31 Juli 2009

Minister denies TNI played role in Freeport attacks

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono has denied the Indonesian Military (TNI) was involved in the recent armed attacks on US gold and copper mining giant PT Freeport Indonesia in Papua.

"That is just wild speculation," he said Thursday.

Juwono however said he was uncertain as to whether the secessionist Free Papua Movement (OPM) was involved in the series of shootings, that left three people dead.

"Let's just wait for the police investigation," he said, adding that many parties might want to attack a company as profitable as Freeport for various reasons.

"Every business managing strategic commodities such as copper are attractive targets to various parties," he said.

He added it was possible the wide social and economic gap in the region had triggered the incidents.

Spokesman for the National Police, Brig Gen Sulistyo Ishak, said 700 officers have been deployed in the wake of the recent incidents.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights National Commission (Komnas HAM) is conducting an investigation into the attacks, commissioner Ridha Saleh said.

"The team is already in Papua to speak with all stakeholders and gather information," he said.

"We hope the police will conduct their investigation professionally. The police should not be brutal or use violence when investigating."

Juwono said Freeport should not be shut down because of the security problems as "Freeport gives a lot to state revenue".

The Indonesian Forum on the Environment (Walhi) disagreed, with executive director Berry Nahdian Forqan saying it was high time for the government to act firmly against the mining giant.

"We urge the government to halt Freeport's operations in the country because of the ecological, social and economic damage it has caused Papuans over the decades," he told a press conference.

Walhi claims that the company causes US$6.9 billion worth of ecological damage every year.

Meanwhile, in a bid to claim their rights, the Amungme tribe of Papua has filed a lawsuit against PT Freeport Indonesia, the government and PT Indocopper Investama, a subsidiary of the Bakrie Group.

The plaintiffs are demanding $30 billion in compensation for the 42-year exploitation of more than 2,000,000 hectares of land.

Titus Natkime, a lawyer for the Amungme people, said the lawsuit was filed at the South Jakarta District Court in May. (adh/mrs) (TheJakartaPost)

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