Tag Archives: Freeport-McMoRan

When there is no guarantee of security of life for the people of Papua

by John Pakage for West Papua Media

Opinion

March 1, 2012

(Edited and abridged in translation by West Papua Media)

Tuesday morning, 21st February, Courtroom 1A in Jayapura was peaceful but tense. Many soldiers were to be seen guarding the streets for a session of the trial of Forkorus Yoboisembut, Edison Gladius Waromi, Agustinus M. Sananay Kraar, Selpius Bobii and Dominikus Sorabut.  They were arrested after the session of the Congress of the People of Papua in Zakeus Pakage Square, Abepura,Jayapura, on the 19th of October 2011.

At the fifth meeting in this case, some witnesses, who were all members of the police, said they had not been direct witnesses and did not know about the public nature of the meeting of the Papua Congress. Seven witnesses out of the eight who were called by the court had attended. These witnesses had only heard from a distance the voice of Forkorus reading the resulting resolution of the Congress.

Forkorus Yoboisembut, Edison Gladius Waromi, Agustinus M. Sananay Kraar, Selpius Bobii and Dominikus Sorabut are all charged with treason, because they had declared the independence of the State of West Papua.

Concerning this case, the legal representative of the accused, Olga Hamadi, told John Pakage from Cermin Papua on Thursday 1st March that the witnesses who are making things difficult for the accused, were not actually at the location of the Congress and their evidence is refuted by those who were.

“Seven witnesses who are all members of the Police gave statements as witnesses; however, we reject them because they did not directly see the meeting. They only heard Pak Forkorus reading a declaration of the result of the Congress via the PA system,”  said Olga.

Hamadi explained that “We saw that the declaration of the results of the Congress which were read by Forkorus were a summary of statements of all the members of the Congress, which were (in turn) a direct statement of the aspirations of the people of Papua.”

Because of this, the accused did not take any action towards secession via this Congress. Thirdly, this Congress is only restoring the country to what it was before the Indonesians annexed it in 1961.

Many of the world’s human rights organisations have already sent letters to the President of the Republic of Indonesia to release Forkorus, Edison Gladius Waromi, Agustinus M. Sananay Kraar, Selpius Bobii and Dominikus Sorabut, because they only gave voice to the problems hindering democracy in Papua, and the human rights violations which would not be tolerated as legal by the government of Indonesia.

The civil human rights organisation based in New York,USA, Human Rights Watch (HRW), says that the establishment of the Congress of the People of Papua is a normal part of the human rights that belong to the people of Papua. They are calling on the government of Indonesiato withdraw the charges against the accused and free the five members of the Congress of the People of Papua immediately.

“The government of Indonesia has to live up to its commitment to peaceful resolution (of the Papua issue) by cancelling these charges against the five activists,”  said the Deputy of HRW for Asia, Elaine Pearson, in a statement cited by AFP on Monday 29th January, 2012.

A similar appeal came from a member of the Congress of the United States, Eni Faleomavaega. Eni said that the TNI and Police were the initiators of the unrest in Papua, especially by the scattering and arrest of members of the Third Congress of the People of Papua (KRP).

Compare this with the stated commitment of the government of Susilo Bambang Yuhdoyono, that it will deal with the problems in West Papua in a “peaceful way, with justice, and with dignity”.

While this legal case is ongoing, international support is growing in strength for the aspirations of Papua to be given the opportunity to express themselves. This support is seen by the government of Indonesia as foreign intervention in the internal affairs of Indonesia’s province of Papua.

It is no secret that the international public already knows of the meeting of the International Group of Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) in Australia on February 29. This support for Papua is gathering in Australia from many of the nations of the Pacific.

On 22 September 2010, a member of the American Congress, Eni Faleomavaega, became familiar with the problems in Papua, and heard (In a special session of the  U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs) about the human rights violations which are perpetrated in Papua by the Indonesian government.

