Schapelle: The Anniversary

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How soon we forget, Australia. A year ago, we had only one name on our lips and a ghastly one at that: Schapelle. You remember her, right? Because back before the media flipped over Beaconsfield, their tawdry sensationalism was directed at a “Gold Coast beauty student” caught with enough marijuana to fuel Cheech and Chong’s entire careers.


Schapellegate didn’t exactly show the public at its best. Not only did we all know she was innocent despite inadequate evidence, but we indignantly rang up 60 Minutes’s People’s Trial to say so.
The voting worm overwhelmingly exonerated her but then again, it had also predicted Mark Latham would be the next Prime Minister.
Even more contemptible were the large number of Australians who rang Jakarta to demand that their tsunami donations be reversed. Their thinking being that we only reach out to victims of unthinkable tragedy on the understanding they’ll rig their justice system for us a few months later.
The main reason we’ve quietly forgotten Schapelle, though, is that we aren’t as sure of her innocence any more. The Bali Nine reminded us that it is actually possible for young Australians to be guilty of serving as drug mules.
Even more damaging, the reports about the rest of Schapelle’s family didn’t exactly provide her with innocence by association.
Her father, Michael, has been fined, but not convicted, for possessing cannabis and her half-brother, James Kisina, has been arrested on drug charges. Meanwhile, her mother unhelpfully uttered the immortal phrase that she wasn’t too bothered about the jail sentences because at least she knew where her children were.
That’s not to say Schapelle’s guilty. If her family were into drugs, she may have been framed, and the dodgy baggage handler theory has some weight. All we know is you’d have to be an idiot to try to get into Bali with a bulging boogie board bag, and even more of an idiot not to DNA-test that bag during the trial.
Which brings us to Hotman Paris Hutapea, the lawyer whose best idea for freeing Schapelle was to pay a famous soapie actress to say that “the Corby” was innocent. Jakarta’s so-called defence gun proved even less helpful than “Mad” Ron Bakir, and that’s saying something. And now the drugs have been destroyed, the truth will never be known.
By contrast, we are unable to forget Michelle Leslie, who went on 60 Minutes last week to complain yet again about being in the public eye. So let’s forget her instead, and take a moment to remember Our Schapelle, now very much Their Schapelle. How she must wish that instead of being trapped in Kerokoban prison, she’d been trapped in a Beaconsfield mine instead.
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