Tag Archives: West Papua

Global Petition for West Papua

Free West Papua Campaign

There is a very significant grassroots campaign that is currently taking place in West Papua, and around the world.

In January the Free West Papua Campaign launched a petition calling on the UN to urgently act on the situation in West Papua, and we’d like to inform you & invite you to take action too.

As you likely know, West Papuans have been fighting for independence against Indonesia since 1963, in what has become one of the world’s longest-running military occupations of the 21st century. Hundreds of thousands of West Papuans have lost their lives in the occupation, and reports of Papuans being shot, imprisoned, kidnapped and tortured are still a weekly occurrence. Indonesia continue to enforce strict regulations on media and NGOs, so much of what happens continues to avoid international attention.

Just Last week 17 people were shot, including children, in Deiyai. One person was killed and others are still in recovery. Furthermore, Between 30th June and 6th July, over 130 West Papuan people were arrested, including children, and many of them tortured, by the Indonesian police for peaceful actions. The Indonesian government has denied these reports but the ICP Human Rights report for further information.

The global petition for West Papua has been run for the last six months and has so far collected over 150,000 names of international solidarity for West Papua. 

The Indonesian government have reacted by criminalising and banning this petition and the host website, Avaaz, across the country, and have arrested West Papuans for signing it. West Papuan deputy leader, Yanto Awerkion, of the KNPB in Timika, is currently still being detained by Indonesian police, and is facing charges of treason, and 15 years in jail for collecting signatures for the petition.

Despite this, tens of thousands of West Papuans have been meeting in secret to sign this petition. Compare these numbers to the 1026 (0.2 % of the population) who were forced at gunpoint to raise their hands in favour of being annexed with Indonesia in 1969, during the illegal “Act of Free Choice”. There was NO vote, West Papuans have never exercised their right to self-determination under international law.

This petition carries the message directly from the people of West Papua, to the UN asking them to review this right that they have been calling for for 55 years. Therefore, please join us in ‘One voice of International solidarity for One voice from West Papua’, and help the West Papua voices be heard at the UN this August.

The petition will be run until August 30th, when the Swim for West Papua team will swim the petition 69 kms, taking approximately 30 hours, across Lake Geneva, handing the petition with our names on it directly in to the UN headquarters. 

For more information please do not hesitate to contact us office@FreeWestPapua.org or go to our website www.freewestpapua.org

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under West Papua

How West Papua’s gold rush has created a wasteland: lush tropical riverland is laid waste by toxic dumping from the world’s biggest gold mine 

Dead trees affected by gold mine waste, known as tailings are seen in Timika. Indonesia produces over $70billion in gold a year but the local people in West Papua rarely see any of that money

Dead trees affected by gold mine waste, known as tailings are seen in Timika. Indonesia produces over $70billion in gold a year but the local people in West Papua rarely see any of that money

  •  In 1969 Indonesia annexed what had been Dutch New Guinea after a highly ‘Act of Free Choice’ referendum 
  •  Since then the area, whose indigenous people are ethnically similar to Papua New Guineans, has been  swamped by settlers from other over-crowded Indonesian islands
  • West Papua is home to the world’s third largest copper mine and large deposits of gold have also been found
  • But the gold rush at the Grasberg mine has devastated the ecology of the rivers which run through the area
  • Indonesia is accused by an Australian group of a ‘slow-motion genocide’ against indigenous West Papuans 

Chris Summers | Mail Online | 6 February 2017

The western half of the island of New Guinea is rich in minerals, especially copper and gold, but its discovery has been a very mixed blessing for the local people.

It was the Dutch who first discovered minerals on the island in the 1930s and when the Netherlands cut its ties with the colony in the late 1960s it was the presence of the goodies underground which tempted neighbouring Indonesia. 

What had been Dutch New Guinea was annexed by Indonesia in 1969 after a highly questionable referendum, known as the ‘Act of Free Choice’. 

An illegal gold prospector sifts through sand and rock as she pans for gold in Timika. Indigenous tribes in West Papua such as the Kamoro are still trying to get their fair share of the country's wealth

An illegal gold prospector sifts through sand and rock as she pans for gold in Timika. Indigenous tribes in West Papua such as the Kamoro are still trying to get their fair share of the country’s wealth

The indigenous people, who are ethnically Melanesian, mainly Christian, and kinfolk of neighbouring Papua New Guinea, have been oppressed ever since by Muslim Indonesian settlers and Jakarta’s occupying army. 

