Subject: AT: Papua Puppetry Leaves Murders Unsolved [+Freeport Inquiry]

also: Payments by Freeport McMoRan Prompt U.S. Inquiry

Asia Times Thursday, January 19, 2006

Papua Puppetry Leaves Murders Unsolved

By Gary LaMoshi

DENPASAR, Bali - The United States and Indonesia have gotten their man in the ambush killings of two Americans in Papua three years ago. The arrest of Antonius Wamang, an alleged separatist military commander, is supposed to quell speculation that the Indonesian military was behind the shootings. But in this intercontinental production of wayang kulit - Indonesian shadow puppetry

Wamang has admitted firing shots in the August 31, 2002, attack near Timika on a road to Freeport-McMoRan's vast Grasberg mining complex in otherwise remote Papua (see Indonesia's gold standard, Asia Times Online, September 7, 2002). His lawyer says Wamang told police and others he chose the site after receiving information that Indonesian troops would be there, and he intended to attack them.

 

order from ETAN

 

Instead, he attacked a van full of teachers and other Grasberg employees returning from a picnic. Three people were killed - an Indonesia teacher and two Americans, school principal Edwin Burgon and teacher Ricky Lynn Spier - and 11 others wounded. Wamang was indicted for murder in the US in June 2004 but eluded security forces and a US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) team until last week, though Australian television managed to interview him three months after the indictment.

Masked Men

Attacking Westerners would have been unprecedented for the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM, for Organisasi Papua Merdeka), which has waged a low-level insurgency against Indonesian rule for decades in the province that Indonesia annexed in 1969. According to his lawyer, Wamang told police interrogators he saw three masked men in military uniforms firing their weapons at the scene as well. He also repeated his past claim that he received his ammunition for the attack from a high-ranking soldier.

Of course that makes no sense. Why would the military give bullets to a militant planning to attack its soldiers? And why would soldiers fire at employees of a company that acknowledges paying nearly US$20 million from 1998 to 2004 to the military for protection, as well as spending $35 million on housing and equipment for soldiers? It makes sense if this deadly drama is wayang kulit, where the dalang (puppet master) below the stage controls the action of the puppets.

In the weeks before the shooting, Freeport McMoRan reportedly proposed cutting its rich payments to military commanders. Fees for security services, along with business interests - illegal and otherwise - cover about 70% of the budget for the military, known by the acronym TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia). It's been a happy coincidence that for decades low-level insurgencies simmered in Aceh and Papua, where Western companies have extensive resource-extraction facilities needing protection. Despite the small numbers of armed militants, the military was never able to quash these fighters.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

Investigative reports link the military and Papuan opposition forces, particularly in the 1996 rioting that resulted in $3 million worth of damage at Grasberg and the start of Freeport McMoRan's direct payments to the military.

From one end of the archipelago to the other, for various reasons, TNI has repeatedly encouraged, supplied and supported, sometimes with troops, militants such as those responsible for the massacres in East Timor and the sectarian fighting in Ambon and Central Sulawesi that even conspiracy skeptics such as International Crisis Group director Sidney Jones now recognize as key to the growth of Islamic terrorism in Indonesia (aee Terrorism links in Indonesia point to military, Asia Times Online, October 8, 2004).

Government security forces are also believed to smuggle arms to militants. That's a two-way win: the military makes money on the sales and on the additional security needed for protection against the fighters. That makes Wamang's story of bullets and masked men more credible.

But that's not the story that the Indonesian and US governments want for this wayang kulit tale. On Monday in Jakarta, General Sutanto, chief of the national police, laid out the script. Wamang and his colleagues intended to kill soldiers, but they weren't ready to fire when a truck full of soldiers passed, so they unloaded on the next vehicle, mistaking the teachers for troops. Most importantly, there is no evidence of TNI involvement in the attack.

Either the police or Wamang and his lawyer are not telling the truth. Each side has strong motives for its story, strong enough to lie. A vigorous criminal prosecution and defense in an open trial before an impartial judge could determine which story is true. That's not in the script, though.

Coming to America - Not

US officials have spoken about extraditing Wamang for trial in the US, but that won't happen. The United States and Indonesia have no extradition treaty. If Indonesia had wanted to let the US have Wamang, or the US had really wanted him, he'd already be there. FBI agents grabbed Wamang and 11 other men - ironically, luring them out of hiding with a promise they'd be brought to the US - then turned them over to Indonesian authorities.

