Aussie paper questions if nine in Jalur Gemilang row truly contrite

Jack Walker, one of the nine Australian men who were detained for stripping down to their underwear at last Sunday’s Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, leaves the Magistrate Court in Sepang October 6, 2016. — Reuters pic
Jack Walker, one of the nine Australian men who were detained for stripping down to their underwear at last Sunday’s Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, leaves the Magistrate Court in Sepang October 6, 2016. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — The apology used by the nine Australians to escape punishment in Malaysia for stripping to briefs with the Jalur Gemilang might have been coached.

David Ellery of The Canberra Times said the sincerity of their apparent contrition in the Sepang Sessions Court this week remained to be seen, based on previous actions by Australians during cases abroad.

“It will be necessary to look to their future behaviour to see if they were truly 'remorseful of our conduct that day' or if they were just going through well-rehearsed motions after being coached on the best way to avoid jail.

“Given the track record of similar stunts around the globe clocked up by these men of wealthy and privileged backgrounds, the latter seems a real possibility,” Ellery wrote.

Ellery also noted that none of the nine men, including an aide in the Turnbull administration, have yet to express any gratitude for the “commendable justice and restraint” shown by the Malaysian court.

Sessions Court judge Harith Sham Mohamed Yasin on Thursday invoked an infrequently used legal provision to avoid passing down any sentence to the nine men who removed all their clothing save for briefs printed with the Malaysian flag during the Formula One Grand Prix here last week.

Harith's decision also meant that none of the group would have criminal convictions on their record.

Ellery further noted that similar actions by local youths would not have escaped punishment here, using this to rebut criticism in his country that Malaysia had overreacted.

He also added that if the situation were reversed, Australia would also not have ignored it.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday described Malaysia as “very lenient” after Harith released the nine — who included an aide to Australia’s Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and a nephew to Australian diplomat Tom Yates — with just a warning.

The nine had pleaded guilty to charges of public nuisance before Harith.