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(4/1/2007) A petition was filed last week by Australian backbench parliamentarian Gary Hardgrave and 1,500 supporters condemning the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for "delivering up" the notorious "Bali Nine" for death sentences by providing information to the Bali police that led to the group's arrest at Bali's airport with a damming 8.3 kilograms of heroin taped to their bodies. The Australian petitioners are irate with the Australian police, claiming that "Australian sovereign rights" were somehow compromised when assistance was lent in the apprehension of their fellow Australians in Bali. The petitioners contend that the more prudent course of action would have been for the Australian police to refuse cooperation with their Indonesian counterparts, choosing to arrest the "Bali Nine" only after they returned to Australia.
Frankly, these emotive rants are beneath the dignity of a the Australian people who have a proud tradition of a law-based democracy and suffer from the same mental aberation that argued convicted drug smuggler Shapelle Corby should have gone unpunished because of the aid provided to Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami disaster. Neither of those two dogs can hunt; never will.
Take note. The petition criticizing the Australian police is being championed by failed National Minister and Parliamentarian Gary Hardgrave, himself the subject of an AFP investigation for defrauding the Commonwealth.
But, returning to the question at hand: Were Australian Federal Police derelict in their duty when they provided information that led to the "red handed" capture of the "Bali Nine" and their possible final date before an Indonesian firing squad? Many of us living in Bali, where the very fabric of our society is being undermined by narcotics, would take issue with the Australian petitioners. Our view is that abundant praise, rather than criticism, should be heaped upon the AFP officers who helped bring the Bali Nine to Indonesian justice.
From our perspective in Bali, a number of factors have been glossed over by those seeking to criticize the Australian constabulary, including:
• Australians, or any other foreign national, have no sovereign rights when traveling in Indonesia beyond those enjoyed by Indonesian nationals under the laws of the Republic.
• Caught with drugs strapped to their bodies, tried and convicted - we've yet to hear a persuasive argument of innocence on behalf of any member of the Bali Nine; or that they received anything other than a fair trial in a Bali Court; or that they are in any way being denied every possible appeal allowed under Indonesian law prior to any final imposition of sentence.
• A generally accepted principal of law enforcement is that in dealing with felonies police should not be selective in the enforcement of the law and take immediate steps to stop a crime in progress. If, as the Australian petitioners suggest, the AFP should have knowingly allowed people carrying dangerous narcotics containing the potential of killing hundred of people to board a commercial flight in Bali, we wonder if this wouldn't have made the police witting accomplices in a felony.
• And, while busily defending rights - sovereign or otherwise, we also ask if the average law-abiding citizen boarding an international flight doesn't have the right to a "reasonable expectation" that police on duty at both ends of the flight route will spare no effort in keeping their aircraft free of criminal activity, weapons and deadly toxic substances?
• Assuming that the AFP had allowed the Bali Nine to board their flight and only arrested them upon arrival in Australia, we wonder if Australian attorneys would not now be arguing that by knowingly allowing their clients to board a flight with heroin in their possession the AFP had played a game of wrongful entrapment?
• We also question if the 15,000 petitioners on behalf of the Bali Nine share an equally fervent humanitarian concern for the fate of the Bali bombing terrorists now awaiting execution? What's the connection? The link between the international drug trade and international terrorism is well documented. Terrorist bombers and drug dealers are merely fellow workers on the same supply chain producing a common product: death and destruction.
While we have no desire to judge which of these two criminal group constitutes the more heinous class of criminals – the three 3 Bali bombers or the 6 members of the Bali Nine now sentenced to death - it is fair to say that all 9 are ruthless merchants of death; the former motivated by a tortured fanatic ideology and the latter by rapacious, mindless greed.
While all death is tragic, the stark fact remains that the world will not long mourn the passing of any of these 9 men - be they bombers or drug dealers, when the legal process eventually places them at the business end of a firing squad.
These sentiments will seem overly harsh to the 15,000 Australian petitioners currently protesting the apprehension of the Bali Nine. But let's also consider for a moment the even greater number of damming signatures we could collect in Indonesia from family and friends of the estimated 15,000 young Indonesian who die each year linked to the illicit drug trade.
With apologies to Mr. Hargrave and the Australian petitioners, we suspect the less vocal majority of law-respecting Australians are in agreement with us and quietly happy to be rid of the Bali Nine.
To the Australian Federal Police and their Indonesian colleagues who successfully put the Bali Nine behind bars – we extend a too-seldom-spoken vote of heartfelt "thanks" for giving priority to the general publics' desire to enjoy a peaceful, drug-free existence.
Now that would be a petition worth signing!