In 1971 Melanesians made up 96 percent of the population but now they are in a minority and by 2020, if migration rates remain the same, they will be less than three in 10 of the population. 

The West Papuans have also suffered as the land they depend on has been devastated by mining.

A man wearing a Santa Claus hat pans for gold in the Aikwa riverbed. According to reports, the Grasberg mine, owned Freeport McMoran, dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

A man wearing a Santa Claus hat pans for gold in the Aikwa riverbed. According to reports, the Grasberg mine, owned Freeport McMoran, dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

Indigenous tribes like the Kamoro say they have been hit by disease, poverty and environmental degradation since operations began at the Grasberg mine in 1973. 

Their chief, Hironimus Urmani, told The Guardian: ‘Nature is a blessing from God, and we are known by the three S’s: Sago (trees), sampan (canoes) and Sungani (rivers). But life is very difficult now.’

The Free West Papua movement has been demanding independence for the territory but has struggled to gain attention in a world distracted by other issues. 

The Grasberg mine is owned by an American firm, Freeport McMoRan, which is based in Arizona. They did not respond to Mail Online’s request for a response.

The Aikwa river flows into the ocean but nowadays it is virtually an outflow pipe of the Grasberg gold and copper mine

The Aikwa river flows into the ocean but nowadays it is virtually an outflow pipe of the Grasberg gold and copper mine

The gold mine waste, known as tailings, has killed off thousands of trees in the Aikwa river delta

The gold mine waste, known as tailings, has killed off thousands of trees in the Aikwa river delta

The Aikwa river is so polluted by mine waste that all the fish in it have long ago died off and the water is completely undrinkable. All it is good for now is gold prospecting

The Aikwa river is so polluted by mine waste that all the fish in it have long ago died off and the water is completely undrinkable. All it is good for now is gold prospecting

Most prospectors are able to obtain around a gram of gold per day, which they can sell for around £25. It takes a keen eye to spot the tiny dots of gold in the murky water

Kamoro tribespeople working on the devices they use to catch gold in the Aikwa river. The Grasberg mine allegedly dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

Kamoro tribespeople working on the devices they use to catch gold in the Aikwa river. The Grasberg mine allegedly dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste directly into the Aikwa delta system every day, turning thousands of hectares of forest and mangroves into wasteland

1 Comment

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, West Papua

The $100bn gold mine and the West Papuans who say they are counting the cost

Grasberg mine in the Indonesian province has been a source of untold wealth for its owners, but local communities say it has brought poverty and oppression

The delta of West Papua’s Aikwa river, on Kamoro tribe land. Papuans claim tailing sediment from the mine has suffocated the fish and shrimp on which their diet and economy are based. All photographs: Susan Schulman

The delta of West Papua’s Aikwa river, on Kamoro tribe land. Papuans claim tailing sediment from the mine has suffocated the fish and shrimp on which their diet and economy are based. All photographs: Susan Schulman

Susan Schulman | The Guardian | 2 November 2016

In 1936, Dutch geologist Jean Jacques Dozy climbed the world’s highest island peak: the forbidding Mount Carstensz, a snow-covered silver crag on what was then known as Dutch New Guinea. During the 4,800-metre ascent, Dozy noticed an unusual rock outcrop veined with green streaks. Samples he brought back confirmed exceptionally rich gold and copper deposits.

Today, these remote, sharp-edged mountains are part of West Papua, Indonesia’s largest province, and home to the Grasberg mine, one of the biggest gold mines – and third largest copper mine – in the world. Majority-owned by the American mining firm Freeport McMoRan, Grasberg is now Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer, with reserves worth an estimated $100bn (£80bn).

But a recent fact-finding mission (by the Brisbane Archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission) described a “slow-motion genocide” (pdf) taking place in West Papua, warning that its indigenous population is at risk of becoming “an anthropological museum exhibit of a bygone culture”.

grasberg-map

Since the Suharto dictatorship annexed the region in a 1969 UN referendum largely seen as a fixed land grab, an estimated 500,000 West Papuans have been killed in their fight for self-rule. Decades of military and police oppression, kidnapping and torture have created a long-standing culture of fear. Local and foreign journalists are routinely banned, detained, beaten and forced to face trialon trumped-up charges. Undercover police regularly trail indigenous religious, social and political leaders. And children still in primary school have been jailed for taking part in demonstrations calling for independence from Indonesia.

“There is no justice in this country,” whispered one indigenous villager on condition of anonymity, looking over his shoulder fearfully. “It is an island without law.”

