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3 JP Op-Eds on Papua/Freeport Violence: Causes and
Oversimplication [+Update]
 Mar 23, 2006 04:26 PST 

3 JP Op-Eds (+Update: Death toll in Papua clash rises to 5):

- Probable reasons for the violence in Papua

- The Freeport case should not be oversimplified

- Who is to blame for big business feeling the heat?

- update: Death toll in Papua clash rises to 5

The Jakarta Post
Thursday, March 23, 2006


Probable reasons for the violence in Papua

Aleksius Jemadu, Bandung

The student protest in front of Cendrawasih State University in Abepura on
March 16, 2006 was not an ordinary one. Otherwise the protesters would not
gone so far as to kill three riot policemen and an Air Force officer. It must
have been a climax of an accumulation of frustration on the part of the
Papuans, who have become desperate in the midst of a political game among the
political elite, who compete for control over and economic appropriation in

An expert on inter-state conflict, Michael Brown (1996), says that we have to
distinguish the underlying from proximate causes of an internal conflict. The
underlying causes of internal conflict concern mass-level factors, such as
economic injustice and political repression.

The problem with these underlying factors is that we cannot predict when an
outbreak of violence is going to occur. Therefore, according to Brown, we have
to find the proximate causes of the conflict. In most cases, the spread of
violence is triggered by a struggle of power among political leaders, in which
the grassroots have no part at all.

It should be noted that students played an important role in initiating the
protest against the state authority. They represented the educated section of
the Papuan people, who are increasingly critical and cynical about how the
political leaders in Jakarta and Papua have been dealing with the region's

As far as the Papuan students are concerned, the presence of the U.S. gold
mine subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia on Papuan soil is a modern symbol of a
very powerful collaboration between external powers, whose main business is
to perpetuate their profit-making activities without disruption by local

There is no doubt that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is committed to the
use of peaceful means in resolving the conflict in restive provinces like
Papua and Aceh. It goes without saying that the Papuans are watching carefully
how the central government is going to award some political and economic
concessions to the Acehnese through the formulation of the law on the
governance of
Aceh. Such a comparison is inevitable as the Papuans also want similar

Although it is not yet clear how the House of Representatives will translate
the principles mentioned in the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding on Aceh
peace, the central government has implicitly admitted that it has to go beyond
the special autonomy law in addressing the grievances of the Acehnese.

There is even a prospect of having local political parties in Aceh. In fact,
recently some political activists declared the establishment of the first
local political party in Aceh, called the Acehnese People's Party (Partai
Aceh or PRA).

At the same time, there is no clear indication that the central government
will treat Papua the same. Nor is there any honest confession on the part
of the
central government that it has failed to empower the grassroots through the
implementation of the 2001 Law on Special Autonomy for Papua.

In fact, the home minister has played down the objections raised by the
chairman of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP), Agus Alue Alua, who urged a
to the local election in West Irian Jaya. According to the MRP, the
establishment of new provinces in Papua should be proposed by the Papuans
themselves and
not imposed from above by the central government.

It is interesting to see that the opposition to the formation of West Irian
Jaya province came as the students were demanding Freeport's closure. There
several reasons behind the protest.

First, they consider the establishment of the new province a blatant insult
to the MRP, whose members are to be respected. The election of the West Irian
Jaya governor delegitimized the MRP in front of its constituents.

Second, in the eyes of the students, the establishment of the new province
will only lead to the strengthening of control by the central government as
a policy will create new civilian and security bureaucracies representing
Jakarta's interests.

Third, although the local elections have been peacefully conducted, the
Papuan students suspect that the central government has been instrumental in
inciting conflict among the Papuan leaders themselves. This was precisely
the reason
why these young people felt so powerless and frustrated that they came to
justify any means to convey their message.

Let us just hope that the political leaders in Jakarta are wise enough to see
the Papuan issue in its wider perspective. Surely, we mourn those killed in
the Abepura clash. At the same time, we also need to lend some empathy to
thousands of Papuans who still live in dire conditions.

The writer is the Head of the International Relations Department and Head of
the MA Study Program in Social Sciences at Parahyangan University in Bandung.
His field of research focuses on civil and internal conflict. He can be
reached at alje-@yahoo.co.uk.