Several experts testified at the Committee Hearings and examined a selection of the problems of democracy in Papua, and the violations of human rights.  These included Pieter Drooglever (Institute of Netherlands History), Henkie Rumbewas (a Papuan independence activist), and Sophie Richardson, PhD (Human Rights Watch).

This international opposition has made the government of Indonesia very cautious about the growing support for Papua from many nations outside Papua. Indonesia is afraid that there is a chance that the forces of the US in Darwin, Australia, which will number around 2500 US Marines, will be used to intervene to help liberate Papua.

The head of  Committee 1 of the DPR, Ahmad Muzani, said that the superpower has a close relationship with the personnel in Darwin. He says that the US forces are tied up with the problems in Papua because they have hidden interests in the territory.

To be sure, as technology develops in the world there are fewer incidents  happening in the jungles of Papua that remain unknown.  Since 1969, when the Indonesian government first banned foreign journalists from covering news on the ground in Papua, there have been many cases of foreign journalists being deported back to their home countries from Papua. It’s not clear why Indonesia is so afraid of what’s happening in Papua.

International attention on Papua is also increasing because Papua is a great source of natural resources. Many countries and companies would like to invest in Papua, like Freeport McMoran, an American company which provides huge amounts of  foreign exchange to Indonesia. Freeport enables the Indonesian government to operate in the way it does. This fact would be made very clear if Freeport was forced to close and withdraw all its investment (as some Indonesian and most Papuan figures are calling for). That truly would be a great disaster for -Indonesia – in fact, Indonesia could be broken up by such an outcome.

However, for the last few months Freeport has only just been able to continue operations. The business has reported that its profits are only US6.4 billion, or about Rp57.6 trillion  for the last year, a fall of US1.5 billion from the year before.

“This result is not good, because it shows a fall-off in our operations, at the Grasberg mine in Indonesia,” said the CEO of Freeport, Richard Adkerson, as reported on the BBC on Saturday 21 January this year.

It can be seen that for some months now there has been a loss of business, which is growing all the time, because the management of Freeport has stopped operations of the automated extraction of gold.  The mining of copper at Grasberg has also been reduced.

(These stoppages were initially caused by Freeports’s wholesale rejection of its workers demands for work safety guarantees and living wage increases, from US$1.50 per hour to US$14 per hour.  Freeport workers conducted a five month long strike forcing Freeport to declare force majeure on its supplies and projections. West Papua Media)

These stoppages have affected the share price of PT Freeport Indonesia on the Indonesian stock market (BEI), and also the share price of (parent company) Freeport-McMoran in America. So of course there is a loss by America which is growing. There will also be further significant losses if there is a general economic slowdown, both in Indonesia and in other countries.

At the present time,Freeporthas not been operating since Thursday March 1, and Freeport has stopped operations for the next six months. (It is amidst) these circumstances that America is still donating fighting planes such as the F16 and Hercules to the Indonesian military.

The US Defence Minister, Leon Panetta, has been trying to set up a bilateral meeting with Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro to establish a summit of the Defence ministers ofSouth East AsiainBalifor some time now. The US Defence Secretary also had a meeting with President Yudhoyono at the Ayodya Hotel in Bali.

However, the promised US delivery of 24 F-16 fighter planes and Apache helicopters has not as yet been finalised. Further action is needed in this process, as the planes have not yet arrived in Indonesia. Military observer Rizal Darmaputera views the stepping up of defence cooperation between the US and Indonesia as “one means of implementing America’s geopolitical strategy on the Asia-Pacific rim to balance the growing strength of China.”

The (geo)strategic position of Indonesia is a necessary link in the alliance of the US with various Asia-Pacific countries which tie in with its close connection with Japan and Australia.

So America gives this donation of war planes to Indonesia, knowing that they will be used to ensure that the Papua problem be handled internally by Indonesia to maintain the “unity of the Republic of Indonesia”.

