Police Admit to Receiving Freeport ‘Lunch Money’
The police admitted on Friday what much of the country has long known — that they accepted millions of dollars from Freeport Indonesia to provide security for the miner’s operations in Papua.
National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo called the payments “lunch money” paid in addition to state-allocated security funding. “It was operational funding given directly to police personnel to help them make ends meet,” he said.
He also claimed it was normal practice for the police to receive money in the course of duty. “If, for instance, the party being secured offers to pay lunch money to the officers, and if the conditions of the job are particularly difficult, then I believe we can account for that money,” Timur said.
Timur was responding to reports from the human rights group Imparsial that the police received $64 million from Freeport between 1995 and 2004.
“That money is audited, OK? Just ask the police’s operational assistant,” Timur said.
Security forces have long been understood to be receiving direct payments from the miner to help guard its massive Grasberg copper and gold mine.
The mine and its workers have been the target of frequent attacks, mostly blamed by police on the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM).
But rights activists have also accused it of using security forces to quell local opposition to its mining operations and crack down on worker protests.
The mine is in the grip of a massive workers’ strike that began on Sept. 15. On Oct. 10, two people died in a clash between police and striking workers.
Timur denied that the money from Freeport had made the force subservient to the miner, insisting that the payments went no higher than to personnel on the ground.
In its 2009 report on “Working Toward Sustainable Development,” Freeport revealed that it contributed millions of dollars toward “government-provided” security operations near its Papua mine: $10 million for 2009 alone.
“This supplemental support consists of various infrastructure and other costs, such as food, housing, fuel, travel, vehicle repairs, allowances to cover incidental and administrative costs, and community assistance programs conducted by the military and police to promote harmony with local communities,” Freeport said in the report.
In the wake of Timur’s admission, legislators said they would summon the police chief to clarify the issue. Benny K. Harman, chairman of House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, said if the money was given directly to personnel — as Timur claimed — then “that’s reasonable.”
However, fellow Democrat Saan Mustofa advised against such a relationship and the image it created. “Freeport shouldn’t have paid the money, even if it was to individual officers,” he said. “It could be accused of bribery.”
Additional reporting by Markus Junianto Sihaloho