by Nick Chesterfield

The Freeport mine is the cause of most West Papuan grievances due to the massive plunder of wealth, human rights and environmental abuses, and the effect of acts of genocide on the indigenous population.

A wounded Indonesian personnel of Freeport Indonesia (PT-FI) is rushed to a  hospital in Timika, eastern Papua province on July 12, 2009 after unknown gunmen attacked their vehicle that killed a company security guard in a second deadly attack, a day after an Australian worker was killed in an ambush by gunmen using military-issue weapons, police said.  An unknown group opened fire at police during the morning on the road between Tembagapura and Timika, injuring two of them. AFP PHOTO
Photo: A wounded Indonesian personnel of Freeport Indonesia (PT-FI) is rushed to a hospital in Timika, eastern Papua province on July 12, 2009 after unknown gunmen attacked their vehicle that killed a company security guard in a second deadly attack, a day after an Australian worker was killed in an ambush by gunmen using military-issue weapons, police said. An unknown group opened fire at police during the morning on the road between Tembagapura and Timika, injuring two of them. AFP PHOTO

Often it takes the death of a white man to get the story of West Papua past the gatekeepers of the media.

With the shooting death of Melbourne man Drew Grant at the massive and controversial Freeport mine in Timika, West Papua, a powerful spotlight has been shone on an otherwise ignored struggle that has claimed an estimated 564,126 people as of late 2008, according to analysis of demographic discrepancies by Sydney University.

The Freeport mine is the cause of most West Papuan grievances due to the massive plunder of wealth, human rights and environmental abuses, and the effect of acts of genocide on the indigenous population.  In 2002 it was the site of an attack on American school teachers at the same location, with many widely suspecting the Indonesian military of being behind the attacks blamed on OPM.  Declassified documents recently surfaced in the US that showed President Yudhoyono requested the US government ignore critical evidence, including then Papua Police chief I Made Pastika’s assertion that pointed to TNI complicity.

Within hours of the first shooting on July 11, the Indonesian propaganda machine swung into action, blaming the Free Papua movement (OPM) for being behind the attacks.  As in 2002, the shooting of foreigners has been used to justify a massive increase in combat military personnel across Papua.  In such an environment, it is prudent to be sceptical of the official line, especially when sources on the ground in West Papua are reporting major inconsistencies in the official story.

Once again however, the elephant in the goldfish bowl is sitting quietly in the corner.  Years of atrocities across Indonesia and West Papua have shown that almost every act of major violence is connected with the corruption of the TNI, and for the fact that only 20% of their funding comes from the state – the rest they have to raise through “private initiative” or KKN (Korupsi, Kolusi, Nepotsime), the still powerful hallmark of the Suharto years.  Freeport pays TNI over US$5 million per year to guard the mine, which although now handed formally to the police, still represents a major source of income for local commanders.  Profits generated by control of the illegal mining of the rich tailings and massive volumes of waste, has been a source of constant friction between the “civilian” (paramilitary) police and TNI, often spilling over into violence.  A series of bombings near Freeport in 2008 was widely blamed on BRIMOB police units extracting protection “tax” over their illegal tailings mining.

A myriad of possible causes are behind the shootings, each one as likely as the next.  Whoever the real culprits are, the situation surrounding the attacks is very murky.  West Papua is off limits to foreign media and Timika is closed to outsiders without a vested interested in silence.  There are many people who would gain by any   instability at Freeport, but the biggest winners would easily be the TNI.

Whilst most international coverage is focused on the strategic and economic implications of the attacks, there is an underreported human story still occurring around Freeport.  It is becoming clearer that the shootings are being used as a pretext for increase militarisation right across Papua.  Scores of West Papuan villagers around Mimika, mainly old men and young teenagers, have been arbitrarily arrested with excessive force and subjected to what Papua Police Chief Bagus Ekodanto refers to as “intensive interrogations”, which is a well known euphemism for torture.  Mass Sweeps across 29 districts are still being carried out by Densus 88 and over 700 Kopassus troops, with several hundred BRIMOB, and past experience has shown that the remote villages will be subjected to all sorts of privations will only come to light through international monitoring.

Papuan social, church, and traditional leaders have all expressed sorrow and dismay at Mr Grant’s death, and have cautioned against any knee jerk responses in blaming West Papuan people, in an area plagued by Indonesian police and military corruption and human rights abuses.  Immediate action must be taken to end the violence in West Papua.  Security forces must immediately end the intimidation, terror and arrests that are now affecting the innocent civilian inhabitants of Timika as well as acts of violence being perpetrated against Papuans.

