Rivalries could be behind Indonesia mine killings

Rivalries could be behind Indonesia mine killings

Associated Press,
By Anthony Deutsch
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Deadly ambushes at the world's largest gold mine likely stem from rivalries between Indonesian police and military forces who compete for millions in illegal profits for protecting the industry, analysts said.

Three people died and another nine have been wounded in five days of ambushes on a private road leading to the mountain mining town of Timika on Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua. The shootings highlight the security challenges for the American company that operates the mine, Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.

"Whenever they (security forces) feel they do not receive enough 'protection fee' then they orchestrate an attack to show Freeport how vulnerable they are and (allow them to) increase protection fees," said George Junus Aditjondro, an author on rebellions in Indonesia and a Papua specialist.

Police forces have been formally responsible for security at Freeport mines since 2001, when the region gained semiautonomy, but continue to compete for work and under-the-table profits with military units, analysts and a government official in Papua province say.

Christopher Ballard, a Papuan affairs specialist at the Australian National University, said his research on the area indicates that the "vast majority of security force casualties were at the hands of other security forces."

Freeport pays more than $5 million annually in protection money, according to the London-based group Global Witness, citing U.S. regulatory filings. Freeport did not respond to a request for details about its security spending. The military is always trying "to show how incompetent the police are in defending or guarding foreign businesses," Aditjondro said. The recent attacks "could be an outburst of that rivalry."

Papuan military spokesman Lt. Col. Susilo, who uses a single name like most Indonesians, denied allegations of rivalry. "That's not true at all," he said. "There is no competition between army and police for the sake of money ... we have good relations with the police."

He accused Papuan separatists, who have waged a low-level insurgency for 40 years, of stealing weapons that could have been used in the recent shootings. The Free Papua Movement has not launched a major attack with guns for years, and experts said they did not believe the separatists would be able to carry out sophisticated military operations.

Another theory suggests the Indonesian military armed local Papuans and instructed them to carry out the ambushes. Many Papuans are angry that they remain poor while a foreign corporation makes billions of dollars in profit by mining resources in their province.

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. posted revenue of nearly $18 billion in 2008 and is one of the biggest tax payers in the country. The Indonesian government holds a minority stake in the Grasberg mine near where the recent attacks took place.

A spokesman for PT Freeport, the Indonesian subsidiary, said in an e-mail Tuesday: "We have no comment on speculation."

The assaults took place just outside Freeport's sprawling Grasberg complex, where 20,000 people are employed at the world's largest open-pit gold mine. Forensic material collected at the scene where 29-year-old Australian project manager Drew Grant was shot in the neck and chest on Saturday indicates a coordinated attack by several gunmen, police chief Bagus Ekodanto said.

Casings were recovered of military-grade 5.6 mm bullets that fit AK-47s, M-16s and Indonesian-made SS1 assault rifles, police said.

"Such bullets and guns are standard weapons for both the military and police, but also (are) known to be used by the Papua rebels," Ekodanto said.
A day after that shooting, a convoy of security vehicles came under sniper fire, killing a private security guard. A police officer seeking cover fell to his death in a ravine.

Police have interviewed 14 witnesses — none of them police or military personnel — but have not detained any suspects or announced a motive, Ekodanto said.
Two police officers were wounded, one of them critically, when they came under fire Wednesday, security officials said. A Freeport vehicle carrying three passengers was shot at Tuesday afternoon, but no one was hurt, company spokesman Mindo Pangaribuan said.

Papua, which was transferred from Dutch to Indonesian rule in the 1960s after a stage-managed vote by community leaders, is off limits to foreign journalists. The private Timika road, under the watch of police and Freeport guards, is closed to all reporters.

During the Suharto dictatorship, Indonesia's armed forces openly ran more than 1,000 business ventures, which funded their operations and enriched their commanders. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered the military to end all commercial activities this year.

But Papua remains a military stronghold, said a leading official in the Papuan government, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his job.
Ballard, of the Australian National University, said the area around the Freeport mine "is probably the most heavily militarized sector in all of Indonesia.

"The presence of the military in substantial numbers has historically been the key source of conflict in the Freeport area," he said.

In the last decade, Indonesia has pulled out of now independent East Timor, ended sectarian fighting in Sulawesi and Maluku, and halted a decades-long civil war on Aceh.

"Since Indonesia quit East Timor and also since Aceh peace, West Papua has become the main area of military business in Indonesia," Aditjondro said. "I think they need to show to the world, especially to parliament in Jakarta, there is a need to increase the military budget in West Papua."

Papua gained semiautonomy from the Jakarta in 2001, but its security has morphed into an unruly mix of paramilitaries, soldiers, contract security guards, anti-terror brigades and special forces, who strangled to death Papua's political leader, Theys Eluay.

"It's unclear at the moment who is responsible for what," the Papuan government official said.