Indonesia gravely deplores irresponsible media reporting practice as demonstrated by a printed and online media based in Australia, known as The Saturday Paper, on 22 December 2018, accusing Indonesia of using chemical weapons in its operations in Nduga, Papua. The misleading report has also eclipsed the real issue at hand, which was the murder of 17 innocent civilians on December 2, 2018 by Papua Armed Separatists in Nduga. These civilians were construction workers tasked to build segments of Trans-Papua highway, as part of the nation-wide effort to elevate the well being of Papuans as Indonesian citizen. Indonesia, of course, will take necessary measures against the said media.
Why does a Credible Newspaper Choose to Support Hoax?
The Saturday Paper dropped an exclusive coverage by putting Indonesia in another limelight regarding the ongoing conflict in West Papua. The paper had also generously provide an old photo of a phosphorus bombing in Vietnam War to support their reasoning.
This old phosphor bombing picture is what actually put The Saturday Paper in a very muddy water. How come a credible newspaper used a fake picture to put on their exclusive report? This picture was once posted in the Papua Separatists Facebook page on December 11 as they spread hoaxes about the chemical weapons. The Saturday Paper apparently bought the hoax and turned it into an “authentic and exclusive report that only include anonymous sources”.
The allegation highlighted by the said media is totally baseless, non-factual, and gravely misleading because Indonesia is a member state of The Chemical Weapons Convention; an arms control treaty that outlawed the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons and their precursors.
As a compliant member of the OPCW, Indonesia has no possession of any chemical agents as listed in Schedule 1 of Chemical Weapons Convention. Accordingly, Indonesia also imports, uses, and stores Schedules 2 and 3 chemical agents for strictly peaceful purposes in supporting national industry, confirmed by no less than 19 OPCW inspections since 2004.
Does Indonesia Really Prohibited Media from Covering the Evacuation in Nduga?
Well, were The Saturday Paper attempt to cover the murders in Nduga too? Because if they were, they would find a lot of their comrades covering the news. All local and a lot of foreign media are still active covering Papua for the murder of 17 workers of Trans-Papua highway by Papua Armed Separatist Rebels on Dec 1, 2018 until today.
There were even BBC Indonesia, CNN Indonesia, and Metro TV journalists that cover directly to Nduga, Papua. There was an Indonesian journalist from the Associated Press, Niniek Karmini, who was also a contributor to the news about the murder in Nduga by the Papua Armed Separatists. There are 19,260 local news and 685 foreign news circulated from December 1 to December 19, 2018 about the murders in Nduga.
To say that Indonesia banned foreign journalists to enter Nduga was just an excuse of these media to validate their hoax. In addition, the trend that is still happening in foreign media nowadays is to write articles and news that only cover one side of the story; mainly taking all the words from the Papua Separatists raw and whole. These media did not even think to ask their fellow journalists in Indonesia to validate these words. They only have themselves to blame when it turned out the news they thought is a hot issue was only a fake.
Why is It Impossible to Use White Phosphorus Bomb in Nduga?
The Saturday Paper narrated that there were bombs dropped using helicopter. The paper quoted anonymous military source that validate “these bombs” as chemical weapons containing white phosphorus. The Minister Wiranto from the Coordinating Ministry for Politics, Law and Security had clarified in his interview on December 11 that Indonesian military did not use any bomb or chemical weapon, they only used smoke grenade.
The Head of Information of Papua Cendrawasih Military Command, Colonel Infantry Muhammad Aidi, had also clarified that it is impossible for the Indonesian military to use the phosphorus bomb. First, this bomb needed the support of heavy artillery on an assault aircraft, which they don’t have. Second, using this kind of bomb is very dangerous; it will annihilate all living things affected by the bomb radius. It means it will kill everything including the Indonesian soldier that were still evacuating bodies. Third, the involvement of military component in the operation, most particularly air rotary wing assets, was strictly as assistance to law enforcement apparatus, and not a military deployment per se in an otherwise internal security operations.
The other reason is that the explosion of a phosphorus bomb will probably annihilate the entire regency of Nduga. There won’t be any survivor after the bomb is dropped. However, Nduga is still intact. A lot of Indonesia military troops are still in the area to locate the group of murderers and also to find another survivor of the mass killing. If the bomb was really dropped on the said location, the Indonesian military will also be affected.
From the posts of the Papua Separatists on Facebook on December 11, clearly seen smoke grenade casings claimed by separatists as chemical bombs dropped with helicopter. The casings were of a 30mm and a 40mm smoke grenade which was usually launched using a GP30 M203 type grenade launcher commonly used by infantry forces in combat to conceal position or movement or mask a target. This grenade launcher can be mounted on rifles.
These accusation has further proven that the Papua Separatists will try to do anything, will try to produce hoaxes just to validate their reasoning. A chemical bomb like phosphorus bomb needed support from an assault aircraft or at least a heavy artillery to launch. However, the Military Command in Papua does not have any of the equipment.
After witnessing the dark side of the Free West Papua Campaign, should we still believe all of his propaganda over the past few years? Should the media write about everything they claimed to be without clarifying? Will it worth to tarnish your reputation by believing in their dramatic hoax stories?
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Aji, Seto. (December 16, 2018). Benda yang Dikira Bom Udara oleh Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat Ternyata Pelontar Granat. Retrieved from Bangkapos.com: bangka.tribunnews. com/2018/12/16/benda-yang-dikira-bom-udara-oleh-tentara-pembebasan-nasional-papua-barat-ternyata-pelontar-granat, 2018.
Martinkus, John and Mark Davis. (December 22, 2018). Exclusive: Chemical Weapons Dropped in Papua. Retrieved from Saturday Paper Australia: thesaturdaypaper. com.au/2018/12/22/exclusive-chemical-weapons-dropped-papua/15453972007326, 2018.
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International Committee of the Red Cross. Practice Relating to Rule 74. Chemical Weapons. Retrieved from IHL Database: ihl-databases.icrc. org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule74, 2018.