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Rights group calls on NZ to ‘stop ignoring’ abuses in West Papua

Papua rights group

A human rights group - one protester wearing the banned Morning Star emblem as a bracelet - detail past Freeport mine abuses. Photo: Jakarta Globe

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By PMC news desk

An Auckland-based human rights movement monitoring Indonesian issues has called on the New Zealand government to stop ignoring gross human rights violations in the Jakarta-controlled territory of West Papua

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has also appealed to Foreign Minister Murray McCully and Finance Minister Bill English to ensure that the boards of the Super Fund and other Crown Financial Institutes divest their holdings in what it describes as the “destructive” Freeport-McMoRan copper and gold mine.

‘The government is yet to make a public response to the shocking events of October 19 when the police opened live fire on a peaceful People’s Congress in the capital,” IHRC spokesperson Maire Leadbeater said.

“At least 3 and possibly as many 17 unarmed and defenceless citizens were killed, scores of others were seriously injured, and about 300 were arbitrarily detained. Six people remain in jail facing serious charges, including treason.”

Security force violence and intimidation is ongoing at the site of the Freeport-McMoRan mine where police opened fire on a picket line last month, resulting in the deaths of two striking workers, the IHRC statement said.

Several other mysterious killings have occurred since and been reported by news media.

About 8000 striking workers have recently reduced their demands to an hourly rate of US$4.00 an hour, said IHRC.

Military payments
Freeport-McMoRan makes large payments to the military and the police for security, and the Jakarta police chief recently admitted that individual police officers also receive direct payments of “lunch money”.

The mine tailings from Freeport’s open pit mine has devastated a vast area ( at least 130 sq km) of once pristine rainforest, alpine valleys and a mangrove estuary, said the IHRC.

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund lists an investment of $1.8 million in its equity holdings at 30 June, 2011. The (public servants) Government Superannuation Fund and the Earthquake Commission also invest in Freeport.

  • The government should ensure that the New Zealand funds follow the ethical example of the Norway Pension Fund and divest from Freeport-McMoRan.
  • It should condemn the lethal violence used against congress participants.
  • It should call on Indonesia to immediately investigate the deaths of mine workers and the ongoing intimidation of those undertaking legal strike action.

Meanwhile, seven customary communities living in the location of the Freeport mine have asserted their rights to land  in the location in a press release and called on the company to “properly sort out” the issue.

In a letter from the communities, co-ordinator Markus Timang said:

“We have read the Memorandum of Understanding between LEMASA (Customary Community of the Amungme people) and PTFI regarding human resources, social-economic resources, human rights, customary rights and the environment which was signed in New Orleans, USA on 13 July, 2000.”

In that agreement, the seven communities acknowledged the contemplations and discussions between the heads of the communities. With particular reference to Article 3 of the MoU regarding the rights and responsibilities of PTFI, the company acknowledged and respected the customary rights of the Amungme and Kamoro communities.