****

Dozy had not set out to find gold in 1936; his goal was to scale the region’s highest glacial peak. But his discovery sparked the interest of Freeport Sulphur – later to become Freeport Minerals Company and then, through a 1981 merger with the McMoRan Oil and Gas Company, Freeport McMoRan – whose board of directors included the well-connected Godfrey Rockefeller (serving from 1931 until the early 1980s) and Henry Kissinger (1988-1995).

Today, indigenous tribes such as the Kamoro and the Amungme claim their communities have been racked with poverty, disease, oppression and environmental degradation since the mine began operations in 1973.

“We are a coastal people, and we depend on the environment,” says the Kamoro’s chief, Hironimus Urmani, in Tipuka, a lowland village down-river from the Grasberg mine. “Nature is a blessing from God, and we are known by the three Ss: sago [trees], sampan [canoes] and sungai[rivers]. But life is very difficult now.”

Urmani motions to the river opposite, languishing green and motionless. He claims that tailing sediment from the mine has raised the riverbed, suffocating the fish, oysters and shrimp on which the Kamoro diet and economy are traditionally based. A 2012 report from Earthworks and Mining Watch Canada asserts that mine waste from Grasberg has “buried over 166 square kilometres of formerly productive forest and wetlands, and fish have largely disappeared”.

Although most Kamoro still try to eke out a living fishing and foraging for food, they struggle to find paid work, says Urmani. “We need to earn money. But now we face major competition from non-Papuan migrants.”

Locals fear that the government’s controversial transmigration programme, which resettles Indonesians from high-density islands such as Java to low-population areas, is wiping out their population completely. Indigenous Melanesian Christians – they comprised 96% of the population in 1971 – now make up a 48% minority, with numbers expected to fall to 29% by 2020 if migration rates continue.

Ethnic Papuans will make up just 29% of the population by 2020
west-papua-demographics

Clashes between the indigenous Christians – and migrant Indonesian Muslims – have also resulted in riots, fires and injuries.

“Land has been taken away, directly by Freeport … and indirectly, as the Indonesian settlers have appropriated it,” says Dr Agus Sumule, professor of agricultural socio-economics at the province’s University of Papua.

“The stresses [on indigenous people] are intense,” says Sumule. “They have been very negatively impacted.”

The Indonesian government signed over to Freeport the right to extract mineral wealth from the Grasberg site in West Papua in 1967. A 2002 report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) details that land agreements were not negotiated with the Amungme until 1974, a year after the mine opened, and with the Kamoro in 1997.

The compensation paid for Kamoro and Amungme land has been mainly in the form of communal benefits, such as the building of homes, schools and places of worship. The IIED report notes, “Perceptions of land rights and historic compensation claims are a continuing source of dissatisfaction and conflict in the mining area.”

Recent census data shows Papua’s GDP per capita at $3,510, compared to the Indonesian average of $2,452. Yet Papua has the highest poverty rate in the country, nearly three times the national average. It also has the highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates in Indonesia, as well as the worst health indicators, and the poorest literacy rates.

The scale of destitution is best observed from the highland Amungme village of Banti, just 20 miles down from the Grasberg mine.

The river Aikwa, near Banti, is turned thick and silver with the tailings from the mine. Here, artisanal miners pan the tailings for gold.

The river Aikwa, near Banti, is turned thick and silver with the tailings from the mine. Here, artisanal miners pan the tailings for gold.

Estimates from Earthworks suggest that Freeport dumps as much as 200,000 tonnes of mine waste, known as tailings, directly into the Aikwa delta system every day. The practice has devastated the environment, according to Earthworks and locals, turning thousands of hectares of verdant forest and mangroves into wasteland and rendering turgid the once-crystal waters of the highlands.

The tailings from the Grasberg mine are so rich with ore that Papuans walk for as long as a week to get here. Crowding the length of the river and the delta wasteland, thousands of unlicensed panners shore up small sections to slow the river’s flow and dig into the thick sediment on the side.

Although some of these panners are located within Freeport’s official mining operations, they are not evicted or controlled in any way, they said. Instead, they claim they sell their findings to the police and military who work as security on the mine. (An anonymous Freeport source also confirmed this).

One of the panners, Martine Wandango, 25, bends over her pail of water as she filters out rocks and searches for ore. “You can only survive with money, and you can only find money from gold,” says Martine, who followed her husband to the delta 15 years ago by walking 60 miles over the mountains from their remote highland village.

