MAC: Mines and Communities

West Papua: mine site killings, the accusations and the intimidation

Published by MAC on 2002-09-26

West Papua: after the mine site killings, the accusations fly and the intimidation mounts

Three teachers, working under the aegis of Freeport-Rio Tinto in West Papua have been murdered by parties unknown on 31st August 2002. While the Indonesian military (TNI) inevitably blamed the OPM (the Organasi Papua Merdeka; movement for an independent Papua), increasingly attention has now focused on the military itself as the likely culprit.

Speculations about its possible motive include from an Australian academic (Dr Denise Leith) that the army fears Freeport-Rio Tinto may (under recently-introduced US legislation) have to divulge the extent to which it has benefited from a host of deals with, and pay-offs to, the army over many years; and that this "pot" may now dry up..

In the past fortnight, the courageous West Papuan human rights investigation and advocacy agency, ELSHAM, has levelled direct allegations against the military and - not for the first time - finds itself under threat.

Here we publish an appeal for protests to be directed to the Indonesian government in support of ELSHAM's work, followed by counter-accusations against ELSHAM by a military spokesperson and an interview with Dr. Harold Crouch. The noted Indonesian "watcher" accuses the military of widespread corrupt involvement with logging and mining outfits throughout Indonesia.

Accusations of collusion between Freeport-Rio Tinto and the armed forces go back to 1995. Athough the companies have vigorously denied complicity in human rights violations, their assistance to the army (for example in constructing a forces base in the mining area) is self-evident.

There is no evidence whatever to link the recent murders with the mining companies, but they may have a great deal elsel to hide. ELSHAM specifically calls on Freeport and Rio Tinto to desist from any intimidation of their employees who may now wish to "blow the whistle"..

Statement by TAPOL, Indonesian Human Rights organisation (UK), September 26 2002

Following the killing of three Freeport employees, two Americans and an Indonesian, there has been systematic intimidation of human rights defenders in the area who have been trying to mount a proper investigation into this very serious incident. The following is an update on the situation from ELSHAM:

Threats ELSHAM and (the police) have received threats, terror and intimidation from those that we believe have relationship with the incident of 31 August. Not only us but also witnesses and family of the witnesses.

The recent threats after the press conference of Elsham (25 Sept) is even showing that the Indonesian authorities are now pressurizing Elsham and everyone that is involved in the Timika case.

All these for Elsham are just varieties of terror and intimidation that everyone (including Amnesty International) has to pay serious attention.

They're forms of terror and intimidation to stop the investigation and walk away from the truth. Are we going to let the Indonesian military (and Freeport) win over their crime t on 31 august?

What Amnesty International and other groups can do:


Urgent Action for the protection of ELSHAM, witnesses, family of the victims and Freeport employees (to feel free to give information). Urge the Indonesian security forces to stop the pressure and intimidation, and allow very credible and independent party (US Government in cooperation with Indonesian Govt.) to investigate the case.

The pressure must also be put on Freeport to be cooperative in the investigation by allowing the employees (since they know so much about the problems that are going on at Freeport) to give information on the recent case and other smiliar cases.

[]...begin to pressure their governments and agents of Indonesia in their own country prior to this case.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign
111 Northwood Road,
Thornton Heath,
CR7 8HW, UK.
tel +44 (0)20 8771 2904 fax +44 (0)20 8653 0322 website:

Revengeful Indonesia military accuse ELSHAM of being 'extension' of PDP

The top leadership of the Indonesian military has responded angrily, making revengeful accusations against West Papua's leading human rights organisation, ELSHAM, for daring to accuse an arm of the military, Kopassus, of responsibility for the killing of three Freeport officials and the wounding of 12 others on 31 August.

According to the Papua Pos of 28 September, the official spokesman of the TNI (army), Major General Syafrie Sjamsuddin accused ELSHAM of being an extension of the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP). 'ELSHAM which is led by John Rumbiak can be described as being part of the Political Separatists (KSP - Kelompok Separatis Politik),' he told journalists.

He alleged that the OPM in West Papua has two organisational wings, the KSP and the armed separatists who wage their struggle in the jungle. It's quite clear, he said, that ELSHAM is part of the Political Separatist wing and an extension of the PDP.

ELSHAM had earlier (on 25 September at a press conference in Jakarta) revealed that there were strong indications that the shooting of foreign Freeport personnel on 31 August had involved members of Kopassus. (special armed unit of hte TNI), alleging that this was linked to a struggle over the share of money provided to guard the premises of the Freeport mining company.

Syafrie said that that was no factual basis for ELSHAM's allegations, which were based on out of date and irrelevant information.

Syafrie, who is himself from Kopassus, vigorously denied that Kopassus could have been involved in a struggle over the spoils as their needs were provided by the government, while Freeport supplies supporting funding.

He said he did not know how much money was involved in this. It was all based on rumour and those spreading these rumours will be held to account, he warned.

