Tribe in Papua to File Charges Against Freeport

Tribe in Papua to File Charges Against Freeport

The Jakarta Globe,
by Fidelis E Satriastanti

After feeling exploited and ignored for more than three decades, the Papuan Amungme tribe have filed a lawsuit against the government, Coordinating Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie and the operator of one of the largest mining sites in the world, PT Freeport Indonesia, a lawyer said on Thursday.

"[Freeport and its other shareholders] have been exploiting our land while we have been left behind in poverty. We are the owners of those natural riches but we get nothing except violence and environmental degradation," said Titus Natkime, one the lawyers for the Amungme tribe.

Titus said 92 members of the tribe have entrusted him to file the lawsuit.

The government has a 9.36 percent stake in Freeport while Bakrie holds a 9.36 percent share in the subsidiary of the mining giant, PT Freeport MacMoRan.

"We are suing the government of Indonesia because as citizens, we have the right to expect protection from our government," he said, citing the nation’s laws and regulations, especially the 1945 Constitution, which guaranteed the welfare of indigenous people.

He said the lawsuit was registered as a civil case at the South Jakarta District Court on May 27 and the first hearing would open on Aug. 6.

"We are suing them for the losses suffered by our people from 1967 to 2009, which is worth about $30 billion," he said adding that the company earned around $20 million a day from the mine.

He said the tribe had entered negotiations with Freeport McMoran in 2002 but dropped out in 2006 after the chances of getting a result became elusive.

"We kept a record of the negotiations as proof and we will present it to the court as evidence," he said, adding that in 1997, Tom Beanal, the head of Lemasa, the Amungme Traditional Law Council, sued Freeport in New Orleans, Louisiana, where it is based, but lost.

Meanwhile, Arkilaus Arnesius Baho from the National League for the Struggle of the People of West Papua, said the only way to solve the ongoing conflict in the province was to close down the mine.

"If we want to put an end to conflict in Papua, the only sure way is to shut down Freeport," Arkilaus said. "Since the company landed in Papua in 1967, there have been nothing but problems, such as a menacing military presence, real environmental damage and increased conflicts between the tribes."

He said the current spate of violence in the province could not be laid at the feet of any particular group but was the accumulative effect of events linked to the ongoing economic injustice that begun with the arrival of Freeport. He was referring to the recent series of armed attacks on Freeport workers and police that has already left three dead, including an Australian employee of Freeport, and several others injured.

Titus said he was also very concerned about the shootings but that he was not here to talk about those incidents.

"I am here to represent the Amungme tribe who are demanding justice," he said, adding that his clients were the traditional title owners of 2.6 million hectares, most of which is now occupied by the mining company.

Berry Nahdian Furqon, executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said the site should be closed following the recent spike in violence.

"We urge the government to establish an independent committee to oversees the three issues at the heart of the problems in Papua — human rights violations, ecological considerations and social economic factors," Berry said.