The Aikwa river, which used to provide the Kamoro people with the staples of their existence.

The Aikwa river, which used to provide the Kamoro people with the staples of their existence.

“I work really hard as I want to give my children better lives, so they can go to school. But it isn’t enough, so she helps me here mining,” says Martine of her daughter, nine, who swings a gold pan in her hands. “On a good day, I can get three grammes, which I sell either to the police or [to buyers] in Timika.”

A tiny village when Freeport arrived here 40 years ago, Timika is now a boom town dotted with bars, brothels, gold-processing shops and various military personnel. Under Indonesian law, Freeport is a designated “strategic industry”, which mandates that external security for the mine, its access roads and its pipelines all be provided exclusively by Indonesia’s security forces. Freeport has never been implicated in any human rights abuses allegedly committed by the Indonesian military in Papua.

Freeport McMoRan, based in Phoenix, Arizona, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The company’s website defends its method of disposal of tailings at Grasberg, managed by PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), an affiliate company: “PTFI’s controlled riverine tailings management system, which has been approved by the Indonesian government, uses the unnavigable river system in the mountainous highlands near our mine to transport tailings to an engineered area in the lowlands where the tailings and other sediments are managed in a deposition area.”

A 2009 report by the company says it utilises levees to contain tailings in the deposition area, and that the tailings management programme costs Freeport McMoRan $15.5m (£12.7m) each year. According to the report, company monitoring of aquatic life in the rivers found that fish and shrimp were suitable for consumption, as regulated by Indonesian food standards, while water quality samples met Indonesian and US Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards for dissolved metals. In a 2011 BBC report on alleged pollution in the area surrounding Grasberg, the company says that the tailings management method was chosen because studies showed the environmental impact caused by its waste material was reversible.

Elsewhere on its website, the company says: “We are committed to respecting human rights. Our human rights policy requires us (and our contractors) to conduct business in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to align our human rights due diligence practices with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN Guiding Principles).”

The company also emphasises its work with indigenous people in West Papua. A 2015 Freeport McRoRan report on working towards sustainable development said: “PTFI has engaged with indigenous Papuan tribes for decades, including through numerous formal agreements to promote workforce skills training, health, education and basic infrastructure development … In 2015, PTFI continued to evaluate the effectiveness of alternate options for Kamoro community members whose estuary transport routes are impacted by sedimentation associated with the controlled riverine tailings management system. Provision of smaller sized boats, in addition to 50 passenger vessels, for route flexibility as well as additional local economic development programmes were identified as additional mitigation measures during the year.”

Back in the area surrounding the Grasberg mine, many Papuans, struggling for work, find themselves pulled into the bar and sex industries that cater to the miners, particularly around the highland village of Banti. Here brothels and bars line up side by side, allegedly with help from the Indonesian military, who are said to supply sex workers and alcohol, according to a Freeport source who wished to remain anonymous.

Indigenous chiefs have watched as a newfound promiscuity has brought sexually transmitted infections that have ravaged their communities. “Traditional Papuan culture forbids free sex, but alcohol makes our communities vulnerable,” says the Amungme chief, Martin Mangal. “And brothels make it easy to contract HIV.”

HIV rates in West Papua are of “epidemic” proportions, according to the UN, 15 times higher than anywhere else in Indonesia. Driven almost entirely by unsafe sex, HIV is also far more prevalent among indigenous Papuans. Yet the existence of only one hospital – built by Freeport – means that most people, particularly those in remote highland villages, don’t get the help they need.

Late last year, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, claimed he was willing to work towards a “better Papua”: “I want to listen to the people’s voices.”

However, human rights violations have actually increased since Widodo took power, according to Indonesia’s Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), which has logged 1,200 incidents of harassment, beatings, torture and killings of Papuans by Indonesian security forces since his election in 2014.

The Indonesian government did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The country’s military has consistently denied any wrongdoing in Papua.

Despite everything, there have been small glimmers of hope. This summer, Dutchhuman rights law firm Prakken D’Oliveira submitted a formal legal complaint against Indonesia to the UN Human Rights Council, accusing the government of “long-term, widespread and systematic human rights violations” and the “complete denial of the right to self-determination of the people of West-Papua”.

Later this year, West Papua is expected to be granted full membership of theMelanesian Spearhood Group, an important sub-regional coalition of countries including Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

The Brisbane commission, which warned of the risk of genocide, is calling on Indonesia to allow Papua, once and for all, the right to self-determination.

Yet some fear the opportunity for change in Papua is long gone.

