Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fair trial does not exist

The coroner court on the case between David Hartanto Widjaja (Indonesian) and A/Prof. Chan Kap Luk (Singaporean) is finally ongoing and the stories really get interesting. The latest news is http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/431665/1/.html

David allegedly stabbed his final year project's supervisor, A/P Chan before then jumping to his death. However, the family disputed the event and calls for fair trial, where they said the truth about a conspiracy behind the event will emerge. Unfortunately, woe to them, up to today, witnesses claiming direct involvement in the alledged stabbing, from bloody David and A/P Chan to David's jumping, support the allegation that David jumped to his death on his own accord. There is even a video recorded by a handphone allegedly showing David sitting on the parapet of the connecting bridge before jumping down. Now, the family did not accept that the person in the video is David and disputed the account. They wanted to get digital forensic expert to examine the video. Great effort and I applaud for that. They continued claiming that this is not a fair trial and there is a conspiracy behind the death of the beloved son.

Now, this case causes me to re-examine the term "fair trial". Frankly, while following this case, I realize that generally media tells story they want their audience to read. News in Indonesia tends to run contrary to news in Singapore. Interestingly, people also forms their own opinion based on what they perceived to be the truth. One side of the podium sits the people thinking of a good student gone haywire due to online gaming and stabbing his nice supervisor. On the other side of the podium sits the people claiming conspiracy theory where David's final year project is of great economy value and the supervisor planned to steal it by killing the student. These people could not have sat in the opposite of a wider and deeper chasm. After all, the thoughts they have are so much ingrained that it seems to be quite difficult to sway them to the other way. The conspiracy theory group for example, calls for a fair trial to be conducted to reveal the conspiracy theory.

Wait a minute, there is stark mistake in that call. How can it be a fair trial if the final result of the trial (that it is a conspiracy theory) has been decided? I really don't think these people will accept any results other than a conspiracy theory. That's why I don't think they won't agree that the trial is fair unless A/P Chan is proven to be the aggressor. They miss one obvious point though, trials are going to result in one version of a story, not two, not three. The trials are set by the witnesses, the judge and the lawyers. It is often a fight between two opposing theories. People can only say it is a fair trial if they see the trial with open eyes, not one eyes closed. In this case, unless there is a witness with contradictory witnessing and standing up in the witness stand, I am afraid that the "fair trial" sought by the conspiracy theory group may be hard to manifest.

A trial will always be directed. If by definition, a fair trial is where cases are examined by allowing truthful account of the situation to be brought forward, then there won't be a fair trial unless people accept that the witness gives a truthful account. If the crowd has decided a version of the story, it would be very difficult to see any "fair trial" at all. Hence, I don't think fair trial will exist for them. It is like searching for cat in a compound of dogs (forgive me of my crude analogy). This observation applies to all cases where people demands for a truth where the court provides the opposite, regardless of how truthful the court is. Cases where court is directed and fake group of witnesses are produced are also not uncommon in many places such as Indonesia. In such situation, it will be the victim, the sufferer who will be at the bad end. So will they get a fair trial? Bet you they won't. The witnesses pretty much also gives opinion of what they feel they have seen. It's not a completely objective view in any case. The court will always be steered by the witnesses. Strange thing I find is that the witnesses can attend the witnessing of others. I feel this approach helps steer the later witness to a common points. I may be wrong.. but one thing I am confident is that fair trial does not exist for people who has formulated their mindset to the opposite of the court results.

I pity the "victimised" and can only hope for their serenity in getting on with lives.

Latest news from Indonesia news:

The family lamented that non of the witnesses so far describes what happens in the emergency stairwell, which David used to run down to the bridge, his condition before falling and what exactly causes his wound. There are few things they have not considered before sounding their complaints:
1. Being in the building that is connected by the bridge for more than 2 years and in NTU for 7.5 years, I can confidently say, emergency stair well is not normally used. Students like lift, it's easier to get to places.
2. The area is deserted unless it is a lunch time. It is not improbable at all that no one passes that area. I remembered clearly that few days ago, a student from Iran claimed he tried to persuade David to come down from the parapet before then he left him to call for others to help. So, there is actually someone near David before he jumped.
3. The alleged stabbing event occur in a room where only two people were present and one of them is dead. How exactly can any other person describes what happen except the only living one? Too bad for them it's the supervisor who the family thinks as part of the big conspiracy theory.

The witnesses so far seems to have been from the other side of the fence. It would be good to hear what witnesses the family can call up since they claim that there is a witness claiming to hear David screaming "They want to kill me". I will wait for the witness, it will be interesting.

Praying for peace in everybody's mind.

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