Corby decision a platform for improved relations

The Director of the Griffith Asia Institute says the decision to grant clemency to convicted drug trafficker Schapelle Corby signals a good day for relations between Australia and Indonesia.

Professor Andrew O’Neil (pictured) believes it is likely a deal was struck between the two countries, which will also factor in Indonesian minors who have been arrested and jailed in Australia for people smuggling.

“Clearly this is an issue that’s been exercising the minds of the Indonesians for some time, not only the arrest and jailing of juveniles but also the link with people smuggling and illegal entry to vessels,” Professor O’Neil said.

“It has triggered outrage in the Indonesian press and it plays to some of the xenophobic perceptions of Australia that are held in Indonesia.

“Public opinion in both countries tends to reflect mutual suspicion.”

The news of Schapelle Corby’s five-year clemency deal, which could see her home as early as August, is to be viewed as a positive and a platform on which to build future relations between the two countries.

“It shows the Indonesian and Australian policy makers are operating on a level that hasn’t been possible previously. It shows they can do business and achieve cut-through without losing face.”

Professor O’Neil, who teaches international relations at Griffith Business School, also applauded the input of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who approved the five-year cut to Corby’s 20-year sentence, meaning she will be eligible for release in 2015.

“A presidential pardon doesn’t just happen. It is the direct result of political intervention on the part of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“President Yudhoyono is much more pragmatic than his predecessors and has a favourable view of Australia. He has a particularly strong interest on promoting good bilateral ties with Australia.”

Professor Andrew O’Neil is an expert in regional security and geopolitics in Asia.