“Is healing even possible?” asked Professor Agus Sumule, shaking his head. “It could be too late.”

3 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights

Rio Tinto operating in the middle of West Papua genocide

rio tinto west papua

1 Comment

April 27, 2016 · 2:57 pm

Freeport Indonesia CEO resigns after latest scandal

freeport grasberg mine

Latin American Herald Tribune

Maroef Sjamsoeddin submitted his resignation on Monday from his post as the President Director of Freeport Indonesia, a U.S.-based mining company with controversial gold and copper operations in the eastern Indonesian province of Papua, Tempo.co news site reported today.

In a letter sent to all Freeport Indonesia employees, Sjamsoeddin said that his tenure as president has ended and that he didn’t accept parent company Freeport McMoRan’s offer to extend his contract, which began in January last year.

Company spokesperson Riza Pratama confirmed the former president’s resignation, saying only that he resigned for “personal” reasons.

No stranger to criticism, Freeport Indonesia was involved in a recent scandal, in which former House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto allegedly tried to seek favours in return for extending the company’s work contract. Novanto resigned in December of last year.

Sjamsoeddin had testified in front of the House’s ethics council in hearings into the affair.

Freeport has also for several years faced allegations that its 50-year-old Grasberg mine in Papua, which holds the world’s largest gold ore reserves, has caused environmental damage and been linked to human rights abuses.

For months, the company has been criticized in street protests in Jakarta calling for it to be expelled from the country, as well as calls for the nationalization of the Indonesian unit of the U.S.-based mining firm.

Sjamsoeddin’s decision comes amid ongoing efforts of the provincial Papua government to secure ownership of its share of Freeport.

“What’s important is that Freeport Indonesia has its duties and obligations according to a work contract and obeys the laws and regulations that apply,” Bangun Manurung, head of the Energy and Mineral Resource Department in Papua said yesterday.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe said recently that he wants Papua’s shareholder status in Freeport to be decided this year.

“The government and the indigenous people of Papua should have a dividend every year. That is what we are still discussing,” Enembe said on Dec. 16 last year.

As an interim measure, Robert C. Shroeder, executive vice president of Freeport Indonesia, has taken over as president director of the mining company.

Papua is Indonesia’s largest and easternmost province and borders the country of Papua New Guinea to its east. Until 2002 the province was called Irian Jaya.

Leave a comment

Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Human rights, Kiribati

Challenging the Democratic Deficit: The Bougainville Truth Initiative

PNGexposed  

Today the people of Bougainville are confronted with two decisions that will irreversibly determine the life that confronts future generations on the island. Bougainvilleans, who have sacrificed more than most for their young democracy, must choose whether they are to become an independent nation, or remain an autonomous region of PNG; and they must elect whether to welcome back Rio Tinto, to operate a mine whose scars are etched deep in the island’s lands and people.

The scars of the Panguna mine are etched deep in the land and people of Bougainville

The scars of the Panguna mine are etched deep in the land and people of Bougainville

The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), according to its officials, has begun an information offensive designed to give choice on Bougainville meaning, in a region of the world where ‘choice’ has often proved a tragic façade designed to mask profoundly undemocratic machinations.

General Amirmachmud, nicknamed ‘The Bulldozer’, at a meeting on the West Papua referendum, July 1969

General Amirmachmud, nicknamed ‘The Bulldozer’, at a meeting on the West Papua referendum, July 1969

The proud and courageous people of West Papua, who have endured and resisted one of the most brutal and prolonged occupations of the 20th century, know this well. Their so called ‘act of free choice’, granting Indonesia sovereignty over a motherland it had no connection with, was anything but. ‘The act of free choice in West Irian [West Papua]’, wrote one US official, ‘is unfolding like a Greek tragedy, the conclusion preordained. The main protagonist, the Government of Indonesia, cannot and will not permit any resolution other than the continued inclusion of West Irian in Indonesia’.

Nevertheless, outright despotism required a veneer of democracy – accordingly a tragic spectacle was played out as 1025 West Papuan leaders, hand-picked by the Indonesian government, publicly elected, before complicit UN officials, to remain part of Indonesia. Reassuringly, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister told international audiences that West Papuans had been treated to ‘extensive consultation’.

The people of Bougainville also know how hollow choice can be. At the same time that Soeharto and his cut-throat Generals carefully stage managed a referendum over independence in West Papua, Australia stage managed its own democratic fraud – the opening of the Panguna copper and gold mine.

