MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2001-05-01


Dear Julianna Wullur,

I have been following the civil lawsuit brought against Dr. Rignolda Djamaluddin by Newmont Minahasa Raya, a branch of Newmont Mining Corporation. I am aware that the basis of Newmont's lawsuit was media citations from a seminar on Buyat Bay pollution that was chaired by Dr. Rignolda Djamaluddin.

Intellectual freedoms are being stifled with this lawsuit that seeks to threaten researchers who present research results that are critical in terms of pollution and occurrence of strange disease in Buyat Bay. As the world's largest gold mining company that purports to be committed to 'Corporate Social Responsibility' principles, Newmont should respect divergent opinions and criticisms of their operations. According to the Government of Indonesia's research, Newmont is responsible for polluting Buyat Bay, which has led the government to file a criminal lawsuit against the company and one of its executives.

I am very concerned that the main focus of the lawsuit has been altered from looking at remarks made in the media to disputing whether Buyat Bay people are suffering from Minamata Disease. The seminar on Buyat Bay pollution chaired by the Dr. Rignolda Djamaluddin concluded with remarks that the Buyat Bay people suffer symptoms similar to Minamata Disease. Such a statement does not merit a defamation suit since it is based on sound academic research into the comparisons of the symptoms in Buyat Bay with the symptoms suffered by Minamata victims. Furthermore, the seminar did not conclude with statements that the Buyat people were suffering from Minamata Disease but rather that symptoms were similar. This lawsuit threatens to stifle intellectual freedoms and thereby threatens access to factual information needed for the formation of sound public policies.

I worry that Newmont is using the defamation suit against Dr. Rignolda Djamaluddin to further its defense in pollution charges brought forth by the Government of Indonesia.

Finally, I am deeply concerned by the unfair nature of this trial given that Dr. Rignolda Djamaluddin has been denied the opportunity to testify, which thereby affects his defense. It is clear that the Panel of Judges has violated the rights of the defendant to defend himself.

Based on the above-mentioned concerns, I respectfully urge the State Court of Manado and the Indonesian Supreme Court to:

1. Cancel the next trial scheduled for July 25th when a verdict is expected. The verdict cannot be made without the defendant testifying in his defense.
2. Replace the current panel of judges presiding over the civil suit between Newmont Minahasa Raya and Dr. Rignolda Djamaluddin.


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