Transparency a must for Freeport: Rights body

Transparency a must for Freeport: Rights body

The Jakarta Post, Timika,
Markus Makur

Monolithic mining company PT Freeport Indonesia should be forthright on the problems taking place within its concession area, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said Thursday.

In a meeting with Freeport's management, the All-Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI), the police and military top brass at the Hotel Grand Tembaga in Mimika, Nur Kholis from Komnas HAM, said unless Freeport becomes more transparent about its operations, the problems, which include a series of shootings in its concession area, will not be resolved.

"Freeport has complained about the shooting incidents that have taken place since July 8," Kholis said.

He added the cases should be resolved comprehensively from economic, political and socio-cultural aspects and that Komnas Ham was ready to follow up on an appeal made by Freeport and the SPSI for the central government and the provincial administration to immediately restore security in the area so workers could return to earning a living in peace.

"Komnas Ham, currently monitoring and investigating the spate of shootings in the concession area, has asked the central government and provincial administration to immediately settle the shooting cases," he said.

Komnas Ham was in Mimika, added Kholis, to investigate the recent attacks.

Kholis said Komnas Ham viewed the shootings, which occurred along the road between Timika and Tembagapura, as the outcome of the unequal share of the company's revenue as well as the social and economic gap between economic migrants and the local community.

"Police have so far named seven suspects in the shootings. Komnas Ham will protect and observe the legal process of these suspects. I will ask about them from the Papua Police chief later today," he said.

Kholis said Komnas Ham questioned Freeport's reticence toward outside parties, especially when it came to accessing the mining sites, which creates the impression that Freeport was like "a state within a state". As an example he cited the fact that Freeport is allowed to issue its own driving licenses.

Freeport's vice president of legal and tax affairs, Tony Wenas, confirmed that some locations within the mining sites were off limits to outsiders and only authorized Freeport employees were allowed to access them.

Kholis said Freeport should hold discussions with the local community, including the government, and ensure it contributes its fair share to the community.

"Foreign companies should recognize the local customs because their presence is an inherent part of the area's culture," he said.

Kholis said the rights of the local community had been ignored and that the relationship between the community and the company should be improved.

"I believe the position of the local community in Mimika is very weak and that they must accept every decision by the company, which could trigger problems," he said.

The shootings, added Kholis, were currently being monitored by the Komnas Ham. He said the rights organization planned to conduct field observations in Freeport's concession area, but that it was not allowed to do so given the current conditions.