News from West Papua: Two Papuans on trial for rebellion; Deputy governor condemns Freeport for Lying

Abridged in translation

Bntang Papua, 21 July 2010

Two Papuans, Semuel Yaru and Luther Wrait are on trial for taking part in a flag flying event recently outside the office of the MRP, Majelis Rakyat Papua. Both men have been charged with rebellion. At the court hearing yesterday, the prosecutor presented his demand for sentencing the accused. He called on the court to sentence Sem Taru to three years and to sentence Luther Wrait to eighteen months. He said that the sentence for Sem Yaru should be higher because this is his second offence.

Lawyers acting for the defendants said that proposed verdicts were unacceptable – he called them ‘crazy and misguided’ – because the two men had not demanded secession from Indonesia. ‘As so often happens in demonstrations, there are speeches, flags are flown and other things that generally occur during a demonstration.’

The lawyer Iwan Niode said that what the men had been saying was that special autonomy for Papua had been a failure and had not been beneficial for the people.

The prosecutor said the men should be sentenced under article 106 of the Criminal Code (on rebellion) and articles 56 and 110 of the Criminal Code. He was referring to an incident on 10 November 2009 when the two men, along with Alex Mebri and about fifty other people took part in a demonstration outside the MRP office, when they handed out leaflets and unfurled the Morning Star flag.

While holding the flag aloft, Sem Yaru had called special autonomy a failure and said that the people had enjoyed no benefits and that, since special autonomy had failed, it would be better to be independent. The other people in the demonstration responded with calls for ‘merdeka’ He said there were no mitigating circumstances for the two men, one of whom should be sentenced to three years and the other to 18 months.

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Deputy governor calls Freeport ‘a Big Cheat’

Sarmi: Amid all the confusing information about Freeport-Indonesia and the news about the company illegally mining uranium, which is not in accord with its contract of work, the deputy governor of Papua, Alex Hesegem, said during a visit to the island of Liki in the district of Sarmi that the Papuan people refuse to be cheated in this way.

‘They are big cheats,’ he said. ‘We refuse to be nothing more than bystanders in our rich land while our people live in poverty.’ He said that other companies wanting to invest in Papua should ensure that they contribute to the traditional land-owners and not behave like Freeport.

Hesegem said that the governor, Barnabas Suebu was trying hard to convince investors to come and exploit our sea, land and air, on condition that the Papuan people become more prosperous instead of continuing to live in poverty.

‘Every year, we receive only 1% of their earnings which is nothing more than Rp 500 billion. We should be getting much more than that.’

These accusations were well justified considering that Freeport , while having helped empower people in the locality, had inflicted enormous damage and had had an impact on people’s traditional values.

Reports were now circulating that the company is engaged in mining practices which are not covered by its contract of work.

Howeever, as for the governor himself, he does not seem to have been concerned about the uranium reports, saying that this was a matter for the central government. He told journalists that they should raise the issue with the Department of Mines.

But the provincial legislative council, the DPRP, has called for a team to be set up to investigate reports about uranium mining by Freeport.

According to Bintang Papua, the company pays annual taxes to the government which amounted to $1.4 billion or approximately Rp 13 trillion at the current rate of exchange in 2009.

In addition, the company pays royalties of $128 million as well as dividends amounting to $213 million.

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