Sunanda Creagh — Separatists in Indonesia’s politically sensitive Papua province were behind deadly attacks in 2009 on workers near a mine run by a unit of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, a report released on Thursday said.
A secessionist movement has smouldered for decades in Papua in the far east of the Indonesian archipelago. In recent months, unidentified gunmen launched a series of attacks on vehicles travelling to Freeport’s Grasberg copper and gold mine near Timika, wounding more than 20 people and killing two.
The attacks have not disrupted production at the mine which accounts for nearly 40 percent of Freeport’s total copper reserves and boasts the world’s largest gold reserves.
The International Crisis Group report says the culprits were likely to be elements of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) who may have believed that attacks would lead to the mine’s closure.
The report, titled “Radicalisation and Dialogue in Papua”, said some elements of OPM and the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) — a group with its roots in the student movement — were becoming increasingly militant.
“They decided there was no longer any hope of achieving their main objective — a referendum on independence — through peaceful means, and led some to advocate violence and in some cases directly participate in violent acts,” the report said.
The ICG report recommended broadening talks between Jakarta and Papuan leaders to address grievances related to political, historical as well as economic issues.
“A dialogue, if carefully prepared, offers the possibility of addressing longstanding grievances, without calling Indonesian sovereignty into question,” said Sidney Jones, senior adviser to Crisis Group’s Asia programme.
The report said Papua “is not the land of horrors that KNPB would like to portray”.
“The best way to marginalise the radicals of KNPB is not to lock them up. It is to throw the doors wide open to the central highlands and elsewhere, and let NGOs and journalists report back.”
Foreign journalists need government clearance to visit Papua, which was incorporated into Indonesia under a widely criticised U.N.-backed vote in 1969, after Jakarta took over the area in 1963 at the end of Dutch colonial rule.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has said many foreign journalists were granted permission to report in Papua last year and has called on more to apply, said his spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah.
“It is very clear that we are actually not closing Papua off but there are certain procedures that must apply. It’s a matter of how to conduct journalism activities following certain procedures which, I think, many countries have.”
Faizasyah said dialogue was ongoing and Jakarta was “always looking forward to how to bring about better conditions for the Papuans”.