Credible and independent international human rights monitors and international media must be allowed immediately into Timika to oversee investigations, and the Indonesian government must guarantee that they can conduct investigations free from harassment and threats to their safety.. The Indonesian security forces cannot be trusted to investigate themselves, especially considering their involvement in local illicit activities, and their past record. Overreaching political issues should not influence the outcome of an investigation.  A fundamental point seems to be missing: If the suspects for the shooting are in custody, why are shootings still happening?

Recently, international coverage on entrenched human rights abuses in West Papua has clearly antagonised the TNI.   Reports released by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have detailed widespread and institutionalised torture and ill-treatment of West Papuan political prisoners by members of the Indonesian Security Forces, including cases by Detachment 88 members and police at Timika.  Unchallenged in their impunity (there has yet to be /any/ trials for suspects in human right violations in Papua), the Indonesian military are currently conducting massive sweep operations right across the occupied territory.  Since the campaign of black bombings and attacks on police by unidentified personnel during the parliamentary election process (sought to discredit the independence movement), there have been major abuse sand shootings in Yapen, Wembi, Arso, Serui, Nabire, Mimika, Keerom, Jayapura, Merauke, Wamena, Biak, Manokwari, Enaratoli….. this list goes on and on.

Australian Federal Police officers have been in Timika assisting the Indonesian investigation. From the outset the official investigation has been far from transparent, raising significant questions. Evidence was tampered with, and bullets in Mr Grant’s body were removed before the pathologist was able to conduct the autopsy, whilst in the custody of Australian Embassy officials.   Were these officers involved in an attempt to hide the identity of the real culprits, and if not, what have they done to ensure transparency? The State news agency Antara revealed recovered bullet casings that were specially made by PT PINDAD for the TNI, a revelation which reveals more than the Indonesian government’s underlying desire to rein in an out-of-control rogue military.  It is pretty sickening that Drew Grant’s family will be left with the thought of TNI thugs fingering through his body to remove evidence.  According to Matius Murif, deputy chairman of the Papua office of The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), “The attacks are clearly the work of well-trained and organized professionals; That is why they were able to get past layers of security.”

In the interests of transparency, we need to see all the results of AFP investigation, completely unclassified, especially of the ballistics data, and an immediate audit of all Indonesian military and police weapons and ammunition in the area.  Australia supplies Aus Steyr rifles which use the bullets found.  If the weapons used in the shootings are found to be of Australian supply for TNI use, questions must be raised.

By having AFP officers involved in this investigation, is the Australian government condoning ill treatment, torture and arbitrary arrests, acts which are illegal under Australian law?  Australia must make bolder moves to pressure Jakarta to investigate the shooting professionally, and with full adherence to international human rights standards.  It must also provide DSD intercepts of Indonesian intercepts of Indonesian military communications surrounding the Freeport shootings, just like they did in Balibo, and the 2002 shootings.

The fact that key targets in the recent Jakarta bombings were Freeport executives Adrianto Machribie and Noke Kiroyan, should not be dismissed as mere co-incidence, a point not lost on the Indonesian president Yudhoyono when he all but accused his rival Prabowo Subianto of being behind both the attacks in Jakarta and Freeport.  “Maybe some of them have committed crimes, assassination or murders and escaped justice,” SBY said the day after the attacks, referring to the kidnappings, bombings and assassinations orchestrated by Prabowo (before he was kicked out of the TNI and went into exile with his classmate and friend from Duntroon, King Abdullah in Jordan (all the best war criminals in the world get trained in or by Canberra)).  “But this time, we will not let them act like Dracula and angels of death.”

The Indonesian Defence minister conceded the Free Papua Movement is unlikely to be responsible, indicating both the military and the police are responsible, and even went as far as suggesting that Australia itself was behind the attacks.  “What I think is don’t let Freeport be closed, because it involves global competition over natural resources there are a number of countries that have an interest in destabilising Freeport,” Sudarsono said.  He said foreign NGOs and governments had a history of backing groups that “agitate” in Papua.  Asked which countries he was referring to, Sudarsono said: “Apparently many neighbouring countries to the south.”

In seeking not to offend Indonesia, Australia once again runs the risk of creating a case similar to the Balibo Five by once again refusing to call for any transparency and assisting an out of control Indonesian military in its impunity over its mafia behaviour, protection rackets, human rights abuses, illegal business empires.  There are no rogue elements involved acting contrary to the military: the entire Indonesian military is rogue, from top to bottom.

