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Responding The Saturday Paper: “War” in West Papua


To the editor of The Saturday Paper

Dear Editor,

As an Indonesian reader based in Jakarta who cares about domestic and international politics, I was expecting an adequately analytical, and probably more balanced standpoint from the contents of The Saturday Paper. The article “War in West Papua” was pretty much written using the guerilla movement’s point of view, losing the critical perspective from either Indonesian point of view or the civil society. Bear in mind that survey by Tempo, a media that shook Suharto’s authoritarian regime 20 years ago, concluded that most Indonesian are in favor of West Papua’s Trans Papua infrastructure project to be continued following the Nduga Massacre (1/12/2018).

As much as I agree that the media should be critical towards governments (either Australian, Indonesian, or any government for that matter), I believe that we would all be better off if the media are also being critical towards the independence movements, the leftist movements, the green movements, as well as doing self-critics, and so on. Adding variations to the sources that you quote, and giving more effort to explain the perspective from Indonesian government will certainly worth the time.

It is somehow misleading to say that “there is a new war on Australia’s doorstep”. There is currently very little stake on Australian side regarding the armed conflict, even since the 1970s. As been said by John Martinkus in the very same article, the conflict itself has been ongoing for 57 years. During the conflict, West Papuan secessionist groups have “declared war” on Indonesian military at least three times: in 2015, 2018, and 2019. Analyzing the difference between the three occasions of war declaration would surely be useful for the readers.

There was also very little analysis regarding the claim of chemical weapon usage by Indonesian military, while that should have been an interesting talking point. From what I know, the Indonesian government has made clarificatory statements, both written and in videos, that the white phosphorus issue was a hoax, built using shells of smoke grenades and unrelated photos of burnt injuries. On this, I believe that The Saturday Paper should have given a more proper report (the last well-known occasion of the usage of white phosphorus as aerial bomb was in the Vietnam War, before used as smoke-screens in Iraq and Gaza).

It is also worth noting that currently, there are two competing separatist groups in West Papua, one led by Jeffrey Bomanak, and another led by Benny Wenda. The two groups are, as far as most Indonesian audience know from their social media pages, battling for the claim as the “official” West Papuan independence movement. The OPM-TPNPB (led by Jeffrey Bomanak), pioneer of the secessionist movement, did not support Benny Wenda and ULMWP’s petition. I believe that this fact is more important talking points, rather than elaborating on the heroism of the independence movement.

Source: https://www.thesaturdaypaper .com.au/2019/02/23/analysis-worth-the-effort/15508404007486

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