Is Freeport doomed? (Part 2)
Once again, Timika’s Rimba Hotel was the site of a negotiation between Freeport workers and the mining company’s management on the wages of the former. At least the two sides agreed to break now and meet again soon. The workers will think over Freeport’s newest offer to increase wages, but it won’t be the increase the workers had demanded.
Meanwhile, at the entrance to the vast Grasberg copper and gold mine, the NKRI (Unitary Republic of Indonesia) flag still waves. Indonesian television footage played footage of some workers saying they remain loyal to Indonesia and that their only concern was better welfare for the Papuan people.
In Jakarta, Papua the past week’s hottest talk with new revelations about the separatist movement, corruption, local wisdom and the handling of the Papua problem.
One of my journalist colleagues spoke to an Amungme tribal chief who pondered taking over Freeport for the benefit and welfare of the Papuan people. Although he did not know how or whether that was possible, at least he voiced out his aspirations. The chief also addressed his main concern that Freeport is taking too much of his people’s ancestral wealth and that Freeport was one of the main problems of Papua.
But it was the revelation that police have been receiving large cash payments from Freeport which shocked people most. National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo last Friday admitted that police units have indeed received money from Freeport. He called those payments “lunch money.”
According to rights group Imparsial Freeport pays the police $14 million annually. Freeport itself also confirmed that it has given operational funds to police and to members of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI). This has prompted numerous activists and lawmakers to demand investigations into what seems to be a shady practice.
In March 2010, the Rimba hotel in Timika was the site of a signing of a memorandum between Freeport and Indonesian police which pundits say was an agreement to provide security. The meeting was recorded on video.
Neta S Pane, chairman of Police Watch, an influential police watchdog, said that Freeport was mining uranium, an allegation which has yet to be proved. He also said that if Freeport made the payments, it was illegal and that Freeport could be prosecuted.
Golkar politician Bambang Soesatyo, also a member of House Commission III which overseas law enforcement, said police have engaged in thuggery for Freeport. “The police can’t receive money from Freeport. If they do, they will not be neutral but will side with the miner. It’s illegal. Operational funds for the police have to come from the state budget,” he said.
United States law also prohibits American companies from paying, or offering to pay, foreign officials to gain a business advantage. It covers non-monetary gifts or offers in addition to cash payments.
From the 1950s to the mid-1970s, a number of American companies paid money to people of influence in foreign governments. The most famous case was the Lockheed bribery scandal. The company paid people in the governments of Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Indonesia, Iran and Saudi Arabia to guarantee contracts for military aircraft.
What will happen if average Americans and their congressmen and senators find out that a repeat of huge US corporations making illegal payments is happening today? What will US Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin say when he hears about this?
Meanwhile, Freeport and the problem of overall security in Papua have caught Indonesia’s attention. Army Chief General Pramono Edhie Wibowo has said that armed violence must be countered with arms while Intelligence Chief Marciano Norman regarded the security disturbances as criminal acts.
Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro was the only official who bluntly said that the Abepura incident was an act of separatism on Indonesian soil and therefore had to be dispersed.
But Indonesian officialdom was also to blame for the failure in providing welfare in Papua, especially due to rampant corruption.
The government gave more than Rp 28 trillion to the Papuan people for development and promoting welfare. But alas, the Papuans remain impoverished. Where has all the money gone? Papuan activists and tribal chiefs say the funds have been misappropriated by both Jakarta and Jakarta-appointed officials in Papua. It is a public secret that Papuan regents enjoy excessive luxury and wealth.
Both the provinces of Papua and West Papua lack adequate schools and infrastructure. They could have been provided with their essential needs with that kind of money. Instead, local wisdom and indigenous rights have been neglected.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has formed a special team called UP4B with the task of accelerating development in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. To lead the it he has appointed veteran Aceh military commander Lieut. Gen. Bambang Darmono who will be assisted by the president’s expert staff on special autonomy regions, which includes Velix Wanggai, top Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) researcher Adriana Elizabeth, House member Paskalis Kossay and former state secretariat minister Bondan Gunawan.
The team will assess of the implementation special autonomy and the use of the Rp 28 trillion of development funds.
Darmono was known to be unfriendly with journalists during his time in Aceh while Bondan, who served under Gus Dur, said he would not be satisfied with the formation of the team unless President Yudhoyono visits Papua himself and for a dialogue with its people.
“The Papua problems can’t be solved with just economic an approach. Local wisdom that must be accounted for,” he said.