Will it take another film in 30 years about the cover-up of circumstances of  Drew Grant’s death and concurrent human rights abuses on West Papuans to get the Australian Government to show some backbone over the actions of the TNI?  Or like East Timor, is this another prelude to Australia giving yet another green light to Indonesian military human rights abuses under Australia’s watchful head in the sand?    The three wise monkey act of Rudd, Smith and Faulkner cannot go on any longer.  East Timor came back to sting us in the tail until we had to act, and so will West Papua.  It is high time we listened to the call of all those across our region who want the TNI back to their barracks, because friends ignored do not stay friends for long.

Nick Chesterfield is a long time human rights and media worker for West Papua, and has *been closely involved with Human rights and human security issues directly involving Australia’s nearest neighbour, the island of New Guinea, since 1999, most recently consolidating* and training human security monitoring networks across Melanesia.




  1. Aaron says:

    “In seeking not to offend Indonesia, Australia once again runs the risk of creating a
    situation similar to the Balibo Five by once again refusing to call for any transparency and assisting an out of control Indonesian military in its impunity over its mafia behaviour, protection rackets, human rights abuses, illegal business empires.”

    How could this be offensive when already death threats are said to have been reported in relation to the Roxby Downs Olympic Dam expansion project and the proposed and ludicrous desalination plant at Pt Lowly? There is noone within the current system who will act upon this.

    The aboriginal people are currently led to believe that they have no choice but to allow this massive contamination to occur on their ancestral lands by a bunch of business partners who for all intent and purposes are simple both seperate companies operating on their lands for the purpose of mineral theft.

    In Quorn, the white population are subjected to massive soil contamination where even the Minister for Mines and Energy has admitted he would not take his own family to live. So what of us all? Are we to become dispossessed as well while our supposed government exploits and poisons us all in their quest to fill their coffeurs for what obvious outcome nobody quite knows? It can’t be for the people all the while we are luted for taxes and subjected to increasing interest rates.

    And bullying yes, according to the local tribes, they think they have to sign their land over, with a system setup to divide them with competition.

    So when does the shooting start over here as the government who’s been too long in power invites aliens to our shores who together they have no respect for our water and ancient heritage?

    The illegal status of this country is becoming overwhelmingly evident in that if the British can’t legally conquer then they plan to destroy it as they plunder it’s wealth.

    What are the United Nations if they can simply come along, assess and make recommendations then people like Warren Mundine and Jenny Macklin can announce that they will simply throw his recommendations in the bin.

    The people need to wake up to this political agenda and realise that we and other countries do not have governments for the people. We simply have become a quarry for the likes of BHP Bilition and that which we are reading here at the Freeport mine in Indonesia.

    Simply throw and fistful of dollars up into the air and watch the lawkeepers hurriedly leave their posts.

    The estimated 564,126 people that the Freeport mine has claimed is a universal disgrace and the lack of attention is has received strongly implies racism and poplulation cleansing in exchange for someone elses flamboyant lifestyle. Well we all die in the end, so what of life in the meantime?

    This mine at Freeport should be made an example of and closed down in this seemingly lawless country which bears no respect for it’s people.

    The United Nations and others need to assert a firmer presence and prove they too are not part of this problem

  2. ghetto blaster says:

    With so many lives being lost over mining enterprises along with the corruption evident, how many orphan children is this leaving in yet another unfortunate country?

    What pressures and anxiety is this causing for peaceful people in their own countries? Have world governments become mindless morons?

    Every dog has it’s day and they will all suffer accordingly for these crimes currently allowed to take place.

    I agree collectively we should be actively engaged in closing this mine and others that have potential to destroy communities and let the earth and it’s people have some peace.

    The conditions imposed on aboriginal inhabitants of Australia is an ongoing disgrace and watching the cunning way in which it has reached this point is nothing short of astounding. Put these political mongrels in the international courts and give these people the relief they deserve.

    Forget their minerals as legally they don’t belong to any of you. This will find it’s way back to reality one day soon and let’s hope those involved will find out what it’s like to live in squallor created by an oppressor. Hopefully that one being a long term jail sentence for a set of cold heared preditors calling themselves ministers of justice.

    Australia has become the land to avoid for family immigration. It is becoming the ghetto of the western world.

  3. Lucas says:

    The treachory abroad or the treachory at home,

    Same thing?

    Hidden under an expensive veil of public relations and corporate networked spin – not legal or moral in any sense, but big guns and tanks and bombs?