Asked what action the TNI would take against ELSHAM for making these accusations, he said that the Trikora regional military command was investigating the allegations. 'If they fall short of the facts and are aimed as discrediting the TNI, then these people will have to face the law,' he said. 'It is the rule of law that prevails here,' he claimed. [Source: TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign]

"Indonesian army is promoting violence"

[The following is taken from a transcript by ABC Radio Asia/Pacific 29/09/2002 15:50:54] Correspondents' Report

HAMISH ROBERTSON: One of Australia's top Indonesia-watchers says that Indonesia'smilitary is promoting, not fighting, communal violence.

Dr Harold Crouch has told the annual Indonesia Update Conference that it serves the interests of the Indonesian Army to keep violence going in areas such as Aceh and West Papua.As Graeme Dobell reports this is at odds with the argument by the Australian Government this week that Indonesia's military - the TNI - is a crucial force for stability.

GRAEME DOBELL: Australia's defence minister, Robert Hill, is keen to resume the defence relationship with Indonesia building up military links in areas like intelligence, training and maritime surveillance. Senator Hill says Indonesia's military leadership wants to develop a more professional force and is a key to maintaining order.

ROBERT HILL: TNI will remain a fundamentally important institution in Indonesia. its handling of difficult internal security problems across the archipelago will have a crucial bearing on stability. As a secular organisation it will remain key to the government's efforts to promote tolerance and harmony between Indonesia's many different faiths.

GRAEME DOBELL: But Dr Harold Crouch has spent the last two years in Jakarta as the head of international crisis group, and he describes an Indonesian military still making its own rules. The army gets only one-third of its budget from the Indonesian state. The other two-thirds of the budget is raised by the military itself. from businesses enterprises and from corruption.

HAROLD CROUCH: The largest source of military finance is actually from illegal activities. Indeed most of the funds are raised from what can only be called extortion. Let's say, for example, huge markups on military purchases, protection from foreign and Indonesian enterprises, the big petrol and chemical plants, big mines and that sort of thing. Wherever there is illegal mining, illegal logging, illegal fishing, cattle rustling, whatever, smuggling, you'll find military elements.

GRAEME DOBELL: Dr Crouch says a tacit agreement with the government means there are no real prosecutions of military officers for human rights crimes. Indeed he says, officers keep regional conflicts on the boil to serve their own interests.

HAROLD CROUCH: It's hard to prove, but there are... indications that this affects the senior officers [who] actually have an interest in these conflicts continuing. Just take some of the big petro-chemical or mining American firms. If there's complete peace in Aceh and Papua, are they going to make contributions to the military - of course not. Now I'm not suggesting the military has an interest in starting a full-scale war again. At the same time, they don't want a full-scale peace. They like to keep the pot boiling basically and that is very profitable for the military. Complex web behind Papua violence (Radio Australia)

Last weekend's killings of three school teachers in Papua highlights the complex relationship between the Freeport mining company, the Indonesian military, and local Papuan villagers. P.T. Freeport Indonesia is a subsidiary of the US corporation Freeport McMoRan and operates a giant copper and gold mine in the Grasberg mountains in Papua.

Presenter/Interviewer: Nic McLellan Speaker: Australian author Dr Denise Leith, author of the book "The Politics of Power - Freeport in Suharto's Indonesia", to be published in October 2002

LEITH: "Freeport provide many, many, many services to the traditional people which they would not have if the company was not there. It certainly provides hospitals and medical services. It provides education to teachers and I believe in some instances teachers, it provides schools and scholarships. It provides many services to the traditional people."

"At the same time, the traditional people are very upset because they believe that this company has become extraordinarily wealthy by raping it's resources, and they feel that they have very little back, despite what Freeport feel has been a very generous relationship that they've had in the last few years with traditional people. I don't believe that the traditional people feel that Freeport has been extraordinarily generous at all."

The company's profits ...there have been years when the company's made over 200 million dollars clear profit, and the traditional people get about 15 million dollars a year paid back in services to the community. Given the way in which the traditional people still live, in comparison to the way the ex-pat workers and Freeport workers live within the concession there, the traditional people are still very angry and very upset that they are not given near enough for what they see are their resources."

MACLELLAN: Recently the US Governmnet has introduced new requirement for companies to report on their financial accounts. Has this impacted on the relations between the Indonesian Authorities and the Freeport McMoRan company?

LEITH: "That act, the corporate fraud act is quite interesting in that all American CEOs have to sign-off on that by the 14th of August. Freeport CEO,Jim Bob Moffet, or James Robert Moffet has signed-off on that piece of legislation. That means that should Freeport McMoRan or any other American company be lying in their annual reports in any way shape or form, or in their figures that they give to the stock exchange reporting of their annual reports, then they can be held totally accountable."

"My concern was that this may have been a reason that affected Freeport's relationship with the Indonesian Military because the company has been accused for many many years of paying money to the Indonesian military. There certainly have been recorded incidences of them paying money into the Military's bank accounts. Now if Freeport continue to do this, they're going to be held responsible?"

MACLELLAN: Do you think that there's the likelihood of further conflict in the area around the mine concession, in the wake of last week's shootings?

LEITH: "More violence...yes I believe that there will be more violence from the Indonesian military within the concession. If it is the OPM they will be after the people who actually committed violence. If it's not the OPM they still will be blaming the OPM and they will probably close off the concession and take out reprisals on the traditional people in the villages."

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