Therefore the promise (by SYB) of basic human rights for Papua demanded by Forkorus and friends will not keep them out of jail as now. Jakarta must evaluate its treatment of the people of Papua as part of the human race, and who deserve rights and respect just as other people in the world deserve; and not to treat them (in the manner) as did AKP Rido Purba, an Indonesian Police officer in Papua who spat in the faces of Forkorus and friends at the time of their arrest.

Up to this time we have yet to see justice and the admission of basic human rights to Papuans; so (the next hearing of treason trial on) March 2 will be a very important stage in the case against Forkorus and friends by the Indonesian justice system in Jayapura.

At this point, “the trial of Forkorus and company will resume,” said  Olga Hamadi, Director of Kontras.

# John Pakage is an independent journalist based in West Papua and a regular contributor to WPM.

Amungme leader warns Freeport it could be closed down

”]JUBI, 19 January 2012

In view of the fact that there has been no response from Freeport -Indonesia or Freeport McMoran, ‘I, Anthonius Alomang, as executive-director of Lemasa, the Association of Amungme tribal people, herewith warn Freeport in Mimika district that we may close you down.’

‘As director of Lemasa, I declare on this day that we will close Freeport down,’ Alomang told a group Amungme people, addressing them at the meeting hall in Mile 32, Kuala Kencana, Timika.

He said that this was not just a joke but a very serious matter because already more than a month has elapsed without the Freeport management making any response to the statement issued by Tom Beanal, the Torei Negel.

The reason why a statement was made by the Torei Negel himself, said Alomang, speaking before representatives of the Kamoro Tribe and other tribes in Papua as well as representatives of various Indonesian groups in Mimika, is that ever since Freeport has been present here, what has been happening is quite unacceptable to the people who hold customary rights to the land.

The people who were already poor and have become even poorer, and they have seen that there has been not a shred of compassion in the practices towards the local people. This includes murders by unaccountable groups as well as corruption practised by the Freeport management who have never been called to account for all this.

As previously reported by Jubi on 7 December last year, the Torei Negel, Tom Beanal issued a nine-point statement expressing his attitude regarding the ten crucial issues that have been experienced by the Amungme people ever since PT-FI first arrived in Mimika.

Yet, up to this day, there has been no response whatever from the management of Freeport or from McMoran.

But no details are yet available about what these measures might be.

West Papua Report January 2012


This is the 91st in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at edmcw@msn.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to etan@etan.org.

 

West Papua Report
January 2012

This is the 93rd in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published with the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at http://www.etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm Questions regarding this report can be addressed to Edmund McWilliams at edmcw@msn.com. If you wish to receive the report via e-mail, send a note to etan@etan.org.

Summary: Indonesian security forces, including the U.S. and Australian supported Detachment 88, conducted “sweeping operations” in the Paniai area of West Papua that destroyed churches, homes and public buildings, and forced hundreds of civilians from their homes. The Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) urged the Police Commander to remove forces from the region, echoing civil society leaders in Paniai. Jakarta’s failure to provided basic health services to Papuans has led to a high rate of death among mothers at child birth according to a recent report. An unconfirmed report claims that President Yudhoyono has committed to withdraw non-organic troops from West Papua and to suspend the operations of a special unit proposed to address fundamental Jakarta-Papua problems. The cost in human life for Papuans of Jakarta’s decades of neglect of the Papuan population is well documented. Amnesty International met with a senior official in Jakarta to press for release of political prisoners, particularly in West Papua and Maluku. The three-month old strike by workers at the Freeport McMoRan mines appears to be headed toward resolution.

Contents:

Brutal “Sweeping Operation” Continues to Displace Civilians in Paniai

Despite efforts by the Indonesian government and its security forces to block all monitoring of developments in the Paniai region of West Papua, courageous journalists, human rights advocates and others have been able to report on the ongoing tragedy there. Since the first days of December, Indonesian security forces, including the U.S.-trained and funded Detachment 88, Brimob elements, and units of the Indonesian military, have been conducting a massive “sweeping” campaign, purportedly targeting local leaders of the pro-independence Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM). Hundreds and in all probability thousands of villagers have been driven from their homes due to the violence unleashed by government forces which has destroyed churches, homes, and public buildings.

