In Brief... DTE 45 - May 2000

Down to Earth No 45 May 2000

NGOs protest US meddling

Indonesian NGOs have protested against pressure by the US Embassy in Jakarta to cut the funding of JATAM, the mining advocacy network. A joint statement defends JATAM's call for a moratorium on mining and supports the organisation's advocacy work on Newmont, the US-based company operating the Ratatotok gold mine in North Sulawesi). The statement, currently circulation on email lists, urges "a broader, multi-stakeholder inquiry into the practices of the US mining companies" in Indonesia.

The environmental group WALHI has also been targeted by US ambassador Gelbard. He was recently described in the Far Eastern Economic Review as an 'American pit bull' (FEER 4/May/00).

Attacks against Mobil

The Indonesian operations of Mobil Exxon, the US multinational, have been badly affected by the deteriorating security situation in the disputed territory of Aceh. Reports in April said the administrative activities in the company's Poin A Blang Jruen offices had come to a standstill after a company aircraft was fired upon. On April 11th, a military unit protecting the company's installations was hit by a grenade attack. One member of the unit was injured and four Mobil vehicles were destroyed.

The company's chief executive, Jim Russell said that Mobil would not be able to continue with its operations unless the security situation could be guaranteed. This is despite the deployment of dozens of extra security personnel.

In December last year a delegation from the US Embassy visited Aceh and, in a meeting with local NGOs, said the Acehnese would suffer negative consequences should the company be forced to stop operating. This was rejected by the local NGO activists who said the Acehnese would "neither feel or suffer any loss should MOI cease its operations". WALHI Aceh feels that Aceh, as a 'nation in waiting', will be benefit most if Mobil and state-owned oil company Pertamina completely stop their extraction of the remaining oil and gas reserves "so that there will be something left for the future generations of Acehnese to manage for the better lives and well-being of the Acehnese..".

(Serambi 11&13/Apr/00; WALHI Aceh: US government and Mobil turn a blind eye to the suffering 26/Apr/00)



Rio Tinto mine blockaded

Rio Tinto's Kelian gold mine in East Kalimantan is being blockaded by thousands of local people, according to information from Indonesia. The indigenous Dayak community, whose lands were taken for the mining project, have been negotiating with mining company PT KEM (90% owned by UK-based Rio Tinto) over compensation and other matters but the process has broken down. The confrontation has increased tension in the area. On May 3rd two leading community negotiators were detained overnight and interrogated for 15 hours by police at Tenggarong. (For more background to the Kelian dispute see campaigns.)

Protest over Nipah dam

Local authorities on Madura Island, off East Java, are pushing ahead with plans to revive the controversial Nipah dam project. The project was halted in 1993 after four local people were shot dead by the security forces during a protest against the dam.

The Surabaya chapter of the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) and relatives of the victims are opposed to the project going ahead while the men responsible for the shootings remain unpunished. In April 1996 a military tribunal handed down short jail terms to four low-ranking soldiers but the officer in charge, Sugeng Wiyono, who was then chief of the district military command remains a free man.

The East Java provincial government announced in 1998 that it would revive the project as part of a plan to build 23 dams and 60 water reservoirs in the province, including three dams on Madura: Nipah, Blegah and Sampiran. It said Nipah was already 20% built and that local people agreed that the dam should be continued. But LBH Surabaya said in February that it was worried about tension between villagers and the local administration and that the land acquisition process had been carried out unfairly.

Head of Sampang District information office, Husein, said 22 hectares of an initial 27 hectares had been acquired and that compensation rates were Rp2,000 to Rp 2,500 (US$0.28 - 0.36) per square metre (as opposed to Rp 400 to 500 in 1993. Seven villages will be inundated by the dam. (Source: Jakarta Post 9/Feb/00. See also DTE 22:1, 39:15 & 29/30:27)

West Papua: no more transmigration

The West Papuan provincial administration has urged the government, to stop the sending transmigrants to the territory. Local assembly member Florens Imbiri said the central government had given too much attention to the transmigrants by providing them with houses and land, while there was a large number of Papuans still unaided by the government. "Stop the transmigration programs in Irian Jaya [West Papua] and start empowering the Irianese, especially those in remote areas," he said.

Official figures put the population of West Papua at about 2 million, half of which are indigenous Papuans. Over half a million people were resettled in West Papua and Maluku from 1969 to 1997. Many more migrated to the territory independently. (Source: Jakarta Post 2/Feb/00, DTE 44)