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Feb. 3 protest at Phoenix, Arizona, headquarters of Freeport McMoRan. Photo by ETAN

Audio: Interview with ETAN National Coordinator on the February 1 John Batchelor Show, starts at about 32:20 minutes

Statement for Phoenix Occupy Freeport Demonstration

February 2012

Freeport's Grasburg mine in West Papua  

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 rights problems.

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.

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