustice in of itself.

“How can she be guilty if she is so distraught?”
I didn't say that, or imply it, or frame it.


I don’t think any sane person would think such a thing let a lone a rational person, but the media and the way the general population interacts with it, is neither sane nor rational. I didn’t mean to imply that you supported such a view.

I agree with your comments about the media, but I don't pay the media too much attention these days. I said it was a media circus, if you'll notice.

Then you are someone who cares about the specific injustice of this case, I think you are a rarity (and that topic alone belongs in a different post), but I also think that care is contingent (I know mine is) upon the massive public awareness of this case as created by the media. I also care about the injustice of the Australian government’s agreement with East Timor over the distribution of oil resources in the Timor sea, I only know about that because I watch SBS and hang out with a few lefties.

How many people that you know are acting like this, versus what's in the paper? To what extent are journalists driving the hate campaign?

I don’t know many people who represent an accurate representation of the ‘average Australian’. Most people I know are fairly progressive and (small l) liberal. Most people I know don’t support the government’s policy on mandatory detention.

I have no idea to what extent journalists are driving the hate campaign and are not representing the values of ordinary Australians. I’m prepared to admit that my knowledge of this is generalised and through media accounts. I also think the majority of people who do feel real hate towards Indonesians for this, are not the sort of people who routinely read philosophy blogs or participate in philosophy related discussion groups.

Another generalisation on my part, I probably have an overly pessimistic view of the 'Australian People' at this point in time.

6/02/2005 02:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corby is GUILTY
http://corbyisguilty.blogspot.com/

6/02/2005 08:31:00 PM  

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