An early December report carried in the Jakarta Post revealed the dimensions of the human tragedy now unfolding:

About 500 inhabitants of Dagouto village in Paniai Regency, Papua, have opted to leave their homes and seek refuge following the deployment of 150 Mobile Brigade officers to their area, Paniai tribe council chief John Gobai said Wednesday.
 
“Our people have become refugees at Uwatawogi Hall in Enarotali, Paniai, for several weeks. They are now afraid they may not be able to celebrate Christmas at home,” John told reporters at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). John, along with four other Paniai people, was at the commission to complain about the presence of police officers in the area, which they said “exacerbated the security situation.”
 
The National Police has increased its numbers of personnel in the regency following several deadly shootings, reportedly claiming the lives of eight traditional miners working on the Degeuwo River, near Dagouto, last month.

Indonesian Human Rights Commission Calls for Withdrawal of Security Forces from Paniai

On December 17, Jubi reported that the Indonesian Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) called on the Indonesian Chief of Police to immediately withdraw all Brimob troops (the militarized police) from the West Papua district of Paniai and to refrain from sending any additional personnel there.

The request came in the wake of widespread reports (see above) of brutal security force sweeping operations that had targeted civilians.

The deputy head of Komnas HAM, M. Ridha Saleh, wrote the chief of police in response to a formal complaint made by the chairman of the Regional Traditional Council (DAD) in Paniai. The letter cited two recent incidents involving members of the police force: A shooting near the copper-and-gold mine in Degheuwo which led to the death of a civilian. And the situation following the dispatch of 150 additional Brimob troops who arrived in Enarotali on November 11-14, 2011

The letter called for the removal of a Brimob post set up in the midst of several kampungs and for a police investigation into the death of Mateus Tenouye. The letter noted that only a Brimob withdrawal could enable Paniai to return to their daily lives which have been badly disrupted by security operations by Brimob and other Indonesian security personnel.

(WPAT Note: There are consistent reports of the involvement of Detachment 88, Kopassus, and other TNI personnel in the sweeping operations. Neither the U.S. nor Australian governments have made any comment regarding their support for an organization that in this instance, and in numerous previous incidents, has resorted to brutality in dealing with peaceful non-combatants.)

The Komnas HAM appeal concluded with a call for dialogue among all parties.

Inadequate Health Care Responsible for High Rate of Death of Mothers at Child Birth

The Jakarta Post reports that maternal deaths in West Papua remain high. Victor Nugraha, an official with the Papuan Health Agency, speaking to media in Manokwari, said that the rate of deaths in 2011 would be at least as high as in 2010. Real figures, he added, were difficult to ascertain because many cases of death during child birth are not recorded due to the shortage of medical personnel to maintain records.

According to the official the main causes of maternal death were hemorrhage, post-pregnancy infections, and hypertension. Anemia due to iron deficiency can lead to hemorrhaging. Beside low iron levels due to poor nutrition, anemia can also be caused by malaria, which is common in West Papua. The official also explained that late pregnancy checks and poor surgery facilities for caesarean sections in clinics also contribute to maternal deaths.

This report echoes a far more detailed study conducted in the Kebar Valley of West Papua in 2008 (see Health care in the Bird’s Head Peninsula. Its conclusions are stark:

  • Out of 708 pregnancies 4.7% led to miscarriage and 1.4% of the children were born dead.
  • Out of 665 child births, where the baby was born alive, 213 baby’s and children eventually died. This is an infant mortality rate of 32.0%. This means that almost 1 out of 3 children dies before its fifth birthday.
  • 57.3% of the died children (213) were younger than 1 year old. 27.7% is between the age of 1 to 5 when it dies.
  • Most baby’s and toddlers (32.9%) died of fever or malaria. Fever in combination with coughing (probably pneumonia) causes a mortality rate of 13.9%.
  • Diarrhea, icterus, prematures and pulmonary affections like tuberculosis, pneumonia and bronchitis also occur, but in smaller numbers.
  • In 12.7% of the dead infants the cause of death was unknown, according to the mother.
  • 94.4% of the pregnant women give birth at home, whether or not with the presence of a traditional midwife .
  • 14 children were born twins; 3 are still alive.

