Category Archives: Indonesia

Papua shooting shuts down Freeport route

West Papuans have long expressed frustration about the environmental destruction caused by the Freeport mine operations in Mimika regency. Photo: MIneral Policy Institute

Reuters | Radio New Zealand | 13 November 2017

The Indonesian unit of Freeport-McMoRan has temporarily shut the main supply route to its Papua mine after a shooting incident, a spokesman says, amid escalating tensions between security forces and an armed Papuan group in the area.

No one had been reported hurt after shots were fired at a vehicle, but the main supply route to the world’s second-biggest copper mine had been temporarily closed while the security situation was assessed, Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said in text message.

Authorities in Indonesia’s eastern province of Papua are delivering food and aid to villages near the mine where security forces say the rebel group has blocked residents’ movement, as security personnel surround the area, a police official said.

Police said a group linked to the Free Papua Movement (OPM) was preventing about 1000 people from leaving five villages near the Grasberg mine operated by the US company.

“We continue to try a persuasive approach and dialogue,” said Viktor Mackbon, police chief of the Mimika area, where the villages are located. Talks with the group would be conducted through public and religious figures in the region, he added.

Officials on Saturday said about 200 police and military personnel had been deployed in preparation to secure the area by force, if necessary.

Police said they will distribute, on Monday, a notice in the area for the “armed criminal group” to give themselves up and surrender weapons.

Reuters could not immediately reach members of the rebel group, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM), to seek comment.

On Friday, the group denied occupying villages near the mine, but said it was “at war” with the police, military, and Freeport.

A resident from one of the villages, Banti, said security forces had blocked access to the village.

Residents he had spoken were not being held hostage by separatists but “are only worried about what might happen if the police and military come into their area”, he said.

A state of emergency has been declared in the area and security stepped up after a string of shootings since August 17 that killed one police officer and wounded six.

Papua has had a long-running, and sometimes violent, separatist movement since it was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised UN-backed referendum in 1969.

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Papua separatists dispute Indonesia claim of hostage taking

The giant Grasberg open-pit copper and gold mine in Indonesian Papua on the island of New Guinea. Photo by Alfindra Primaldhi/Wikimedia Commons

Associated Press | November 10, 2017

A member of an armed separatist group in Indonesia’s Papua region has disputed police claims that it’s holding villagers hostage during a standoff with security forces.

The remote region’s long-simmering insurgency has flared in the past month, with one paramilitary police officer killed and six others wounded in attacks by the National Liberation Army of West Papua. The two sides are also waging a PR war, with police calling the group an armed criminal gang and accusing it of attacks on civilians.

Hendrik Wanmang, who described himself as a commander of the armed group that goes by the Indonesian acronym TNP, said in an interview Friday that Banti and Kimbeli villagers can’t go to an area the separatists define as a battlefield with security forces because it’s unsafe. But otherwise villagers are free to go to their farms and move about as they please, he said.

Police on Thursday said a group of about 100 including 25 gunmen were occupying the two villages and preventing 1,300 people from leaving. Several hundred of the people are migrant workers from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

“It’s not true, it’s only the provocation of Indonesian military and police with the aim of damaging our image,” Wanmang told The Associated Press. “People there are safe, both natives and non-natives are free to do activities as usual.”

Wanmang was one of two commanders who signed an Oct. 21 statement warning of unspecified retribution against security forces for alleged brutality against indigenous Papuans.

The letter declared an area near the U.S.-owned Grasberg gold and copper mine as a battlefield.

The mine owned by Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. is a source of tension in the region due to environmental damage and indigenous Papuans’ resentment at profits from local resources being sent abroad.

A low-level insurgency for independence has simmered in Papua since it was transferred from Dutch to Indonesian rule in 1963. The region, which makes up the western half of the island of New Guinea, was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 following a U.N.-sponsored ballot of tribal leaders that has since been dismissed as a sham.

Indonesia maintains a heavy security presence in the region and restricts foreign journalists from freely reporting there.

Wanmang said police descriptions of TNP as an armed criminal group and accusations of crimes against civilians were a tactic to discredit the Papuan independence movement.

“We are not a new group, we are not a criminal group,” he said. “We are separatist group who fought for Papua from generation to generation demanding the sovereignty of the people of Papua, demanding Papuan independence, separate from Indonesia.”

Security minister Wiranto, who goes by one name, has asked security officials to peacefully persuade the separatists to leave.

Military commander Gatot Nurmantyo said in a statement Friday that the villagers are “hostages” and the military is conducting surveillance of their villages. With police, it hopes to negotiate a solution but is readying other measures.