    Agree the invasion at home is a reflection of the same displacement nearby abroad, which paints a messy picture of what underpins the very system that created and allows this mess.

    Love and protection to those navigating the stormy waters of the storm trooper mining police – where is the UN? Yes, they are here but what are they going to do aside from create a new brand of refugee to be placed in the care of another agency?

    Its all collapsing the house of cards that is the mindless consumer world that pulls apart nature to feed the beast.

    Good work Chesterfield for providing the report, a good message and reminder for OZ govt not to stray again into murky waters, without a transparent or humanitarian brief. The mineral wars of the new millenium.

  4. Thanks for the comments and support. We have to remember that it is the exact same companies causing the damage and division the outback, and the responsibilities lies in both the consumer end, but also in resistance at a local level.

    In another forum, a comment said this:
    “I am disgusted at what is happening in West Papua. But what could Australia do? There are millions of Indonesian soldiers and only a few thousand Australian soldiers. We can’t take them on.”

    But a response:
    The Indonesian military is not as powerful as people would expect, and there are many things the international community can do. We should never just go “it is all too hard. lets just let people die”.

    The Australian government can do a lot. First it can stop manufacturing arms for the Indonesian military (an Agreement late last year between Indo and Aus was made for us to manufacture munitions and small arms.

    * It can stop training Kopassus and it can insist on the prosecution of military members involved in war crimes and human rights abuses;
    * It can stop the Indonesian military from having business ventures in Australia;
    * it can stop Australian companies investing in Indonesian military businesses;
    * it can withdraw from the Lombok Treaty;
    * it can prohibit imports of illegal timber from Indonesia (and DNA verify the sources of all tropical timber imports);
    * it can stop apologising or covering up or enabling human rights abuses;
    * it can stop sharing intelligence with known human rights abusers;
    * it can push for international war crimes tribunal;
    * it can ban travel to Australia of anyone involved in human rights abuses;
    * it can assist those in the Indonesian govt who DO want to limit the role of the military in civilian life;
    * it can demand accountability of aid money (and stop providing aid to military backed projects);
    * it can legislate for Rio Tinto, BHP, and other Australian mining companies stop paying military officers directly;
    * It can have guts.

    None of these steps require an army, but they can send an opposing one bankrupt. And if the point comes when we do need an army, that is what an international security force is for: look how quickly the TNI left Timor once the world acted (I know, I was intimately involved on the ground before and after 1999).

    There are in fact 200,000 TNI personnel in Indonesia (well, 140,000 in Indonesia and 60,000 in Papua). They DO NOT have the support of their population; their equipment is breaking down, and in poor supply, and most importantly, the only effective combat training is given to the by Australia anyway, so their fighting methods are known. They are trained for brutalising unarmed civilians, not soldiers.

    Just because there are many, does not mean they cannot be stood up to. When the wrong is overwhelming, the few can undermine. Change always comes from below. And we are forcing change.

  5. rosettamoon says:

    And the responsible minister clearly cant answer the question:,

    This is about the same response Rudd’s Ministers now give to about 95% of questions, irrespective of the issue, our governments accountability to the public via the media has been reduced and dumbed down to Ruddspeak, which is a not so distant variant of Howardspeak, which is a template response which shows no respect to the public, and understands anyway that its just ‘news’:

    Transcript: Interview with Liam Cochrane, Connect Asia program, Radio Australia, Indian Students, Doha, Balibo Five ”

    COMPERE: Simon Crean, I’d like to move to the issue of Balibo now. I mean, we’ve just heard some stories about that, some concerns that the fresh investigation by the AFP could lead to damage to trade ties between Indonesia and Australia. Do you see that as a risk?

    SIMON CREAN: I don’t, because I think that the Australia-Indonesia relationship is a very strong one indeed. It’s mature, we understand each other. But the fact is, as a democracy and as an advanced society here, we do take all allegations of war crimes seriously. But, you know, this is now a matter for the authorities and I think it’s inappropriate for me to comment on the detail of those. But if you’re asking me the question, will it impact upon the relationship, I don’t believe it will.

    Act responsibly Minister, peoples lives are at stake and this is a folio begging more sensitivity and responsibility, and echoes the same population and cultural displacement issues evident and topical in SA Mining and exploration news. This program is not working Mr Crean so start talking about one which will respect human rights and the environment and perhaps people will start to have respect in the Australian government. But first you need to listen and understand that the modus operandi of our colonial past is now history and no longer relevant to the current social organisation of the planet and certainly will be re-defining or removing the role of government, as we at present know it.

