18-year-old Aussie arrested in Bali

Posted: 23/11/2016 in Opinion


Like many Australians, I’ve been following the story of Jamie Murphy, an 18-year-old Aussie who was arrested in Bali on Tuesday morning for drug possession. Is anybody surprised to hear tonight that the drugs aren’t real? I mean, we’ve all heard the stories of Indonesian police working with local drug dealers to entrap unsuspecting tourists for the sole purpose of soliciting a bribe from them. We know it happens, corruption is big business in Indonesia, even for the police.

The incident involving Jamie Murphy is, however, something different. Not in the sense that corruption and the manipulation of the truth weren’t involved, but rather that the reasons behind the nefarious activity of those in charge of policing in Bali were different, as they likely had what they considered to be a ‘good’ outcome in mind. In other words, what’s been going on here is a classic Dirty Harry scenario; a situation in which a morally good ending is obtained through use of dirty or less than ethical means.

Consider the following:

1. Jamie Murphy was arrested in a nightclub a little after midnight local time when security guards allegedly found a small bag of white powder in his bum-bag;

2. The security screening was routine, a practice common in Bali nightclubs and one that Jamie would have been expecting;

3. The moment that he was detained by security, Jamie was heard loudly protesting his innocence;

4. After being detained by the staff at the nightclub door, Jamie was taken through to see the security manager at the club, before being frog-marched down to a waiting ‘mobile’ police station that just happened to be setup fifty metres down the road;

5. When the guards arrived at the mobile police station with Jamie, there was a news media crew there ready and waiting for them; and

6. Now after the case has been splashed around as an international headline for a day or so, it turns out that the white power was nothing more than crushed paracetamol.

So what then is the outcome that the Balinese police would likely say justified this little charade? Well, that’s simple, all they wanted to do was to send a message.

Don’t you think it’s funny how this incident happened right at the start of the schoolies celebrations? A time when hundreds of Australian teenagers, fresh from their final high school exams are flooding into Bali for several weeks of partying.

In the minds of the Balinese police, what better way could there be to spread a message that drug use won’t be tolerated than by arresting an Aussie teenager in front of the waiting international media. No harm, no foul. After all, the testing will prove that there was no offence and life will go back to normal. At least it will for everybody other than Jamie, who has just endured twenty-four hours in a Bali gaol cell, contemplating the prospect of twelve years in a third world prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Corruption is well known to have a slippery slope effect. What starts out as a minor abuse of the system, if left unchecked, has a nasty habit of working it’s way into every aspect of public life. In Australia, we’d label the actions of the Balinese police as corrupt. Over there, however, I suspect they’d just call it good policing.


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