I am an Indonesian reader living in Jakarta, and I have seen international media portraying the conflict in West Papua inaccurately. On the 18 December article “Indonesia's military says 2 soldiers killed in Papua clash,” I believe that the Napa Valley Register, as a prominent online media, should have given a broader and more balanced perspective, both from the separatist and nationalist standpoints.
The two soldiers in the article, Lieutenant Erizal Zuhri Sidabutar (29) and Sergeant Rizky Ramadhan were murdered in an ambush on their way carrying food packages for Christmas, when suddenly OPM separatists fired shots at them. The attack took place in Intan Jaya, specifically Kolapa and Wabui village, which are known as a hotbed of OPM members who frequently perpetrate violence.
In 2019, there have been too many attacks by OPM: 18 January in Puncak Jaya (1 dead), 28 January in Nduga (1 dead), 5 March in Nduga (1 dead), 7 March in Nduga (3 dead), 20 July in Yuguru (1 dead), and 17 August in Jayawijaya (1 dead). The troops had been deployed to help police prevent any disturbances by separatists ahead of Christmas celebrations.
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Please note that the ambush on these two soldiers was not the first crime by the separatists during the year. Previously in Wamena (23/9), 33 people including 29 non-Papuans were killed by separatist rioters, causing 3,000 to seek refuge (Jakarta Post, 5 October 2019 ). Non-papuans were being specifically targeted, with vehicles and more than 300 non-Papuan owned properties burnt down by rioters. They all tried to justify their act in the name of independence fight.
Strangely, the media almost always analyze the West Papuan conflict from just one single chapter of history, The Act of Free Choice referendum (1969). In reality, the Indonesians’ fight against Dutch colonials which ended in Linggadjati Agreement (1946), Renville Agreement (1948) and Roem-Royen Agreement (1949) have clearly stated West Papua as a part of Republic of Indonesia, but the Dutch broke those agreements.
The separatists still believe in the false promises of independence given by the Dutch, who created six puppet states using devide et impera politics to prevent the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia.
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Meanwhile, the 1969 Act of Free Choice (PEPERA), ratified by the United Nations through UN Resolution 2504 has decided that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia. During the time, one-man-one-vote system was highly impossible due to terrain and technical difficulties. Even the Indonesian government only started adopting one-man-one-vote during the 2004 election, 35 years later. The act was initiated by the PEPERA Deliberation Council, consisting of 400 tribal leaders, 360 regional leaders, and 266 other figures from various communities. It has an indisputable legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.
I wish that international media, including the Register and many others, can prove their credibility by providing a more comprehensive perspective regarding conflicts, specifically in West Papuan issues.
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