Rorovana women resist Rio Tinto bulldozers, August 1969

Rorovana women resist Rio Tinto bulldozers, August 1969

Although different governments, and different interests, both acted out of a common desire to ‘stabilise’ the region and commodify its rich natural bounty so that they could be auctioned off to international resource operators. And when the customary owners of these resources initiated epic struggles of resistance, these regional powers marshalled all the instruments of death modern industry can manufacture and hoisted them upon those largely unarmed people who dared to challenge an autocratic mandate.

In that context, PNG Exposed over the coming months will publish historical records long denied to Bougainville citizens, in order to increase the volume of independent information available to this fiercely independent island, as its people face historic choices. These records tell a history that began with a remarkable lie, whose sad progeny were a series of even more remarkable lies which culminated in a bloody war organised by the Australian and PNG governments in cooperation with Rio Tinto.

This grand swindle of a sovereign people and their resources began in the 1960s. Concerned citizens at home in Australia were told by the colonial administration that the indigenous peoples of Bougainville – who had valiantly helped Australian and US soldiers see off the Japanese onslaught – were being treated to a wealth of information on the mine and its impacts (see Appendix A). Fictions then flooded the emerging corridors of state-power in PNG, as Bougainville’s first great leaders were informed the mine would be nothing more than a discrete pit, tucked away in a forgotten jungle region of the Crown Prince Ranges. It would make their people rich, they were told, with very little environmental damage.

These were lies of course, necessary lies though, needed to erect the great facade of free choice behind which stands a hidden dictatorship administered by discrete corporate interests and allied state-powers; organisations who command vast masses of wealth, which itself is nothing more than the immense social labour of previous generations, washed of its exploitative origins, and used to begin the process anew.

The carefully orchestrated ‘consultation’ process in Buin.

The carefully orchestrated ‘consultation’ process in Buin.

While the actors and organisations may be different, the echo of these lies resonate today (see Appendix A). Like the colonial administration before it, the ABG attempts to quell rancour by assuring citizens that all stakeholders are being thoroughly consulted about the reopening of the Panguna mine. Indeed, we are told that landowners are happy to see a feared corporation return – who did so much to ravage the people when they dared defend their birth right – to consume what’s left of the rich ore deposit, which once made BCL the glimmering jewel in Rio Tinto’s crown.

Behind this new democratic façade lie preordained decisions made by government officials and their corporate benefactors. Earlier this year PNG Exposed published meeting minutes, where handpicked landowner leaders were informed by the ABG Mining Minister, ‘that there was no two ways about [it, the] Panguna mine [is] being opened in the not too distant future’. ABG’s President agreed, the mine ‘must be opened’, he said, ‘and there is an important need for a unified stand by the ABG and Panguna Landowners’.

But resistance to this historic decision, made quietly and discretely far away from public scrutiny, has emerged. The head of the Bougainville Independent Indigenous People’s Foundation, Bernadine Kama recently claimed: ‘I just cannot comprehend why we must continue to suffer at the hands of our leaders and our government, which has been negotiating to re-open the mine … Can we not be left alone to live our own lives in peace on our land?’

Francis Ona led a people’s revolution that aimed to end the despotism of capital and bring a new form of democracy

Francis Ona led a people’s revolution that aimed to end the despotism of capital and bring a new form of democracy

Kama’s words possess the simple elegance often witnessed in the speeches of another great Bougainvillean orator, Francis Ona, a man who led a people’s revolution, a revolution that aimed to end the despotism of capital, and bring a new form of democracy to Bougainville. It was a democracy where the people choose their future and how their resources will be used, rather than an air-brushed corporate elite who divide the global spoils with the aid and assistance of those mandated to represent the people, but who in the end represent money and inward looking political cabals far removed from the everyday miseries they generate.

The revolution should have been a great ray of hope to the people of Melanesia; but its message of sovereignty and justice was not allowed to circulate, a brutal military campaign and an indefensible blockade saw to that.

And just like in the colonial days, when missionaries would follow in the wake of brutal colonial massacres to convert those left after ‘pacification’, modern-day proselytisers holding the book of science, follow in the wake of war on Bougainville with apologetic myths that Francis Ona was no revolutionary, and that this was no revolution. He was we are told, a greedy man, after a ‘bigger slice of the pie’, others suggest he was confused independence fighter, a silly crank from the mountains who believed in spirits and hadn’t the nose for modernity.

