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Freeport's entry into Intan Jaya Regency, West Papua

2 December, 2012

Intan Jaya Regency is a new administrative region which split from Paniai Regency in 2008. Until that time, Sugapa, Hitalipa and other areas were still under the administration of Paniai Regency.

The story begins in 1989 - 1990 when several westerners arrived, calling themselves the Survey Team. They were accompanied by a missionary from District Hitalipa, who had been given the friendly nickname of Jani Mala by local people. His real name is John Cutts, a foreigner who was born and raised in Intan Jaya.

They arrivedfrom Timika in an Airfast helicopter, and after arriving at the Kingmi Missionary Post in Hitalpa district , they continued towards the Hiyabu river, not far away.

Once at the river they started taking sand, water and rock samples. Then they continued towards the confluence of the Hiyabu and Dogabu rivers, and then to the confluence of the Wayabu and Wabu rivers and to several streams that joined the Wabu River, taking more samples at each river.

As they passed the Wabu River at Wandoga, John Cutts happened to meet a local resident, Stevanus Sondegau, by a stream known as Wonemiggi. John and his companions continued their journey to the confluence with the Tigabu river, where once again they took samples and panned the sand to look for gold.

At that moment John met with another local resident, known locally as Ojegoa Tawa Mbole Belau or Didimus Belau, from Bilogae village, Sugapa District, who farmed cassava, taro and other plants along the Tigitalipa river. As usual John Cutts spoke in Migani, the local language, and told Didimus what they were doing there.

“A me,..mepao,..mendaga kaneta taliago kaya, Hitalipagemaya tali ne,..du ne,..homa ne,.. inigiao dia digio,. usua  naga ndogo- Timika ge inua noa nggaga  inuapa dutima dia diggiyo,.data kapage go wabu ge dega-dega data homeyo pialiggiyo dipage go Timika puapaya” John Cutts said to Didimus in Migani, which means “I'm accompanying these people to collect water, rock and sand samples from Hitalipa to look at in the laboratory in Timika. From here we will continue to follow the upper reaches of the Wabu river then to Homeyo District and then we will go to Timika”. John Cutts, the man who the local people always addressed as Jani Mala, continued with the survey team towards Homeyo District.

Several months later, on 28th September 1991, John Cutts made a second visit to Sugapa, Intan Jaya as a representative of PT Freeport Indonesia. His aim was to meet with the head of the Sugapa district and tribal chiefs to inform them that PT Freeport would start operations in Sugapa district and several other districts in Intan Jaya.

That meeting, which took place in the Sugapa district office, was attended by Hombore BA, the district head at the time, the members of the Tripika (local representatives of government, police and military), together with community leaders who hold the customary land rights, who all came and listened to what John Cutts had to say.

Migani community leaders that were present in that meeting included Paulus Japugau, Yuliu Sani, Adolof Belau, Oktopianus Sondegau, Samuel Japugau, Andreas Tipagau, and Bony Sondegau amongst others. They were confused when they heard John Cutts' explanations, and didn't understand why he wanted to carry out this exploration (Survey) on their land. They went straight home without agreeing to anything or being in agreement with John Cutts' wishes to start surveying their land.

John Cutts took advantage of the Intan Jaya people's limited knowledge and lack of experience to introduce Freeport to the area on its own terms, without any agreement to co-operate or Memorandum of Understanding with customary land rights holders. Although no such agreement had been made, John Cutts nevertheless imposed his wishes, bringing PT Freeport to Sugapa and other locations in Intan Jaya.

Click here to read the full articlepublished on Hidup Biasa blog