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After a silence of two and a half months, BP has replied (or rather not replied) to a passionate let

Published by MAC on 2005-07-30

After a silence of two and a half months, BP has replied (or rather not replied) to a passionate letter from the president of the Union of Baptist Churches in West Papua. In it he pleads that Britain's biggest company not repeat the fatal errors of Freeport/Rio Tinto in his country.

Letter from Revd Socratez Sofyan Yoman, President of the Union of Baptist Churches of Papua to Lord Browne, Group Chief Executive, BP p.l.c.

(see below for Bahasa Indonesian version and reply from BP)

The Fellowship of Baptist Churches of Papua
Jl. Jeruk Nipis Kotaraja, PO Box 1212 Jayapura, Papua
Telp. 62 (0) 967-583462, Fax. 62 (0) 967-588189

To: Lord Browne of Madingley
Group Chief Executive
BP plc.
1 St James's Square
London SW1Y 4PD

30th July 2005

Dear Lord Browne,

As a Church leader I must speak out for my people in West Papua, about peace, justice, equality, freedom, truth and human dignity.

Our Land of West Papua was given to our ancestors by God. Your company, BP, has come to our land because you know that there are riches beneath our soil and seas. I know that you, Sir, have also visited our land yourself. You and the people from your company are welcome to visit us in West Papua. We Papuans are proud of our people, our traditions and our land and we are pleased to share what we have with our friends.

But on behalf of my people, I must tell you that if you love our natural resources, you must first love our people.

People ask me "Where is this place called 'Tangguh'?" and I have to tell them that there is no river, mountain, village or town in West Papua with that name. The Indonesian dictator Suharto who killed thousands of my people gave your project its name. In his language it means "All powerful" or "invincible", like he thought his empire would be.

When you first wanted to take our natural resources why didn't you first ask us Papuans, the owners of the land. We don't know why you went to Jakarta to negotiate with the Javanese? We are not part of Indonesia. Our ancestors, our grandfathers and grandmothers did not come from Java. We are Papuans and this is our land.

For 42 years, Indonesians have occupied our land, but you know that we Papuans did not invite them. We tried to tell the world that like all other colonies we wanted freedom; that we wanted to be free to enjoy our own land, not be ruled by others … but the world turned its back on us. The 1969 Act of Free Choice went through unchallenged. To their eternal shame, the American, Dutch, British and Australian governments stayed silent while my people's blood turned our rivers red.

The red and white flag of Indonesia has brought only misery to my people; murder, mutilation, rape, torture, terror and starvation. Japan also occupied our land during WW II. Would BP have also gone to Tokyo to negotiate with Admiral Tojo about West Papua's natural resources?

If you love our natural resources, you must first love our people.

You argue that you must negotiate with Jakarta because your government "recognizes Indonesia's territorial integrity" and tells you that West Papua is part of Indonesia … but you know for yourself the truth of how Indonesia stole our land. God has given you your own mind. You can make decisions for yourself about what is right and what is wrong. On the Day of Judgment we will all have to answer for the choices we made. God will not accept "I was just obeying orders" as an excuse for complicity in murder.

If you love our natural resources, you must first love our people.

Your website and brochures say that everything in your "Project Area" is wonderful. You tell us that you have built a new village and that you are being so careful not to harm the shrimps in our sea. You show photos of smiling Papuan children … but you do not say that outside your "Project Area" my people are being slaughtered like pigs by the same government you share tea with in Jakarta and Jayapura. What gives you the right to split one part of our land away from the rest and say that everything in "your area" is fine? Our Land of West Papua is one body. What you are trying to do is to cut one of our hands off and show that to the world. No, we will not allow you do this. We are one people. Neither Indonesia nor BP can divide us.

If you love our natural resources, you must first love our people.

You also say that you are being so careful not to allow the Indonesian military to provide your security. We are glad that you admit that it would be dangerous to allow the armed forces of the government you claim to be the legitimate owners of our land to come into your "Project Area". Perhaps you do know after all that the Indonesian military takes millions of dollars every year to provide "protection" for foreign companies and to turn a blind eye to illegal logging and trading in endangered species? Perhaps you also know that the TNI is raping, torturing and murdering my people all across West Papua and training militias and Jihadists to do the same just like they did in East Timor?

I think you know, like us, what Freeport has done? Have you been to the town of Timika, swarming with Indonesian intelligence agents, with armed soldiers every kilometer and where Papuans, the owners of the land, are lucky to get a job clearing up rubbish? What makes you so sure that you can avoid Freeport's mistakes? We know from experience that dogs will always find vomit to eat. Whether you like it or not, wherever there is money, the TNI will be there sooner or later to lap it up. They will create an "incident", blame the OPM and then insist that they provide "protection", at a price, for a "vital national asset". We also know from experience that in West Papua ruled by Indonesia, where foreign companies operate, our people eventually become marginalized in our own land.

You say that you are being so careful to avoid Freeport's mistakes, but I have to say on behalf of my people that if you really cared about us Papuans as much as you say, you would not take this very great risk with our lives. You are like a man who goes into a dangerous part of a big city with a box full of money telling everyone that you are going to be so careful not to allow the gangsters to rob you. What excuses will you make when it's too late and the gangsters have stolen your money and used it to buy guns to kill thousands of innocent people in the city? So that you can make money, you are prepared to risk my people's lives. I understand that in your English law, a "reckless disregard for another person's life" is known as "man slaughter".

If you love our natural resources, you must first love our people.

Now you may be surprised to know that my people still say that BP and other foreign companies are very welcome in West Papua … but you must wait until you can negotiate with democratically elected representatives of the Papuan people, the legal owners of our natural resources. I am not a politician but I know from the decisions of our Papuan Congress in 2000 that if you respect us as human beings and take care of our land you will be negotiating with friends in an independent West Papua.

Yours sincerely,

Socratez Sofyan Yoman

President of the Fellowship of Baptist Churches of Papua

c.c. Rt Hon. Jack Straw M.P., Foreign Secretary
Mr. Ian Pearson M.P., Foreign Office Minister
Rt Revd Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford
Rt Hon. Andrew Smith M.P., Member of Parliament for Oxford East and Chair, All Party Parliamentary West Papua Group
Dr. Evan Harries M.P., Member of Parliament for Oxford West & Abingdon
Dr. Caroline Lucas M.E.P, Member of the European Parliament for South East England
Senator George Mitchell, Chair, TIAP (Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel)
Revd Herman Saud, Lord Hannay, Ambassador Siagian (TIAP members)

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