“We are also preparing ways that are hard and must be done very thoroughly,” he said. “Currently we are working closely with police and setting up a joint team in handling the problem.”

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Separatist violence threatens to disrupt Freeport’s Indonesia mine

Fergus JensenAgustinus Beo Da CostaSam Wanda | Reuters | 9 November 2017

Armed separatists have occupied five villages in Indonesia’s Papua province, threatening to disrupt Freeport-McMoRan Inc’s giant Grasberg copper mine, which has already been hit this year by labour unrest and a dispute over operating rights.

A state of emergency has been declared and around 300 additional security forces have been deployed to the mining area of the eastern province after a string of shootings since Aug. 17 that killed one police officer and wounded six.

“They want to disrupt Freeport’s operations,” said Suryadi Diaz, a spokesman for the Papua police.

“(Freeport) is rich but they are poor, so they just want justice,” Diaz said, adding that the militants were a splinter group of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said the company was “deeply concerned” about security and was using armoured cars and helicopters to ferry workers to and from the Grasberg mine in the province’s Mimika regency.

He said attacks had been launched along the road near the town of Tembagapura, about 10 km (6 miles) from the mine, where families of employees – including expatriates – live.

He added that so far there had been no impact on production and shipments from Grasberg, the world’s second-biggest copper mine.

Last year Freeport Indonesia contributed about a quarter of the parent company’s global sales of 4.23 billion pounds (1.92 million tonnes) of copper.

Arizona-based Freeport, the world’s largest publicly listed copper producer, has already been grappling with labour problems at Grasberg and a lengthy dispute with the Indonesian government over rights to the mine.

The mine has also be dogged by major concerns over security due to a low-level conflict waged by pro-independence rebels in Papua for decades. Between 2009 and 2015, shootings within the mine project area killed 20 people and wounded 59.

Papua and neighbouring West Papua provinces make up the western half of an island north of Australia, with independent Papua New Guinea to the east. The provinces have been plagued by separatist violence since they were incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.

President Joko Widodo has sought to ease tension in the two provinces by stepping up investment, freeing political prisoners and addressing human rights concerns.

Police spokesman Diaz said around 1,000 local residents and migrant workers who pan for gold in Mimika were being prevented by the separatists from leaving the five villages.

Security forces had entered the occupied area on Thursday, police and military sources told Reuters, but it was not clear if they had been able to evacuate any of the residents.

“Perhaps they feel envious with the company’s presence,” Papua Police chief Boy Rafli Amar told Reuters. “We are trying to maximise protection for the community … because people have been raped and some have had goods stolen.”

In one attack in late October, shots were fired through the windscreen of an ambulance that was ferrying a villager who had just given birth, police said.

The water supply of Tembagapura town had also been contaminated with kerosene, Boy said, but police had not been able to ascertain if it was an act of sabotage carried out by the same group behind the shootings.

“JUST WILD THIEVES”

In a video purported to come from the National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM), part of the OPM group, dated Sept. 29, a guerrilla action coordinator named as Joni Beanal reads out an open letter warning of attacks on Freeport in order “to destroy it”.

“The main reason for the integration of Papua into Indonesia was a conspiracy by America and Indonesia in the interests of mining exploitation by Freeport MacMoran in Papuan soil,” the coordinator said on the video, which was seen by Reuters.

Reuters was not able to verify the authenticity of the video. Papua police spokesman Diaz dismissed the recording as “old”.

Papua Military Commander Major General George Elnadus Supit said the TPN-OPM posed no significant threat and were “just wild thieves who are perhaps being used by a separatist group”.

Concord Consulting group warned that a harsh crackdown on the militant group could “backfire” if security forces were unable to prevent civilian casualties.

“Militants in Mimika will be able to hide among the local population – many of whom share their rejection of Indonesian rule,” the security consultancy said in a note on Wednesday.

Freeport contributed $20 million towards Indonesian government-provided security protecting workers and infrastructure in 2016, about one-third of its local security budget.

The company paid $668 million to the Indonesian government last year in income taxes, royalties and export duties, making it one of the country’s single largest taxpayers.

The Panguna copper and gold mine in neighbouring Papua New Guinea was abandoned in 1989 after a campaign of sabotage by the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Echoing the situation in Papua, there was deep resentment among the indigenous Bougainville people about the wealth going to the Papua New Guinea central government and the mine’s then operator, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, a forerunner of Rio Tinto .