WPAT Comment: Inadequate health services are common throughout those areas of West Papua where the majority of Papuans live. Services are better, sometimes substantially so, in towns where the majority of the non-Papuan, government-assisted migrants live. Totally inadequate health services, along with government failure to provide education or employment opportunities, in majority Papuan populated areas have inevitably contributed to lower birth rates for West Papuans and greater deaths among Papuan children under the age of five. This decades-old policy of neglect of Papuans constitutes one of the bases of charges of genocide leveled against the Indonesian government.
 

Report of Major Jakarta Pledge on Demilitarization of West PapuaWest Papua Media Alerts on December 18 reported that President Yudhoyono made a commitment to Papuan Church leaders in a December 16 meeting to withdraw non-organic troops from West Papua. He reportedly said that he would suspend the activities of the special Unit to Accelerate the Development of Papua and West Papua (UP4B) which was to have addressed fundamental issues in the Jakarta-Papua relationship.

Key Papuan leaders in attendance included: Chair of the Papua GKI Synod, Yemima Kret; Chair of the Baptist Church of Papua, Socrates Sofyan Yoman; Chair of the Kingmi Synod, Benny Giay; Martin Luther Wanma and Rika Korain.

Upon hearing an appeal for an end to the troop presence the President reportedly asked the Police Chief and Commander of the TNI to stop the violence. According to Rev. Benny Giay, the President commanded the Chief of Police and the Armed Forces (TNI) “to stop the violence in Paniai, at least during the month of Christmas.” However, Pastor Gomar Gultom, also at the meeting, told the media that the President did not mention a specific deadline for withdrawal of non-organic troops.

With regards to efforts to launch a Jakarta-Papua dialogue, Gultom said the two sides have not yet decided on the dialogue format or issues to be discussed. Religious leaders are scheduled to meet again in mid-January 2012 to formulate the program in more detail.

Gultom added that President SBY spoke about the UP4B led by Lt. Gen. ( ret) Bambang Darmono. The Religious leaders said that UP4B was formed unilaterally, without hearing the aspirations of the Papuan people. “There is a meeting point agreed upon last night. All points will be evaluated together, and UP4B will be stopped until results of the joint evaluation are available,” he said.

WPAT Comment: There is no evidence as of early January that any of the undertakings reportedly set forth by President Yudhoyono have in fact come to pass. Fighting in Paniai continues and there has been no announcement of a suspension of the operation of UP4B.

Amnesty International Appeals for Political Prisoners Release

On December 6, Amnesty International officials met with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Law, Politics and Security, Djoko Suyanto to urge the Indonesian Government free political prisoners incarcerated for peacefully expressing their views. Amnesty urged the government “to integrate human rights in their efforts to address the situation in Papua.”

Amnesty International’s presentation focused on at least 90 people who are in prison in West Papua and Maluku for peaceful pro-independence activities, including Filep Karma, a Papuan independence leader currently serving a 15-year sentence in Abepura, Papua. Filep’s case has received special attention by the human rights group.

The meeting took place less than one month following the brutal assault on the Papuan Third National Congress during which peaceful Papuan dissenters were beaten and killed and many were arrested, only to join the growing ranks of Papuan political prisoners.

Amnesty argued that “the Indonesian government should free all those who are detained in Papua and Maluku for peacefully expressing their views, including through raising or waving the prohibited pro-independence flags, and distinguish between peaceful and violent political activists.” Amnesty pointed out that although the government had the duty and the right to maintain public order, its actions restricting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly had violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia has ratified.

Amnesty stressed the need to set up a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate cases of human rights violations since Indonesia annexed Papua in the 1960s.

