In late January, the Indonesian police announced the seizure of four and one quarter tonnes of cannabis. The marijuana was not from overseas – it was Indonesian grown, in Aceh. Home grown marijuana is so cheap in Indonesia that it is rare for any overseas cartel or rogue to traffic marijuana from outside Indonesia. The Indonesians have been growing and cultivating cannabis for thousands of years.
There have been many stories told, many myths and lies sold since the arrest of Schapelle Corby. Instead of people concentrating on seeking out only the facts, far too many journalists and social commentators effectively went on a purchase for reasons why anyone would smuggle marijuana into Indonesia when indeed the country is flushed with homegrown cannabis. They moved away from the imperative of the stark unlikelihood of anyone smuggling marijuana into Indonesia. In doing this they manufactured justifications that prejudiced the Australian nation. They looked away from the reality of a thriving marijuana trade in Indonesia.
The Indonesian Government and the Indonesian police are in an endless drug war with Aceh province but it is one the Government and police are losing. The Aceh to Jakarta cannabis run is daily. There are regular runs from Jakarta to Bali.
In January, the police discovered 96 sacks of marijuana, weighing 4.250 tonnes, in the back of truck on a highway between Sumtra’s Medan and Binjai.
Police arrested four men, who now face the prospect of a death row sentence. But catching the growers and suppliers of Aceh’s cannabis farms is a never ending nightmare. Busts of large amounts of cannabis are common. Last October, police discovered two tonnes of cannabis just outside of Aceh, and only because the truck carrying the sacks of cannabis broke down. Every month, Indonesian police seize at least a tonne of cannabis on the trade route from Aceh. However, for every tonne seized many more tonnes make it to Java and then to other destinations such as Bali.
In January, the Jakarta Globe reported that police had discovered a cannabis farm – 8.5 hectares – just outside of Aceh, but the farm had no owner. This is common. The Acehnese number five million and are predominately impoverished. The December 26 2004 tsunami killed more than 170,000 Acehnese. The March 28 2005 earthquake killed 1,346 Acehnese. The Acehnese have been battling for liberation from Indonesia for decades. The Free Aceh Movement is believed to also support its campaign through cannabis runs. Antje Missbach wrote her PhD about the Acehnese diaspora, in particular of the Acehnese in Malaysia, and Missbach writes of the Free Aceh Movement buying munitions with profits from cannabis trafficking.
But mass farming of cannabis is not limited to Aceh.
The Indonesian nation is made up of 18,307 islands, with 922 islands permanently inhabited. Indonesia’s population is more than 250 million. The Indonesian navy is small and it is impossible to comprehensively police Indonesia. According to the World Bank, more than 11 per cent of Indonesia’s population languish in extreme poverty, with 65 million of its people living just above the poverty line but who remain vulnerable to falling below the poverty line.
Thousands of Acehnese regularly peddle a kilogram or two of marijuana. The Acehnese export marijuana throughout south eastern Asia. In Malaysia’s Sungai Buloh prison there are 30 Acehnese awaiting execution for trafficking Acehnese cannabis. Nearly all Indonesians convicted in Malaysia of criminal activity are Acehnese peddling cannabis. According to Khairudin Harahap, Director of the legal aid organisation Indonesian Sociology Research Institute, more than 400 Acehnese are in Malaysian jails.
Despite the police busts of Acehnese cannabis, police and military officers are involved in corruptly protecting and facilitating the drug trafficking in and out of Indonesia.
One of the myths manufactured by those searching for why Schapelle or anyone would smuggle cannabis from Australia to Indonesia was that Australian marijuana is of an in demand superior quality. Some have stated that Australian marijuana has higher levels of THC – tetrahydrocannabinol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, THC is the chemical responsible for most of the drug’s psychological aberrations. THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain that operate memory, thinking, pleasure.
Australian cannabis in the 1970s had THC levels of up to two per cent but today’s hydroponic marijuana has THC levels of up to 15 per cent.
Acehnese, and indeed any Indonesian, cannabis has always had levels of 15 per cent THC. They have been growing cannabis for thousands of years. No-one smuggles cannabis from Australia to Indonesia.
The Australian media and the Australia Government failed Schapelle Corby and failed the Australian and Indonesian nations.
The series by The Stringer on Schapelle Corby:
– This is a must listen interview – Allan Kessing was a Sydney based senior customs officer who in 2002 and 2003, near retirement was seconded to investigate and produce reports on Sydney Airport security. His reports on airport corruption were suppressed but after the arrest of Schapelle Corby in 2004, his reports were leaked by unknown parties to the media. Mr Kessing was prosecuted on suspicion he leaked his own reports under what was effectively an anti-whistleblowers Act – built around not passing on various information. His legal defence dried up his superannuation. An honest person wounded by cultures of secrecy and silences which may not necessarily be working in the public interest.
Part of the interview:
Gerry Georgatos: I won’t ask you… In your experience is cannabis trafficked from Australia to countries such as Indonesia – to Bali?
Allan Kessing: Ha ha ha, I think the phrase ‘is coals to Newcastle’…
Gerry Georgatos: You’ve made the analogy of coals to Newcastle. Is there any other known incident of anybody trafficking cannabis to Indonesia?
Allan Kessing: Out of Australia I have never ever heard of it. In the 15 years I have worked with Customs I have never heard of such a thing. We are a drug importing country and not a drug exporting country.
Gerry Georgatos: And certainly we would not be exporting cannabis to Bali when it would sell at a higher value on Australian streets?
Allan Kessing: By a factor of about 100 I would have thought.
Gerry Georgatos: That’s the question I would have thought a very foundational question but it does not get a play in the media or with Government authorities.
Allan Kessing: Yeah, well in all legal matters you always have to look for a motive. Now, what possible motive would there have been to do such a strange thing and that alone should have set the authorities wondering what the mechanism was. Taking cannabis to Bali is a very strange thing to do given the disparity of price.