The Jakarta Post
Thursday, March 23, 2006


The Freeport case should not be oversimplified

Jalal, Jakarta

Albert Einstein once said that everything must be explained in a simple but
not simpler way. The advice of this physics genius is apparently ignored by
most observers of the Freeport issue, as oversimplification continues to
their comments.

If we are supposed to seek the best solution to this problem,
oversimplification should, of course, be avoided because it will reduce our
capacity to
understand the actual complexity of the matter. Once we fail to be aware
that the
issue is complex, the settlement proposed will also be too simple. In fact, as
indicated by many cases, for every complex problem it seems there is always a
simple solution, although in fact it is often wrong.

The first thing oversimplified is that the Papuan community is seen as a
single entity. In reality, the ethnic groups and languages of the Papuans are
among the world's most diverse. Around the Freeport mining area there are
tribes, with Amungme and Komoro having the most extensive communal property
rights. As Papuan protests against Freeport have been lodged in various
including those outside Papua, it should be realized that diverse ethnic
entities have joined anti-Freeport demos.

No less important than the ethnic side is the aspect of interests. In this
case, it is unwise to assume that there has been only a single interest
concerning Freeport and lying behind all the rallies against Freeport.
Whoever probes
into the issue for satisfactory resolution should be capable of finding out
the diversity of entities involved in the demos and the presence of those
mustering anti-Freeport forces.

Another manifestation of oversimplification is the notion that the entire
Papuan community is victimized by the existence of Freeport, so that all
want to get rid of the mining company. While some Papuan groups have certainly
enjoyed Freeport's benefits, others are dissatisfied with this firm. Its
social programs are one of the biggest resources allocated in Indonesia and
the relatively small population, the per capita benefit is definitely greater,
assuming that the program is run in an honest, equitable manner.

Anyway, Papuan people are Freeport's stakeholders. But they are made up of
primary and secondary stakeholders. Those relatively closer to the mining
location are primary stakeholders and those farther away secondary ones. The
treatment of both groups should naturally be different. Stakeholders are also
distinguished as those with valid claims and those with invalid ones. Valid
should indeed be responded to and their settlement later sought. Invalid
also need a proper response with the explanation as to why they cannot be
followed up on.

Still, there remains an oversimplification of Freeport, which is always
regarded as a company with poor social and environmental performance. As a
operating in the Indonesian territory, Freeport is certainly obliged to
abide by
various government provisions on environmental quality standards, which is to
be officially monitored.

Sadly, in the social sphere, the government has no such minimum performance
rules. It may be due to the greater difficulty in formulating social
performance, but as indicated by different corporate social responsibility
the creation of these standards is possible.

As a multinational company, relying on the Indonesian government's minimum
provisions is of course unacceptable. It is appropriate for Freeport to adopt
one or several performance standards. The various independent audits Freeport
has undergone will certainly give an idea of this effort. The copious
amount of
information produced shows that Freeport has attempted to improve such

Regrettably, the database on the local community's initial conditions is very
limited, and so it cannot be utilized to measure social performance.
Consequently, other gauging methods have to be devised. In principle, the
quality of
Freeport's social and environmental performance should be appraised fairly,
with maximum transparency in terms of evaluation standards, methodology and
results. In this way, we can avoid the haphazard conclusions.

In judging the government, the oversimplification is that it is a single
entity and favors Freeport more than Papuan people. Public policy
literature has
pointed out that the government can never be seen as one unit. It is an
organization of different interests and the relevant public institutions
reveal their interests. In order to understand the whole problem the
interests of
individuals within this body may even have to be examined.

The government's "favor" for Freeport can obviously be understood in view of
the strategic significance of Freeport and the mining industry as well as
foreign investment in general. Freeport has brought about great economic
though still it may not be considered big enough. The mining industry, apart
from the many emerging issues, considerably contributes to state revenue,
manpower and the general public through its useful products.

If Freeport's operation is ended -- as is widely demanded by protesters --
the government will face a lot of problems including possible international
arbitration and a worsening investment climate, besides the loss of
benefits so
far gained and (still unevenly) distributed to the society at large. As a
result, the public will also suffer even more.