The historical records reveal something different. They reveal a man of principle who had seen the despotism of capital creep into his very backyard, as a generation of leaders caroused with BCL and consumed scraps tossed to the landowners’ association and trust, while their people suffered. They reveal not only a man, but a woman, Perpetua Serero, sanctioned by the people to prosecute a very simple set of demands – environment, land, justice and equality – in an age where such simple demands are regarded as profane.

Ex-combatants attend a’ consultation meeting’

Ex-combatants attend a’ consultation meeting’

Of course, this narrative cannot be told today, it contains dangerous ideas. So it is denied, or worse yet, re-written to suit the interests of contemporary despots – who emerge from history dripping in blood – as they circle this so called ‘discrete little pit’, which would ‘harm nobody’.

However, PNG Exposed won’t retell the narrative. Instead it will publish the primary sources, let those who spoke, speak for themselves; and let the people of Bougainville give meaning to their own history, an innate right so often denied to the people of Melanesia. It is a complex history, full of imposition and resistance, underwritten by a hidden form of dictatorship that is epitomised not by a single despot but a social system organised around the demands of capital whose laws have nothing in common with basic values of humanity and justice. It is hidden dictatorship because even the fact of its existence cannot be acknowledged, for to acknowledge it would be to admit the obscenity of our age – democracy with no democracy.

Appendix A – The Lies Which Echo Today

Charles Barnes, Minister for Territories, 1969

Barnes Statement1

August 1969 Barnes Statement2

John Momis, President of Bougainville, 2013

Interview: John Momis, President, Autonomous Bougainville Government

Business Advantage

The President of Bougainville, John Momis, wants work on restarting the giant Panguna gold and copper mine to begin later this year. In this exclusive interview with Business Advantage PNG, he outlines the steps now needed to restart operations.

Business Advantage PNG (BAPNG): Why do Bougainvilleans now support re-opening the mine?

John Monis is desperate to see Rio Tinto reopen the Panguna mine

John Monis is desperate to see Rio Tinto reopen the Panguna mine

John Momis (JM): The Panguna Mine was the primary source of the war, which reduced Bougainville to basics. We need to deal with it because the Panguna Mine is a mega project. We need the revenue to be generated from it—revenue for the government as well as income for the people. So with the way things are going, we don’t have much option really.

We don’t have much money coming from the National Government in terms of its commitment to allocate adequate funding for reconstruction and for the big job of creating an autonomous government. I think, once the mine is open, Bougainville will be very well off, and we can manage to reconstruct Bougainville and promote sustainable businesses.

‘The former commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Sam Kauona, is now on side and in agreement with the need to re-open the mine.’

With the collaboration of credible partners from outside, the government itself will have enough money to create a new government. We also need money to create something that’s sustainable and in accordance with the principles of good governance and democracy.

BAPNG: Is there much opposition among local landowners and Bougainville people to the re-opening of the mine?

JM: There is a little bit of opposition but with clarification and with our efforts to create awareness, more and more people are in support: ex-combatants generally, the landowners themselves and the population in general. So, there is not much opposition. There is opposition from some quarters, and that is quite small, due to a lack of understanding.

The former commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Sam Kauona, is now on side and in agreement with the need to re-open the mine. He also agrees with the new mining law, which I expect the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to pass by September this year.

BAPNG: The landowners’ umbrella group is seeking a payment of K10 billion (US$4.45 billion). How critical is that before any real work gets under way? Does it have to be in cash or could it be in some other form?

JM: No, it doesn’t have to be [in cash]. As a matter of fact, I am advocating that we should, without too much delay, start negotiations with Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) so that they can address some of the burning issues affecting the landowners whose land and whose lives have been detrimentally affected. But we can’t do that unless BCL are given some kind of guarantee that they will be allowed to operate. So, the sooner we negotiate with them, the better for us.

‘Well, people say that the lease has expired, but precedents have been set that say that once leases are expired they must be renewed to the same company, and that is BCL. So, that’s the assumption we’re working under.’

The K10 billion [that] people are talking about can be provided in different forms of development assistance to villagers to rebuild their villages and sort out some of the problems they’ve had as a result of the mine.

It’s not a question of paying K10 billion at one go.

BAPNG: Do you see BCL as the only viable company to re-open the mine itself, or do you see the possibility of another mining company competing for the rights?

JM: The landowners themselves want BCL. That’s their declared condition. I don’t necessarily believe BCL is the only one, but because they legally own the leases, we’ve got to start with them, and under our own law, BCL will have to meet our conditions. I have also mentioned to BCL that perhaps there is a place for a third party to be involved.

