The East Timor and Indonesian Action
Network (ETAN), in conjunction with the Industrial Workers of the
World and Occupy Phoenix will be protesting the Freeport-McMoRan
Corporation at their headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, on
Friday, February 3, from 4-6 p.m.
We are acting in solidarity with the people of West Papua to bring
attention to Freeport's egregious human, labor, and environmental
With the support of the United States and the United Nations,
control of West Papua was transferred from its Dutch colonizers -
who until then had been preparing the West Papuans for eventual
independence - to Indonesia in the August 1962 New York Agreement.
This was done without any significant input from the West Papuan
people themselves. Indonesia had long had its eyes on the territory,
despite limited historical ties. Following its annexation, West
Papuan resistance to Indonesian control broke out. After the
dictator General Suharto deposed President Sukarno, Freeport-McMoRan
signed a contract with the Indonesian government in 1967 to exploit
West Papua's valuable mineral resources, again with no consultation
of the West Papuan people. Freeport essentially wrote its own
contract. In 1969, Indonesia held a farcical 'Act of Free Choice' in
West Papua to determine the region's fate. Heavily coerced, 1205
hand-picked 'representatives' unanimously 'chose' integration with
Indonesia. Most states endorsed this completely illegitimate act as
a supposedly fair plebiscite under pressure from Indonesia and the
West, who were anxious to exploit the region's minerals. Freeport
has heavily profited by operating one of the world's largest copper
and gold mines in West Papua.
Since 1969, West Papuans have faced an accelerated program of forced
and voluntary migration of Javanese and other ethnic groups to the
region, and West Papuans are becoming a minority in their own land.
The economy remains, for the most part, in the hands of outsiders
and foreigners - including Indonesian military officers - while most
West Papuans remain desperately poor (the region is one of the
poorest in Indonesia). Free expression of Papuan identity is stifled
under draconian laws, torture, killings and 'disappearances.'
Freeport has established a close relationship with the Indonesian
government and is the largest foreign contributor to Indonesia's tax
base. Freeport has been complicit in the suppression and denial of
basic human rights of the West Papuan people. Despite a recent wage
increase (a fraction of what the workers were asking for) granted
after a months-long strike, Freeport continues to pay its Indonesian
employees the lowest wages out of any Freeport operation. Because of
Indonesia's lax environmental laws and minimal enforcement, as well
as its willingness to look away when big money is involved, the
environment around the Grasberg mine has been destroyed, and the
people who lived there displaced with many of their cultural
traditions shattered. Tailings from the mine have polluted the
Agabagong and Aijkwa Rivers, which flow to the sea, creating a dead
zone for miles.
Freeport-McMoRan has admitted paying millions to the Indonesian
police and military, who essentially operate as mercenaries that
largely do the company's bidding. These forces have engaged in
systematic arrest, torture, killings and disappearances of West
Papuans and others deemed critical of Freeport's operations.
Competition between the police and military for Freeport's patronage
is likely responsible for repeated sniper attacks on Freeport
employees near its mine over the last decade. Ben Davis, the
Director for International Affairs of the
United Steelworkers, recently wrote the Justice Department
asking them to open an investigation of Freeport under the 1977
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for possibly unreported payments. We
fully support this effort.
We believe that Freeport-McMoRan must be held accountable for its
atrocious record. We also believe that Freeport should listen to its
West Papuan workers' demands for better working conditions and pay,
and should be required to clean up the grave environmental damage it
has caused in West Papua. While Freeport is not responsible for all
of the political turmoil in West Papua, we are convinced that its
actions are making the situation worse. Token payments to West
Papuans and increased royalties to the central government are not
substitutes for genuine control by Papuans over their resources.