In a situation in which additional investment is badly needed, the government
will definitely refuse the protesters' demand to stop Freeport's operation.
However, it has to examine the performance of Freeport in various aspects,
which should be conducted along with competent and well-motivated private
companies, and still avoid oversimplification. The outcome of this
appraisal ought to
serve as the basis to enhance Freeport's performance as expected by all

The writer is a community development and relations expert and is a founder
of the soon to be launched CSR Indonesia.


The Jakarta Post
Thursday, March 23, 2006


Who is to blame for big business feeling the heat?

B. Herry-Priyono, Jakarta

The problematic link between business power and national development has
again been exposed, a little at first and now a torrent.

After the sticky incidents involving Newmont Mining Company in North Sulawesi
and West Nusa Tenggara, came ExxonMobil in Cepu, Central Java, and, then
Freeport in Papua. As always, the real cause remains as murky as ever. And the
murkier the problem, the better, and this paves the way for the might-is-right

For the business mandarins, the problem, of course, has less to do with
national development than with business strategy. Walking on a tightrope, the
political mandarins then rushed to assure that the Indonesian Government
will honor
all contracts. Why such haste? It is nothing less than the issue of business

But, why is business confidence so important? For a country blessed with
abundant natural resources, but suffering from an investment slump, the
of those giant companies is apparently beneficial. Why those giant companies?
Is it due to our desperate need for their advanced technology? Or, is it for
their colossal size of capital? Or, is it our desperate need for huge revenue?

In any case, the reason is likely to be a mixture of the three and many
others. Alas, from the start of the contracts, the notion of "desperate need"
determined by the politico-economic mandarins seldom takes into account the
link between the prospective businesses and the welfare of the local

This, of course, is not to deny that those businesses have an indirect impact
on the locals in the form of burgeoning restaurants, hotels, entertainment
industry, and the glitter coming from the introduction of a new lifestyle. In
the climate of rampant corruption within business-government relations, no
the presence of those giants also gives rise to all sorts of lucrative
"business" involving the police, military, as well as civil servants, local

What has made everything so volatile then? Each time there are incidents like
the deadly anti-Freeport riot, these days, the finger is always pointed at
some provocateur. If this is how the issue is being understood, then we are
truly doomed. The reason is plain. It is true that such "provocateurs" are
sometimes gangsters scrambling for a slice of cake, but more often they are
souls in a noble effort to raise awareness among the people.

Again, the complaint is often directed at the increasing rise of radicalism,
and in the Indonesian case that means the current wave of religious extremism.
The problem is, religious extremism is a tendency that is likely to
characterize Indonesian society for the near future, and not even the
recent visit of
Condoleezza Rice will arrest its growth.

In this sense, the habit of blaming "provocateurs" is then a sure way to
bring us back to the old practice, that is, running modern businesses by
repression. Given that modern business has increasingly become the
principal source of
revenue for the existing political economy, the habit of blaming provocateurs
is a recipe for bringing the country into authoritarianism. The old dictum
that "trade maketh peace" has a ring of truth if, and only if, relations
trading partners are based on symmetry. Otherwise, the situation is
perpetually haunted by a specter of conflicts.

No doubt a healthy business climate could only be based on a mutually honored
contract. Take the one between the Government of Indonesia and
Freeport-McMoRan as an example. The first contract was signed in 1967, and
then amended in
1991. Since contracts are protected by law, the burden to lies with the
Government of Indonesia whenever there are incidents such as the recent
ones. It
might be helpful to exercise simple common sense from the other direction.
Freeport be so keen to extend the contract if it does not reap lucrative
profits? Certainly not!

The issue then, may have less to do with profit than with the sharing of it.
This is most likely also true in the case of ExxonMobil in Cepu. And beware,
the sheer size of technological and financial clout in the hands of these
giants could easily be turned into the most potent power to make the
playing ground
uneven, which in fact is part of business strategy.

