This article from KOMISI, a group of students from Intan Jaya in West Papua (in co-operation with the Suara Papua website), recounts how the Freeport mining company, through its subsidiaries, established exploration activities in remote Intan Jaya regency over twenty years ago with the help of a western missionary. Currently, as local politicians grant permissions for further exploration work without a mandate or the consent of the communities that live there, the students make a clear demand that the company leaves their land, knowing the pattern of conflict that is bound to emerge otherwise.
Article originally published at SuaraPapua.com. Translated to English by HidupBiasa.blogspot.com
PAPUAN, Jayapura – Intan Jaya Regency is a new administrative region which split from Paniai Regency in 2008. Until that time, Sugapa, Hitalipa and other areas were still under the administration of Paniai Regency.
The story begins in 1989 – 1990 when several westerners arrived, calling themselves the Survey Team. They were accompanied by a missionary from District Hitalipa, who had been given the friendly nickname of Jani Mala by local people. His real name is John Cutts, a foreigner who was born and raised in Intan Jaya.
They arrived from Timika in an Airfast helicopter, and after arriving at the Kingmi Missionary Post in Hitalpa district, they continued towards the Hiyabu river, not far away.
Once at the river they started taking sand, water and rock samples. Then they continued towards the confluence of the Hiyabu and Dogabu rivers, and then to the confluence of the Wayabu and Wabu rivers and to several streams that joined the Wabu River, taking more samples at each river.
As they passed the Wabu River at Wandoga, John Cutts happened to meet a local resident, Stevanus Sondegau, by a stream known as Wonemiggi. John and his companions continued their journey to the confluence with the Tigabu river, where once again they took samples and panned the sand to look for gold.
At that moment John met with another local resident, known locally as Ojegoa Tawa Mbole Belau or Didimus Belau, from Bilogae village, Sugapa District, who farmed cassava, taro and other plants along the Tigitalipa river. As usual John Cutts spoke in Migani, the local language, and told Didimus what they were doing there.
“ A me,..mepao,..mendaga kaneta taliago kaya, Hitalipagemaya tali ne,..du ne,..homa ne,.. inigiao dia digio,. usua naga ndogo- Timika ge inua noa nggaga inuapa dutima dia diggiyo,.data kapage go wabu ge dega-dega data homeyo pialiggiyo dipage go Timika puapaya” John Cutts said to Didimus in Migani, which means “I’m accompanying these people to collect water, rock and sand samples from Hitalipa to look at in the laboratory in Timika. From here we will continue to follow the upper reaches of the Wabu river then to Homeyo District and then we will go to Timika”. John Cutts, the man who the local people always addressed as Jani Mala, continued with the survey team towards Homeyo District.
Several months later, on 28th September 1991, John Cutts made a second visit to Sugapa, Intan Jaya as a representative of PT Freeport Indonesia. His aim was to meet with the head of the Sugapa district and tribal chiefs to inform them that PT Freeport would start operations in Sugapa district and several other districts in Intan Jaya.
That meeting, which took place in the Sugapa district office, was attended by Hombore BA, the district head at the time, the members of the Tripika (local representatives of government, police and military), together with community leaders who hold the customary land rights, who all came and listened to what John Cutts had to say.
Migani community leaders that were present in that meeting included Paulus Japugau, Yuliu Sani, Adolof Belau, Oktopianus Sondegau, Samuel Japugau, Andreas Tipagau, and Bony Sondegau amongst others. They were confused when they heard John Cutts’ explanations, and didn’t understand why he wanted to carry out this exploration (Survey) on their land. They went straight home without agreeing to anything or being in agreement with John Cutts’ wishes to start surveying their land.
John Cutts took advantage of the Intan Jaya people’s limited knowledge and lack of experience to introduce Freeport to the area on its own terms, without any agreement to co-operate or Memorandum of Understanding with customary land rights holders. Although no such agreement had been made, John Cutts nevertheless imposed his wishes, bringing PT Freeport to Sugapa and other locations in Intan Jaya.
The way John Cutts gave PT Freeport the opportunity to carry out exploration activities in Sugapa, Hitalipa and other areas of Intan Jaya is an example of daylight robbery. The people had no option but to accept what little they could at that time, so they made the non-written suggestion to PT Freeport, that they would allow them to go ahead with their explorations. However as compensation for the trees that PT Freeport cut for their helipad, drillpad, material pad etc. they must take on local people to work for the company, explained a reliable source who is a customary landowner in that village.
In this way several local youth accepted jobs from PT Freeport in Sugapa, but they met with many obstacles. They didn’t know what they had to do. Each mornng at 4.30 am they had to have tools and materials ready to build the basecamp and clear the land, while other workers went up and down to where the helipad, drillpad, materialpad and landing site would be built in the forest. Day after day, week after week and month after month, the wages the local workers received was very small indeed.
The helicopter which had been hired for the exploration made endless trips to Timika to bring food for the local workers in Sugapa. As exploration activities took hold in Sugapa, the Freeport manager took on the police and military who were assigned to Sugapa district to maintain security at the site.
The company needed building materials to build the camp and so requested that local people provide boards and wood, with the promise that they would be paid 15,000 Rupiah for thin planks, 10,000 Rupiah for large pieces of wood, and 5000 rupiah for medium sized pieces of wood.
When they heard that the people prepared the materials the company required. However the people were sadly not paid as had previously been agreed with PT Freeport, but had to renegotiate for a lower price. The people protested at this transaction, but were confronted with the police and army.