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Indonesian students react to controversial Jessica Wongso trial and sentencing

INDONESIAN students in Melbourne weigh in on the trial and sentencing of Jessica Wongso. Hieu Chau has the story.

*Words by Hieu Chau, students interviewed by Lunnie Gan and Stevi Lee

It was the trial that gripped Indonesia and on Thursday evening, the verdict had come through: former international student and Australian permanent resident Jessica Kumala Wongso was found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to 2o years in jail for allegedly killing her friend, Wayan Mirna Salihin, with cyanide-laced coffee.

The two had met for coffee at an upscale cafe in Jakarta with another friend early this January. Wongso, who arrived early, texted that she would order drinks before their arrival. Within minutes of sipping her coffee, CCTV footage showed Salihin suddenly slumping into her seat. An autopsy later revealed cyanide in Salihin’s stomach.

The trial was the subject of controversy and became prime fodder for debate and gossip amongst the Indonesian community. What would possess someone to do this? Did she really do it? Was the trial actually fair?

The events surrounding the alleged murder and trial unfolded on live Indonesian television for the past four months.

“Jessica’s case became a soap opera that the public really enjoyed watching,” said Victoria University student Regina Nadya Suwono.

And indeed Indonesians were watching and paying attention, Indonesians like Melia Wijaya from the University of Melbourne who expressed doubt over the fairness in Wongso’s trial.

“By reading the news, [it could be said] that she should be found not guilty because there was no clear evidence that she poisoned Mirna,” Melia said.

Others however felt the opposite, like Cecelia Joicelyn, also from the University of Melbourne.

“She deserves the punishment and I hope that her friend can rest in peace,” Cecelia said.

Monash University student Dhini Hardianti, thinks the trial exposed the cracks in Indonesia’s judicial system and called it “questionable”.

“Thinking about the case makes me uncomfortable – too many layers of the Indonesian enforcement systems are untrustworthy, be it law, politics or other, and I just think bribing and corruption contributed a lot in this case,” Dhini said.

With the trial concluded and the verdict decided however, Regina commended the efforts of the Indonesian government in closing the trial and its cooperation with the Australian Federal Police, who assisted in the case provided the death penalty would not be applied.

“We as the citizens of Indonesia feel relieved and proud by our government for all of their efforts for almost a year to solve this case,” Regina said.

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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