Daily Archives: December 29, 2011

Sound of gunfire greets Christmas in Paniai

JUBI, 23 December 2011
[Slightly abridged in translation from Indonesian]Illustration: Group of Paniai residents who left their homes because they were afraid of the shooting

There’s no sound of church bells or people singing Christmas carols. Just the sound of gunfire has been heard in Eduda every evening. The sound of gunfire in the dark of night spreads fear among the people, including those living in Enarotali which is 8 kms away

‘For the past week, we have been hearing gunfire from the direction of Eduda. Is this the sound of open warfare between the TPN/OPM and the Indonesian police? It should stop when people want to celebrate Christmas,’ said Yafeth Kayame, the head of the Mee people in Enarotali.

It is now just two days to Christmas, a time when people are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. ‘We should be singing sacred songs. But this is not what we are hearing, just the sound of gunfire as Christmas approaches. Please, help us to stop the fighting between the TPN/OPM and the Indonesian army. People want to celebrate Christmas,’ he said.

Hearing the sound of shooting around Eduda only spreads fear among the people. Some people who wanted to return to their kampungs even though things are not yet tranquil have decided not to return.

The gunfire was heard one day after an operation against Eduda, the headquarters of the TPN/OPM, by the police command in Paniai. ‘On Tuesday evening at around 6pm till late at night, gunfire could be heard, lasting for about two hours until one or two in the morning. Then it stopped but began again at 5 in the morning,’ he said.

During the day, a helicopter flew here from Madi and landed in Eduda.They said they were bringing logistics for the Matoa special unit, now operating from the former TPN/OPM base. The helicopter also encircled the area above Mount Wegeuto, possibly making observations from the air about the presence of John Magai and Yogi who have both fled into the forests.

‘The sound of gunfire made the people even more panic-stricken and they fled their homes,’ said Yafeth Kayame.

A Papuan human rights activist, Yosias Yeimo, has called on both sides to stop the fighting ahead of Christmas. ‘Among the people of God Almighty, there should be no more fighting so that people can celebrate Christmas in peace,’ he said.

The people living in Eduda and several nearby kampungs cannot celebrate Christman in their homes like they were able to do last year. The Protestant and Catholic communities have been disrupted by military operations that have been going on for the past month.

The local police chief also spoke about the security situation because of the military operations.’ It isn’t true. The situation is conducive. The situation in Paniai is calm. Stop spreading issues that only create panic,’ Jannus Siregar told journalists two days ago.

‘ I call on the people to return to their daily activities because the situation here is quite normal and people can celebrate Christmas. We are not hunting for civilians, still less are we shooting anyone dead. We are just doing our duty which is to chase the OPM, and this has led to the capture of John and Salmon,’ he said.

Translated by TAPOL

RA: Freeport mine strike ends (interview with West Papua Media)

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  • Updated December 28, 2011 07:58:41

Thousands of workers at Freeport mine in Indonesia have ended their three-month strike for better wages, after a signing a pay-rise deal with the company.

Production at Freeport‘s giant gold and copper mine in Papua has been at a standstill since workers began their industrial action. The workers are expected to return to work this week, but there are reports the Papuan police chief will charge protest organisers with sedition.

Presenter: Melanie Arnost
Editor of West Papua Media Nick Chesterfield

CHESTERFIELD: It’s seen to be a bit of a bitter sweet victory because whilst there have been ceremonies to enable peaceful resolution, the company, Freeport has given very little ground on the original demands and the Indonesian police in Papua have decided that they’re also going to charge the union leaders and the organisers with sedition.
ARNOST: What does this mean for the workers?
CHESTERFIELD: Well sedition is basically the charge under which everyone in West Papua gets charged if they raise the Morning Star flag. What it means is basically between 10 to 15 years in prison, and it’s not exactly a good faith act by the police. So there’s a lot of people who are going to be fearful. It’s designed by the police to stop anyone from taking legitimate industrial action by making out that it’s treasonous.
ARNOST: And how many workers are we talking about that look like they’ll be charged?
CHESTERFIELD: Well at the moment it’s looking at the union organisers, certainly the heads of the union and key organisers who’ve been manning the blockades and doing the education out there and doing what union organisers do on the ground during strikes. Whether or not they charge everyone, this is a question that the workers certainly want to have answered, and also one of their conditions in returning to work is there’s going to be no sanction on them for going on strike. There’s no real gains in wage justice for any of the workers there, I mean they were initially going for quite a significant pay rise, and in the end they’re getting less than seven dollars an hour for their efforts.
ARNOST: So why did they decide to end the strike?
CHESTERFIELD: At the end of the day companies like Freeport and the Freeport mine which is the most profitable mine on earth, it’s the largest gold and copper mine on earth. It doesn’t want to pay its workers, not its indigenous workers anyway. There’s an understanding simply that there was no willingness on behalf of management to even budge even a few cents. So any money is better than no money.
ARNOST: So these seven dollars, is that what they were originally being paid in the first place?
CHESTERFIELD: Look they were originally being paid about a dollar 50 to three dollars an hour. So certainly there have been a few increases but it’s far less than what they’re asking for and there’s no real guarantees of safety and security, and especially security from these ongoing attacks by unknown forces, which the police and military seem to not want to solve.
ARNOST: When do you expect the workers will return to work?
CHESTERFIELD: It could be any day but nothing is entirely guaranteed until we get the pictures from the ground really.
ARNOST: It’s said to be the longest in recent Indonesian history this strike, so do you predict something like this happening again?
CHESTERFIELD: Look certainly there’s an appetite for industrial action in Indonesia and certainly in West Papua. Certainly the Freeport Mine’s got to be separated in some way obviously from the independence struggle in West Papua, but there’s certainly issues of corporate behaviour and corporate impact on surrounding environments and surrounding social dislocation that workers have really switched on to. You can’t unlearn what you’ve gone through in a situation like that, so certainly there’s more of a willingness to take this kind of action. And they’ve certainly learnt a lot of lessons from it.