INDONESIA: Communities fight oil giants


Protesting community members in East Kalimantan were violently attacked by the Indonesian Mobile Police Brigade (BRIMOB) on October 8. Seven protesters were shot, several were seriously wounded, and two were declared missing. The violence ended a peaceful, 14-day blockade of UNOCAL's Tanjung Santan oil refinery.

Local residents were demanding compensation for the air and water pollution that has long plagued the surrounding waters and farmland. UNOCAL asked 60 police and BRIMOB officers to break up the blockade. The troops brutally attacked the protesters by firing shots, kicking, and beating them with rattan sticks.

Discontent over UNOCAL operations in East Kalimantan has grown significantly over the last two years, as rice fields and prawn stocks have been repeatedly devastated by faulty waste disposal systems. A water sample taken earlier this year after the break of a UNOCAL pipeline showed levels of heavy metals high above standard limits; rice fields flooded in 1998 remain so contaminated that they still lie barren today.

Shortly after the violence erupted on October 8, UNOCAL representatives met with the provincial council, resulting in community development programs for villagers in the Marangkayu district. The company will, however, make no direct payments to compensate farmers and fisherman whose livelihoods have been damaged by UNOCAL waste discharges, and it is uncertain whether the villagers will accept the agreement.

Meanwhile in Riau, Indonesia, protesters disrupted operations for another oil giant Caltex, at their Murtiara oil field. The villagers seized 13 vehicles and one drilling rig, and blocked an entrance road to the site. They are demanding that Caltex, jointly controlled by Chevron and Texaco, require their contractor companies to hire more locals for the oil firm.

The previous week, a similar incident occurred at the Simpang Kopar field, also in Riau. That takeover was halted by when a company official agreed to hire locals as security guards. Caltex retracted the offer, stating that the employee acted illegally and independently. The company charged that the demonstrators had "violated the basic human rights of its workers" by barring them from entering and leaving the treatment plant.

Write to the following Unocal officers and demand that they respect the rights of the local community and cease the use of force:

Roger C. Beach, UNOCAL Corporation, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Ste 4000, El Segundo, CA 90245, USA. Phone +1 310-726-7600. Fax +1 310-726-7817. ;

Timothy C. Lauer, president and managing director, UNOCAL Indonesia, Sentra Senayan I Office Tower, 11th Floor Jl. Asia Afrika No. 8, Senayan, Jakarta 10270, Indonesia. Phone +62-21-573 1020. Fax +62-21-573 1030. Email .

[From Drillbits and Tailings, .]