There's precedent for Indonesia allowing the US to have a suspect it wants, specifically al-Qaeda's Omar al Faruq, seized by Indonesia and handed over to the US in June 2002. That rendition stirred radical sentiment in Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, where the US-led "war on terrorism" is often portrayed as a war on Islam. Handing over Wamang would have no such impact because there's no Islamic link - Papuans are generally animists or Christians - and the murders resonate more in the US than Indonesia. If Indonesian authorities were going to let Wamang go, they would have simply told the FBI to drive him to the airport instead of a police rendezvous.

A trial in Indonesia will avoid a lot of messiness likely in the US, including close scrutiny of alleged TNI involvement and of Freeport McMoRan's shameful record not only on payoffs but environmental damage to formerly pristine wilderness and wetlands. A trial in Indonesia will follow the script for the conviction of Polycarpus Budihari Priyanto for the in-flight poisoning of Munir Said Thalib, a leading activist for military accountability for atrocities (see Arresting decay in Indonesia, Asia Times Online, July 7, 2005).

An independent investigation uncovered documents from Indonesia's National Intelligence Agency, an arm of the military, outlining plots to kill Munir, including poisoning on a commercial flight. It also substantiated Polycarpus' links to the agency, including cell-phone calls between Polycarpus and a top intelligence official in the days before Munir's murder. Yet the trail so far has stopped at Polycarpus and a pair of hapless flight attendants.

People Power Papua-Style

To ensure there are no slip-ups, the suspects have already been spirited to Jakarta, where they will stand trial thousands of kilometers from Papua. Papuans staged a noisy demonstration in Jayapura, the provincial capital, after the suspects were moved. More protests are likely during the trial - Papuans demonstrated peacefully outside the US Consular Agency in Bali on Wednesday - but protests in Jakarta are unlikely to evolve into some version of Papuan people power there, the worst fear of Indonesia and Freeport McMoRan.

Most important, neither side has any reason to seek unpleasant truths about the murders. Indonesia prefers its story, that OPM killed the teachers by mistake, as part of its separatist militancy. The administration of US President George W Bush can cite the arrest and forthcoming conviction to justify its decision in November to drop its arms embargo against Indonesia and resume full military ties (see US 'national security' favors Indonesian thugs, Asia Times Online, December 2, 2005).

The last thing the Bush people want is evidence that TNI, now its partner for America's national-security interests, had anything to do with killing Americans. If you think the Bush administration wouldn't put American lives above poorly conceived strategic goals, then you haven't been paying attention to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The US will laud the arrest of Wamang and Indonesia's cooperation in its catalogue of Indonesia's progress as a democracy. But the case really shows how little has changed in Indonesia, particularly when it comes to TNI, and how much has changed in Bush's America - for the worse. Now America is just another leather puppet on a stick in TNI's wayang kulit.

Gary LaMoshi has worked as a broadcast producer and print writer and editor in the US and Asia. Longtime editor of investor rights advocate eRaider.com, he's also a contributor to Slate and Salon.com.

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Associated Press January 18, 2006

Payments by Freeport McMoRan Prompt Inquiry

Payments by U.S. mining company Freeport McMoRan to troops guarding its massive gold mine in Indonesia have sparked an inquiry by U.S. government agencies, the company said.

New Orleans-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. has denied breaking any laws either in Indonesia or in the United States over its payments to the military, saying it has been transparent about providing support to troops near its mine in the remote province of West Papua.

But the company said Tuesday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it "had received informal inquiries from governmental agencies related to (Freeport's) support of Indonesian security institutions. (Freeport) is fully cooperating with these requests."

It did not identify the government agencies involved in the inquiries, nor their nature.

There has been speculation that the payments might violate the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars U.S. companies from bribing overseas government officials.

The practice of paying Indonesia's notoriously corrupt and brutal military has came under renewed scrutiny since a 2002 attack on a convoy of teachers working at the mine killed two U.S. citizens.

Local and foreign rights groups have alleged soldiers took part in the attack, allegedly to extort more security payments money from Freeport.

Freeport admits paying millions of dollars a year in security payments in Papua.

Global Witness, a worldwide anti-corruption body, last year revealed that the company paid the money directly to senior officers, not via the government.

Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission said it had no immediate plans to launch its own investigation into the payments, but said it would support any probe by U.S. authorities if asked.

"I think (that) is no problem, we have good cooperation with friends and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and other countries so we don't have any problem assisting," said Erry Riyana Hardjamekas, the commission's vice president.

Also on Tuesday, Freeport posted a sharp gain in fourth-quarter earnings that far exceeded analysts' forecasts. For the three months ending Dec. 31, Freeport McMoRan said it earned $463.2 million, or $2.19 per share, on revenue of $1.49 billion. For the fourth quarter of 2004, the company reported earnings of $156.8 million, or 85 cents per share, on revenue of $924.8 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had forecast per-share earnings of $1.78 for the latest quarter.


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