MAC/20: Mines and Communities

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

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"..

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