According to the Jakarta Globe, Minister Djoko Suyanto at the meeting expressed the government’s commitment to ensure accountability for human rights abuses committed by security forces.

Freeport Strike Grinds Toward Resolution

In early December worker representatives and the Freeport McMoRan corporation reached a tentative deal whereby workers would return to their job sites, thus ending a crippling strike which left the world’s largest copper and gold operation at a standstill since workers began striking the massive West Papua mine site in September. The Indonesian government was losing $8 million worth of taxes, royalties and dividends each day the strike continued.

As of late December, workers had not yet resumed work owing to unresolved issues outside the framework of the new contract. Principal among these is the workers insistence that their leaders not be sanctioned either by Freeport McMoRan, which had talked of firing them, or the police, who have threatened to arrest them for “subversion.” The status of a number of contract workers were also at issue. Workers have also insisted on security measures that will preclude additional violence by unidentified elements thought possibly to have ties to the authorities.

The workers achieved significant concessions in their over three months long strike. The key provisions of the new contract is an agreement by Freeport McMoRan to a pay rise of 40 percent over two years. The current pay is $2-$3 an hour. The union had demanded an hourly rate of $7.50.

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

”]
  • 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.

Strike at Freeport settled, even as mine’s scars linger

by John M. Miller | December 17, 2011

This week the union and the U.S.-based mining corporation Freeport-McMoRan announced a settlement to a three-month long strike at its Grasberg mine in West Papua. Workers are expected to be back at work within days. Although the strike has been settled, Freeport and its activities remain controversial in West Papua and Indonesia.

The workers’ union settled for a 40 percent wage increase over two years, as well as additional housing and other benefits. The workers will also receive wages lost during the strike in the guise of a one-time three month “signing bonus.” Prior to the strike, which began on September 15, workers at Grasburg were the lowest paid at any Freeport facility. The company also has mines in the U.S., South America and the Congo. (A two-month strike at Freeport’s Cerro Verde mine in Peru was suspended at the end of November pending government mediation.)

Juli Parorrongan, a spokesperson for the union, said that pre-strike monthly wages range from $361 to $605 a month. He expressed dissatisfaction with the agreement to the Jakarta Post:

However, we decided to agree on the increase because we have to consider the humanitarian aspect, given that the striking workers have not been paid by Freeport for the last three months. We were forced to agree to end the strike, but this is not the end of our struggle.

Workers had blockaded roads in the area at key points and were accused of cutting the pipeline which carries mining concentrate to the port from where it is loaded and shipped for processing. By the end of the strike, the mine was operating at 5 percent of capacity.

Two striking worker was killed and others were injured on October 10 when police opened fire at a large demonstration in Timika, the town near the mine. Attacks by unknown gunmen on a vehicle carrying police and Freeport personnel led to more deaths and injury to two others. Such attacks along the road to the mine are a relatively common occurrence, and it is not clear if the latest ones were related to the strike. These assaults against security and Freeport personnel are believed to result from conflicts among police, military and Freeport security personnel feuding over the spoils from extortion targeting Freeport, as well as conflict over freelance gold-mining efforts by local people. While these attacks are often blamed on poorly armed guerrillas fighting for independence, local police recently said that the shooters were “well trained.”

The strike by 8,000 employees at the controversial open pit mine halted production costing the Indonesian government $8 million per day in taxes, royalties and dividends, which helped to broker an end to the strike.

In the U.S., Occupy Phoenix, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, the IWW and United Steelworkers (USW) demonstrated in support of the strikers at Freeport’s Phoenix, Arizona headquarters in late October.

The USW, which represents workers at Freeport’s Chino mine in New Mexico, urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate reports that the company was making illegal payments to the police in West Papua. In a letter to Justice’s Criminal Division, the union wrote:

The Indonesian police have recently been quoted in the Indonesian media admitting that they accepted millions of dollars from PT Freeport Indonesia to provide security for the miner’s operations in Papua, Indonesia, and the National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo referred to the payments as “lunch money” paid in addition to state allocated security funding, stating “It was operational funding given directly to the police personnel to help them make ends meet.”

