Subject: Papuan Tribe to File Charges Against Freeport Saying "We Own Those Natural Riches But We Get Nothing Except Violence and Environmental Degradation"

also WALHI calls for Freeport to be shut down

The Jakarta Globe

July 17, 2009

Tribe in Papua to File Charges Against Freeport

by Fidelis E Satriastanti

After feeling exploited and ignored for more than three decades, the Papuan Amungme tribe have filed a lawsuit against the government, Coordinating Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie and the operator of one of the largest mining sites in the world, PT Freeport Indonesia, a lawyer said on Thursday.

“[Freeport and its other shareholders] have been exploiting our land while we have been left behind in poverty. We are the owners of those natural riches but we get nothing except violence and environmental degradation,” said Titus Natkime, one the lawyers for the Amungme tribe.

Titus said 92 members of the tribe have entrusted him to file the lawsuit.

The government has a 9.36 percent stake in Freeport while Bakrie holds a 9.36 percent share in the subsidiary of the mining giant, PT Freeport MacMoRan.

“We are suing the government of Indonesia because as citizens, we have the right to expect protection from our government,” he said, citing the nation’s laws and regulations, especially the 1945 Constitution, which guaranteed the welfare of indigenous people.

He said the lawsuit was registered as a civil case at the South Jakarta District Court on May 27 and the first hearing would open on Aug. 6.

“We are suing them for the losses suffered by our people from 1967 to 2009, which is worth about $30 billion,” he said adding that the company earned around $20 million a day from the mine.

He said the tribe had entered negotiations with Freeport McMoran in 2002 but dropped out in 2006 after the chances of getting a result became elusive.

“We kept a record of the negotiations as proof and we will present it to the court as evidence,” he said, adding that in 1997, Tom Beanal, the head of Lemasa, the Amungme Traditional Law Council, sued Freeport in New Orleans, Louisiana, where it is based, but lost.

Meanwhile, Arkilaus Arnesius Baho from the National League for the Struggle of the People of West Papua, said the only way to solve the ongoing conflict in the province was to close down the mine.

“If we want to put an end to conflict in Papua, the only sure way is to shut down Freeport,” Arkilaus said. “Since the company landed in Papua in 1967, there have been nothing but problems, such as a menacing military presence, real environmental damage and increased conflicts between the tribes.”

He said the current spate of violence in the province could not be laid at the feet of any particular group but was the accumulative effect of events linked to the ongoing economic injustice that begun with the arrival of Freeport. He was referring to the recent series of armed attacks on Freeport workers and police that has already left three dead, including an Australian employee of Freeport, and several others injured.

Titus said he was also very concerned about the shootings but that he was not here to talk about those incidents.

“I am here to represent the Amungme tribe who are demanding justice,” he said, adding that his clients were the traditional title owners of 2.6 million hectares, most of which is now occupied by the mining company.

Berry Nahdian Furqon, executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said the site should be closed following the recent spike in violence.

“We urge the government to establish an independent committee to oversees the three issues at the heart of the problems in Papua — human rights violations, ecological considerations and social economic factors,” Berry said.


WALHI calls for Freeport to be shut down

Kompas, 16 July 2009

Translated by TAPOL

The recent series of shootings in Papua are closely connected to injustices that have arisen as the result of the operations of Freeport-Indonesia in Papua.

According to Berry Nahdian Forquan, the Executive Director of WALHI, the Indonesian environmental NGO, speaking at a press conference in the organisation's head office in Jakarta: 'Freeport operations have perpetrated ecological crimes, humanitarian tragedy and economic colonisation.'

Also present at the press conference were Arkilaus Arnesius Baho of the National League of Struggle of the People of West Papua, and Tinus Natkime, spokesman for the traditional land rights of people in the region where Freeport operations occur.

Berry said that the acts of violence occurring in Papua are the result of the injustice of conceding a huge area of land to Freeport which enables them to exploit the riches of the land of Papua. 'Freeport exploits and has an impact on the political, economic and social conditions of the Papuan people. Then when everything is gone, the government is unable to do anything.'

Violence, destruction of the environment and social injustices are an integral part of the history of Freeport operations in Papua which began operations in 1967. 'We should not just look at some groups in Papua that may engage in acts of violence,' he said.

He said that the only way to bring an end to all the violence and injustices is for a total shut-down of Freeport operations. 'If SBY [the Indonesian president] is truly committed to the Papuan people, he should put a stop to Freeport operations once and for all,' he said.

He said that the Indonesian government should set up an independent commission composed of experts in legal affairs, the environment and social issues to conduct a comprehensive review of all aspects of the situation, including human rights, the ecology, and the economy.

In addition to that, the government must facilitate public consultations, involving the Papuan people, particularly those living in the vicinity of Freeport, in order to obtain a true portrayal of everything that has happened up till now.

Once the Freeport operations have been closed down, the company must be held responsible for the ecological situation and for all their personnel.

Berry said that those now employed by Freeport could then be employed to bring about the restoration of the ecology and the economic situation in the area.'

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