Letters to
the editor

Response on West Papua

The Saturday Paper’s article titled “Chemical weapons dropped in Papua” (December 22, 2018–January 25, 2019) is a good example of misleading and false news, channelling baseless allegations against the Indonesian government and the real and progressive situation in Papua. Armed separatists in Papua have conducted heinous crimes including murder of innocent civilians. Their latest act is the execution of 19 innocent workers on December 2, 2018 who were in Nduga building the Trans-Papua Highway, while four more civilians are still held hostage. In response, the Indonesian government formed a joint police and military taskforce to conduct law enforcement operations in the area, in accordance with the prevailing laws and regulations, on December 4-15, 2018. As a compliant member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Indonesia possesses no chemical agents as listed in schedule 1 of the Chemical Weapons Convention; while the schedules 2 and 3 chemical agents are used for strictly peaceful purposes. Such have been confirmed by 19 OPCW inspections since 2004. Hence, no Indonesian apparatus has ever been in possession or utilised any chemical weapons. The Indonesian embassy in Canberra deplores the irresponsible reporting of The Saturday Paper. The two writers failed to “cover both sides” and have not requested clarification at all.

– Billy Wibisono, first secretary political affairs, Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia

Conflict needs to be examined

After reading about the Indonesian military’s chemical weapons attack in West Papua I cut out the article and stuck it on a piece of cardboard. On Monday, January 14 I stood outside Sydney’s Indonesian consulate in Maroubra for three hours displaying it to passers-by. I also had a West Papuan flag flying on a flagpole and a sign hung around my neck saying End Indonesia’s Brutal Occupation of West Papua, and information flyers in English and Indonesian to give out. I’ve been doing this picketing since 2017 and people have been supportive. Public reaction is overwhelmingly positive. This horrible chemical warfare marks an escalation in the conflict and I urge others to show support and solidarity for the West Papuan people. I commend John Martinkus and Mark Davis on their excellent report and The Saturday Paper, alone among Australian media as far as I know, for publishing it.

– Stuart Highway, Chester Hill, NSW

Praise for prose

I was delighted when I read that The Saturday Paper and Aesop were jointly establishing The Horne Prize – a step towards a more civilised society. Such cultural patronage could be a hopeful step in addressing our current moral malaise. Now I have read “Ten more days” I am doubly gratified. Congratulations Daniel James (December 22, 2018–January 25, 2019), you have presented us with a searing statement that must play a part in our education. And in the same issue is Maxine Beneba Clarke’s “Louisiana heron”. I read this last night, and when I woke in the night, I read it again. It is etched in my mind and I think will be always.

– Carole Stannard, Glenorie, NSW

Ending the year on a high note

What a cracker of an issue. Wesley Enoch’s insightful mapping of the strands of Australian culture to include all its residents over all their times to give us an inclusive way forward for celebration – if only we could embrace this (“Australia Day: Past, present and future”, December 22, 2018–January 25, 2019). Abdul Karim Hekmat (“Life in limbo”) telling us the details of one more terrible story of how that culture has so far not included the desperate refugees who fetched up on our shores. Martin McKenzie-Murray (“Death and the maidens”) reminding us of the year that was with such clever skewering in such elegant prose. Farewell to Hamish McDonald, whose pithy summaries on the World page of what’s important in Asian and other regions we will miss. And then Daniel James, with an essay that so generously and movingly takes us into the pain and the hope of his culture. And for all the other wonderful pieces by all the other wonderful writers, thank you.

– Louise Fenley, Chiswick, NSW

Australia’s hostage crisis

I remember when 52 American hostages were held hostage in Tehran for 444 days. They were never out of the news. That was at the end of the 1970s. The “Iranian hostage crisis”. 1500 people have been held hostage for five years on Manus and Nauru, in conditions you can read about in the remarkable Behrouz Boochani’s book No Friend But the Mountains. Limitless imprisonment of innocent people in defiance of all human rights. Torture is what the United Nations rightly calls it. The “Australian hostage crisis”. And this is done in our name. Until we act together as citizens this bastardry will continue. We in Sydney protest every week: Fridays, 5.30pm, at the statue in front of the QVB. So do our friends in Adelaide, Melbourne, Newcastle and Albany. We have to do that and a lot more to force the government to stop this abomination.

– Stephen Langford, Paddington, NSW

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on January 26, 2019.

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