BAPNG:   What do you regard as critical in order to get the mine up and running again?

JM: Law and order and rule of law–that’s number one. That is why we’ve spent a lot of time holding forums to allow people to participate in discussions of important issues including law and order, ownership, distribution of benefits and, of course, environmental impacts on the land.

Getting all the different factions together—landowners, ex-combatants, other citizens of Bougainville and the government—is crucially important. Once we come to a consensus, then people will have a sense of ownership of the project, and this also extends to whichever mining company that finally agrees to participate under our conditions.

‘We have had positive discussions with executives from BCL, but we now have to sensitise Rio Tinto executives in London about the way in which we want to proceed.’

We’ve already started the initial discussions with BCL about some of the issues that must be resolved before they start their construction work. It has done a study of the order of magnitude that seems to be very attractive and confirms that currently the mine is a mega project.

BAPNG: BCL estimates it could take five years to rehabilitate the environment and conditions in order to actually get the mine operating again.  Do you see the length of time as a problem?

JM: For us, we need to start generating revenue as soon as possible. We have a time line—2015 and onwards is the ideal window. We have to conduct a referendum to determine our final political status. The historic moment of designing our future is imminent and we need money to achieve that. Procrastinating on opening the mine, even five years, is a bit far.  We must come to an agreement to allow BCL to come and set up their liaison office in Arawa to deal with some of the practical problems, which are not immense, which are not insurmountable, to enable BCL to start spending money on reconstruction work, and that will bring a lot of income to the people and revenue to the ABG, and I think that is what we need.

People, I think, misunderstand that you must wait for the production phase. Reconstruction is where companies spend a lot of money and that’s what we want.  We don’t want to procrastinate on that.

BAPNG: So would you like to see BCL physically return by the end of this year? Can you see it happening?

JM: That’s correct, yes. We will go for that. Of course, we have to take precautions. We have to do things right, and hence the lengthy period of consultation we’ve been having. That should iron out a lot of the problems and help us to come to a consensus to decide what to do.

We have had positive discussions with executives from BCL, but we now have to sensitise Rio Tinto executives in London about the way in which we want to proceed. So far, we have been successful in taking a consensual approach towards restarting the mine.

2 Comments

Filed under Corruption, Environmental impact, Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

Papuan Governor to Revoke 50 Logging, Mining and Plantation Permits

Mongabay | West Papua Media Alerts

Around 50-60 permits for forest management, mining and even plantations which were issued by Papua’s two caretaker governors over the last two years are going to be revoked. “A caretaker governor does not have the authority to issue permits, their duty is only to prepare local elections to choose the definitive governor,” said Lukas Enembe, the Governor of Papua Province, on Friday 11th October 2013.

The election for the Governor of Papua Province was delayed for two years and during that time 60 forestry, mining and plantation companies received permits to start operations in Papua.

“In the end monopolies have arisen over natural resources, land and forests. The mechanism must be regulated so that no one company or corporate group has a monopoly. A caretaker does not have the right to do this., and so they have contravened the law. I have signed a document meaning that those companies can no longer operate in Papua.”

Last August, Enembe wrote to the Forestry Ministry calling for a halt to 13 of the 25 timber utilization permits from natural forests (IUPHHK-HA) that are currently in force in Papua , covering an area of 2,083,091 hectares.

The Governor will also evaluate 42 gold mining companies in Degeuwo, all of which are illegal.

“Really we should already have intervened in this area. Although the Governor ha previously issued an instruction to shut the mines, but the regency governments haven’t carried it out. What’s going on there?” asked the Secretary of the Papuan Provincial Mining and Energy Agency, Fred Boray.

The Degeuwo mining area, which was first opened in 2002, is located across four government districts: Nabire, Paniai, Intan Jaya and Deiyai Regencies. There are currently 42 companies operating, but only six have permits.

Papua province covers an area of around 32,757,948 hectares, of which 31,738,931 hectares (97.89%) is land area. Land classified as production forest or limited production forest is around 10,700,567 hectares, and timber utilization permits have been issued for 4,989,783 hectares.

The governor has requested Regency leaders (bupatis) not to issue permits that will result in forest destruction. The reason is that damage to the forest will not bring any positive contribution to people’s lives. “For example, the oil palm plantations in Keerom Regency that are no longer productive. Because of that, I ask all the bupatis not to give out permits too freely, they should look at the seriousness of the investor,” said Enembe.

3 Comments

Filed under Corruption, Pacific region