  6. Kopassus (Army’s Special Forces) says:


  7. Alliance with Terrorism says:

    An alliance against? – or with? – terrorism

    The Australian Government has restored military ties with Indonesia’s army. We ask why.

    Australia’s army (ADF) exercised with & trained Indonesia’s army (TNI) for 8 years in the 1990s. Our elite special forces, SAS, & theirs, Kopassus, were closest allies. It ended in September 1999 when Australia led the coalition-of-the-willing InterFET force into East Timor to restore peace – following weeks of killing, looting, destruction & mass forced relocation. Australia fully resumed military ties with the Lombok treaty in November 2006; SAS is training Kopassus again. Why?

    The Howard Government says terrorism is the greatest threat we face, Australians have already been killed in Indonesia, & improving Kopassus’ skills is in Australia’s interest. It could save Australian lives in Indonesia.

    Former Defence Minister Hill first spoke to Parliament about allying with Kopassus against terrorism on October 16th 2002. That was the 27th anniversary of the murder of 5 Australian journalists at Balibo, East Timor by Kopassandha (renamed Kopassus in 1986). [1]

  8. Paul francis dalton says:

    ..its all such a shame, that its not a sci-fi flick..its really happening(?)…us humans are a bunch of selfish pricks..i think there has been liitle evidence that we are learning form ANY of our mistakes, but time will tell…

    …The final battle scene in the film Avatar, its looking like our only salvation from a more than likely future for most of the worlds population who suffer death, disease, desertification, and slavery..under the oppression of neo-collonial globalised multinational companies and their para-military regimes around the world..are we to be another generation of lost opportunities?

  9. David Wolf says:

    It is time Australia and the entire world opened their eyes to the global blindness that gives Indonesia it’s teflon coating.

    In the mid 90s every government in the world was aware of the genocide occurring in East Timor. Our whiter-then-white democracies the world over did nothing. They knew all about the “Act of ‘No Choice’” that had been inflicted upon West Papua and they did nothing. Nothing happened until Suharto tied the value of the Rupiah to the greenback during the Asian stock market crash. Only then did Congress enact the USA trade embargo that brought Indonesia to its knees.

    In response, it was suggested that East Timor have a referendum – a ‘do you want to live’ vote no different than the Papuan “Act of Free Choice” where the families of the West Papuan voters were held at gun point by the TNI.

    Then our media who should be held to account labled Suharto’s retirement with $36 billion to a leafy suburb in Jakarta as a ‘democratic revolution’. Nothing changed. The Australian government made political capital out of this by calling Indonesia a “struggling democracy” and interfering in Indonesian domestic affairs and the Indonesian judicial system. This all ended on the 8th of October when an unfortunate tourist to Bali found herself with 4Kg of marijuana that was worth $40,000 in Australia but only $2000 in Bali.

    The Corby case was a demonstration of the global will to mop up after Indonesian criminality. The marijuana was Indonesian and was planted on an innocent Australian to end Howard’s interference in Indonesia’s domestic affairs. Indonesia was suddenly a “vibrant democracy” and “we cannot interfere in the court proceedings of a foreign sovereign state” was Canberra’s new catch-cry. Indonesia planted the drugs to demonstrate that they could.

    How could we not see that the Balibo 5 had been deliberately murdered? How could we not see that the “Act of Free Choice” was a farce? How could we not see that both East Timorese and West Papuans were being massacred? How could we not see Indonesia’s hatred for Australia because it was Australian troops that thwarted their attempts to negate East Timor’s referendum? How could we ever believe that the 2000 university students who invaded Suharto’s palace had anything to do with a democratic revolution? How could the state of democracy in Indonesia be any clearer than when Wahid was dismissed without due process simply because he challenged the military? How could we have faith in Indonesia’s judicial process when a woman who was showing remorse and adhering to strict Islamic codes of behaviour suddenly had her urine sample turn positive to ecstasy when ecstasy disappears from the body completely 72 hours after ingestion? How could another woman be charged with importing marijuana when no one had ever imported marijuana into Indonesia EVER and like the bullets quickly removed from the body of Drew grant the prosecutorial evidence that would have had a guilty trafficker convicted immediately was destroyed, vetoed or ignored. It never made sense and both the Australian and Indonesian governments knew she was innocent from the outset.

    All of this was hidden from the public because our governments are protecting a nasty regime and their own agendas. It reallly is “torch and pitchfork” time and our media is far more dangerous to us and to the state of our democracy than is the TNI.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.