EDITORIAL: Another sell out

The Editorial Desk in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono raised another unnecessary storm in giving clemency to Schapelle Corby, the Australian woman who is serving a 20-year term for smuggling marijuana into Bali in 2004. With the five-year sentence cut from the President, coming on top of several years of remissions for good behavior, the 34-year Corby will be eligible for parole this year. She will be free to leave the country in 2015.

In spite of denials in Jakarta and in Canberra, there is no way that the clemency was not connected to the Australian decision to send home three Indonesians who had served time in Australia for people smuggling. After years in prison, the Australian government now realises that the three had been minors when they were sentenced.

The timing of Corby's clemency and the release of the three Indonesians were too much of a coincidence. While exchanging prisoners is something that governments do on behalf of their citizens, the question that outrages many people is whether this has been a fair deal. Is this another one of those times where Indonesia has found itself at the losing end of an unfair trade deal?

This is where President Yudhoyono came under heavy criticism. Indonesia has given away far too much and gets very little in return in this deal. The five-year reduction for Corby is worth far more than the three Indonesians released. They should not have been jailed in the first place since they were minors, and it should be in Australia's conscience that they should be released at once. Corby, on the other hand, committed a serious crime and her clemency comes at a time when Indonesia is fighting the drug menace.

But then, this has always been the story of Indonesia. When it comes to negotiating with other countries, we end up giving away more than we take. We have seen this in almost all the free trade agreements we have signed, in mining contracts and in the defense and extradition treaties with Singapore. It's historical too. Dutch colonialism would not have been possible without our leaders selling out their nation and their people.

Don't blame the Dutch, the Australians, the Singaporeans, the Chinese, the Americans or anybody else for taking advantage of Indonesia. Blame our leaders. Admit it.