West Papuan landowner seeks Australian help


Following recent reports of human rights abuses at the Indonesian Freeport copper mine, West Papuan traditional landowner John Ondawame on September 1 called on Prime Minister Paul Keating to withdraw commercial privileges from the US-owned mining company. "The Australian government has commercial agreements with Freeport relating to shipping equipment and cargo from Cairns and allowing Freeport's jet aircraft to carry employees and cargo to the mine. Many of the white employees of the mine live in Cairns.
"Paul Keating should make it clear that these privileges will be withdrawn unless Freeport and the Indonesian government act to: demilitarise the region so my people can have freedom of speech, movement and assembly; allow a permanent international presence to be established at the site so that the situation can be monitored; endorse a permanent international mediation, so that Amungme and Komoro people can negotiate with Freeport and the Indonesian government about land rights and self-determination and compensation for the damages caused by mining."
Ondawame, who is an Amungme traditional landowner from the area where the abuses have occurred, said, "The report from the Catholic bishop in Jayapura supports the other evidence of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid which directly implicates the Freeport company in the abuse of the basic human rights of my people. My people's freedoms have been severely limited, our lands have been taken and very many people have been murdered by the Indonesians since Freeport opened the copper mine in 1972."
Ondawame continued, "Freeport's security force was involved in the killings on Christmas day, but Freeport has denied that its personnel ever carry weapons. The Indonesian soldiers have used Freeport vehicles to carry their victims. Freeport containers and a Freeport security office were used by the military while torturing my people.
"The heavy military presence is to protect the mine from the Amungme people. Freeport must condone the military's activities; otherwise they would make the Indonesian government demilitarise the region. The Amungme are armed only with bows and arrows, so they are not a military threat to the mining company.
"The Indonesian government and Freeport are not interested in commencing any sort of dialogue with the Amungme on the fundamental issues of land rights and self-determination. It is clear to me that my people have become in obstacle to those who want to steal our minerals, and I implore Keating not to forsake our right of self-determination."