In fairness, the spokespersons of these giants may argue that profit-sharing
is none of their business, for it should be soley the domain of the government
and its citizens. It is convenient at this point to divert the issue to the
problem of rampant corruption, and then the issue of the direct connection
between the presence of those giants and the welfare of the local communities
disappears from sight.

If this is how we approach the problem, the stage is even more set for the
recurrence of bloody incidents, and most likely there will be more, not less.
This leaves us with limited options.

First, even in an attempt to honor the contracts, there should be a way of
restructuring the nature of relationships between the companies and the local
communities. Alas, gone is the era when business was bound to local
by social charters. But this seems to be the only route to a lasting peaceful

Second, government and the companies ruthlessly crush any protests that
demand the rearrangement of the contract terms. And to prevent the problem
spreading further, government and the companies, shoulder to shoulder,
launch a
campaign to curb the media from reporting the facts on the ground. The
companies provide the money, the government the weapons. Is this not what
has been
repeatedly done?

In one way or another, all these options show that Indonesia is increasingly
ripe for the taking. As for those elected as guardians of Indonesia, it was
Karl Marx, who in 1848, presciently said that at a certain historical juncture
government "is but a committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie".
Marx was and will be wrong often, but who among us at this moment has any
insight on this particular point?

The writer is a postgraduate lecturer at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy
in Jakarta and holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.


The Jakarta Post
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Death toll in Papua clash rises to 5

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura

photo: Final Journey: Members of the police's Mobile Brigade carry the coffin
of First Brig. Suhad Eko Pranoto, the fifth fatality from last Thursday's
outside Cendrawasih State University in Jayapura, Papua. Eko, who died
Wednesday morning at Abepura Hospital from head and spinal injuries, was
flown to his hometown in Ngawi, East Java, later in the day. (JP/Nethy Dharma

A police officer died Wednesday from injuries suffered in last week's clashes
with protesters in Jayapura, raising the official death toll to five, a Papua
Police spokesman said.

Sr. Comr. Kartono Wangsadisastra said Mobile Brigade member First Brig. Suhad
Eko Pranoto, 28, who had been in a coma since last Thursday, died at 7:30
a.m. at Abepura Hospital from head and spinal injuries.

"Eko's death brings the number of deaths in the bloody incident in front of
Cendrawasih University to five," Kartono said.

The native of Ngawi, East Java, was the fourth police officer killed in the
incident, while an Air Force soldier also died. All five were involved in
efforts to break up a rally on March 16, when protesters blocked a road
near the
campus in Abepura in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

Eko suffered a fractured skull and damaged spine after security officers were
hit by stones thrown by protesters, who were demanding the closure of the
gold and copper mine run by PT Freeport Indonesia.

Kartono explained six other police officers were still being treated at
Bhayangkara Hospital in Jayapura, with one scheduled to undergo surgery for

Eko's body was flown from Jayapura to Surabaya later Wednesday for burial in
his hometown.

Meanwhile, the Papua Legislative Council (DPRP) decided Tuesday to postpone
for two months its plan to hold a plenary meeting to discuss the mounting
demands for the closure of Freeport's mine.

DPRP deputy speaker Komarudin Watubun said the postponement of Wednesday's
meeting was made after taking security into consideration and also the
unavailability of complete data needed for assessment.

Last week's clashes underlined the hatred many Papuans feel toward the
military and police in Papua. The remote province is home to a decades-long
separatist rebellion and has seen scores of rights abuses by troops,
according to AP.

Operations at the mine, believed to have the world's third-largest copper
reserves and one of the biggest gold deposits, were halted for four days last
month before demonstrators, mostly illegal miners, left the mine site near the
town of Timika.

The mine is a flashpoint for disputes of many kinds. Some demonstrators are
not interested in closing it but want a bigger share of proceeds to go to
people and regional governments, Reuters reported.

In Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province, about 500 protesters,
including Papuan students studying on the island, held an anti-Freeport rally

The demonstrators burned a U.S. flag in front of a monument marking
Indonesia's takeover of Papua in the 1960s after centuries of Dutch
colonial rule.

Similar demonstrations were held in the cities of Mamuju in South Sulawesi,
Surabaya and Bandung.

Joyo Indonesia News Service

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