TAPOL supports Amungme People's lawsuit against Freeport

20 Jul 2009
TAPOL warmly welcomes the decision of the Papuan Amungme Tribal Council to file a lawsuit against the Indonesian Government, the Coordinating Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie and Freeport, the operator of the gold and copper mine, which has been exploiting Papua’s natural resources for more than thirty years.
The Amungme people who are the traditional owners of 2.6 million hectares of land much of which is now occupied by the mining company, have enjoyed none of the economic benefits derived from their precious natural resources, but have instead lived in poverty just like all the West Papuan people whose land was incorporated into the Indonesian state by fraudulent means in 1969.
The lawsuit was registered with a court in South Jakarta on 27 May and the first hearing is expected to open on 6 August. A previous attempt to sue the company in 1997 in New Orleans where the company is based ended in failure.
Even before West Papua was formally incorporated as part of Indonesia, the dictator Suharto, who held the reins of power at the head of the Indonesian military for more than thirty years, granted a concession to Freeport in 1967 to exploit the copper and gold of Papua, riding roughshod over the rights of the Papuan people. The Indonesian Government now has a 9.36 percent stake in Freeport while the Bakrie corporation holds a 9.36 percent stake in a subsidiary of the mining giant, PT Freeport McMoran.
Over the years, Freeport has been the largest taxpayer to the Indonesian state while earning huge profits for itself. In a new deal with Freeport following the discovery of more copper and gold reserves in the 1980s, the company was granted the right to operate the mine for up to fifty years.
The Amungme Trial Council estimates that in the three decades up to 2009, it has suffered loses amounting to no less than $30 billion while the company is estimated to be earning around $20 million a day from its mining operations.
However, a four-year research project conducted in West Papua by the Indonesian Academy of Sciences, LIPI, concluded that economic circumstances have seriously impaired the chances of Papuan children receiving a decent education ‘because parents are too poor to pay for their children to go to school’. It also found that health facilities were far from adequate with diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and respiratory disorders taking a heavy toll in Papuan lives.
Earlier this month, a series of deadly ambushes along the road leading to the mine by unidentified gunmen resulted in the deaths of an Australian working for the company and two Indonesians engaged in providing security for the company. Following these tragic events, there have been renewed calls for the company to be shut down. A spokesman for the National League for the Struggle of the People of West Papua said:

‘The only way to solve the ongoing conflict in the province [is] to close down the mine. 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.’

TAPOL believes that as long as these conflicts and problems are allowed to drag on, Papuan people, especially those living in the vicinity of the company whose land is now occupied by Freeport, will continue to live in poverty and deprivation and suffer the consequences of violence that has been a constant feature of life in Papua.

TAPOL calls on Papua solidarity organisations around the world to join its efforts to support the legitimate demands of the Amungme people.