(Reporting by Fergus Jensen and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in JAKARTA; Additional reporting by Sam Wanda in TIMIKA; Editing by John Chalmers and Alex Richardson)

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Gold mine protester tried for spreading communism as red scare sweeps Indonesia

Indonesian Muslims shout slogans during a rally against communism outside the Parliament in Jakarta on September 29. Photo: AP

Jewel Topsfield & Amilia Rosa | Sydney Morning Herald | October 12, 2017

An anti-gold mine protester has become the latest person to be tried under draconian anti-communist laws in Indonesia.

The case comes as the spectre of a resurgent red peril has once again inflamed the country more than 50 years after the leftist movement was brutally crushed.

In circumstances that local media have described as reminiscent of Suharto’s authoritarian New Order regime, Heri Budiawan could face up to 12 years in jail for spreading communism.

Prosecutor Budhi Cahyono said banners made by protesters against a gold mine in Banyuwangi in East Java on April 4 contained a hammer and sickle drawing in red spray paint like that used by the defunct Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI.

Accused of spreading communism: Heri Budiawan. Photo: Amilia Rosa

“The defendant led the activities of the people protesting and did not stop or prevent the placement of the banner with the hammer and sickle symbol identical to the PKI symbol, knowing that communism is forbidden in Indonesia,” Mr Budhi said in the indictment in the Banyuwangi District Court.

“The defendant’s act was against the law … in regards to crimes against the security of the nation.”

But environmental groups claim the gold mine, PT Bumi Suksesindo, is using the communism allegations as a tactic to shut down protests against alleged environmental damage caused by the mine.

The man who filed the complaint to police about the alleged hammer and sickle image in April was the then senior manager of external affairs at the gold mine.

Supporters of Heri Budiawan outside the Banyuwangi District Court. Photo: Supplied

Mr Heri strenuously denied the allegations. “None of the banners we did had hammer and sickle drawings on them,” he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Heri claimed there was no way he would invoke the former communist party in his fight against the gold mine.

Thousands of Muslims staged a rally in the Indonesian capital, protesting the government decree to ban radical organisations and against the alleged revival of communism.  Photo: AP

“I am against the PKI, I don’t want it in Indonesia either. If there was an anti-PKI rally I would join it.”

A surge in anti-communist sentiment and paranoia about the resurgence of the PKI swept Indonesia in the lead up to the 52nd anniversary of the murder of six army generals on September 30.

The PKI was blamed for the aborted coup, which triggered the purge of between 500,000 and one million people with suspected leftist leanings in a dark chapter of Indonesian history that remains deeply sensitive.

Last month police were forced to fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse anti-communist protesters who falsely claimed an event at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute Foundation was a meeting of communist supporters.

Military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo ordered screenings of the 1984 propaganda film Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI (Betrayal of the Communists), a blood thirsty depiction of the death of the generals at the hands of the communists.

Even Indonesian President Joko Widodo – who was targeted by a smear campaign falsely claiming he was the son of communists during the last election campaign – tweeted on October 1: “Don’t let the cruelty of the PKI reoccur.”

“Although the PKI was violently obliterated in the mid-60s and communism is a dead letter globally which has no popular support in Indonesia, it is alive and well as Indonesia’s number one bogeyman,” Dr Tim Lindsey, the Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at Melbourne University wrote recently.

“Communism remains the label of choice to smear progressive opponents.”

Mr Heri is convinced the case against him has been made up because of his fight against the gold mine, BT Bumi Suksesindo, which he claimed had destroyed the local forest and and was responsible for mud floods.

“It’s all made up. I know I am not guilty,” he told Fairfax Media. “I am not an activist, just a villager. The mine is destroying our livelihood.”

The mine could not be reached for comment.

The trial is continuing in the Banyuwangi District Court.

Fandi, from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI) in East Java, said this was not the first time locals had been criminalised to stop the fight against the mine.

He said the PKI symbol might be ancient history but it was an effective weapon. “It is to divert attention from the issues with the mine,” Fandi told Fairfax Media. “The area was downgraded from protected forest to an industrial zone to allow the mine to operate on it.”

Australian National University Associate Professor Marcus Mietzner said that rather than an indication of hardening anti-communist stances in Banyuwangi, this appeared to be a convenient pretext for interests associated with a large corporation to support cases against those rejecting its projects.

“Some of the other events – especially the attack on the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute Foundation – are more closely related to the ideological and political dynamics ahead of 2019,” Dr Mietzner said.

“Obviously, the goal is to somehow associate Jokowi with communism – a move he has countered by portraying himself as being as staunchly anti-communist as his critics. As a result, pro-democracy and leftist NGOs are cornered from two fronts: the alliance of Islamist and pro-military forces on the one side, and the Jokowi government’s attempts to appear anti-communist on the other.”

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