Human rights groups estimated that the payments raised salaries of the police near the mine between a quarter and one half. The payments are illegal under Indonesia law, where official corruption is a major problem. They are illegal in the U.S. if not reported. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act also “bans companies from paying foreign officials to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty,” the union wrote. It called the payments bribes:

intended to persuade the personnel to act in defense of Freeport-McMoRan’s interests even when those interests conflict with the police and military personnel’s lawful duty to protect Indonesian people…

Five years ago, the company was investigated for payments allegedly made to the Indonesian military The company reported $1.6 million in payments in 2008 to provide a “monthly allowance” to police and soldiers for security at the mine.

In addition to its labor strike, Freeport faces challenges on a number of other fronts.

The Grasburg mine has been an unmitigated environmental disaster. The disposal of millions of tons of tailings and other mine waste has decimated forests and destroyed an entire river system. Local inhabitants have been marginalized by an influx of outsiders. The company’s human rights and environmental practices have long been criticized by major institutional investors. Norway’s government pension fund, divested its Freeport holdings in February 2006. In 2008, it divested from Rio Tinto, a minority owner of the mine. The deep scars from the mining operation can be seen from space.

Last year, the about 90 Amungme tribe members, who live near the mining complex, filed a lawsuit arguing that Freeport had seized their lands illegally. According to the Jakarta Globe, they are “seeking $32.5 billion in material and non-material damages for the alleged illegal acquisition of its ancestral land” in an Indonesian court.

Despite its poor labor, environmental and human rights record, Freeport sometimes receives high marks from those who monitor “corporate socially responsibility.” Recently, Corporate Responsibility Magazine had named Freeport as the U.S.’s 24th-best corporate citizen. “How is this possible?” askedDavid Webster, an assistant professor of International Studies at the University of Regina in Canada. “Well, the survey’s methodology seems to pay no heed to human rights performance.  Only human rights rhetoric matters.”

Unsurprisingly, the Freeport mine is a lightening rod for the pro-independence movement in Papua. The company gained its mining permits in 1967, as Indonesia­with U.S. backing­was undermining West Papuan aspirations for self-determination. (While West Papua and Indonesia share a Dutch colonial heritage, West Papua was not included in Indonesia on independence.) At the time, Indonesia was administering the territory under a U.N. mandate brokered by the U.S. in preparation for an act of self-determination (which was a farce when it finally took place two years later). Under these circumstances, many West Papuans view the granting of mining rights by the Suharto dictatorship as illegal and the outflow of mining profits as theft that has left indigenous Papuans impoverished. These grievances have fueled broad sentiment for greater control over these and other resources, and Timika is a hot bed of pro-independence sentiment.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has staunchly defended Freeport since it first arrived in West Papua. In Jakarta, the U.S. embassy:

has conspired with Freeport management to defeat legal challenges as well as media and Congressional inquiries into human rights violations and other illegal acts carried out by security forces under Freeport pay and direction. In 2002, it conspired with Freeport and with the Indonesian government to limit and delay an investigation of an attack that cost the lives of three teachers, including two from the U.S.

The Freeport strike brought renewed attention to the company and to West Papua. It came at a time of increasing unrest and repression in West Papua over its political status. The strike also came at a time of increasing labor unrestthroughout Indonesia.

In mid-November, Occupy Jakarta’s general assembly adopted a resolution on Papua. Key points are withdrawal of security forces from the region and an end to violence to against Papuans. It called for Freeport to be brought to “justice for human rights violations, environmental damage and violence towards workers,” and putting the future of the Freeport mine in the hands of its workers and local people.

John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, which co-publishes the monthly West Papua Report.

http://wagingnonviolence.org/2011/12/strike-at-freeport-settled-even-as-mines-scars-linger/
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