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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     10 November  2011

Freeport strike hits Jakarta

Jakarta has said it is ready to open a dialogue with Papuans, providing that it is not based on discussion of self-determination, conforms to the rules of special autonomy and favors “accelerated development.”

In addition, lawmakers called on anti-graft officials to carry out an investigation into the legality of Freeport’s payments to security forces as soon as possible.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Wednesday that he was open to the idea of a dialogue, which has risen to the fore of political debate in recent weeks, following intensified military operations and increasing violence in the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

However, he said any dialogue must be based on three “pillars.”

“The first pillar is NKRI [the Unitary Republic of Indonesia], meaning the enforcement of the sovereignty of the Indonesian Republic; the second pillar is special autonomy, which must be implemented well; and the third is the accelerated development of Papua and West Papua as a national priority,” he said.

The move is a response to growing unrest in Papua, where a military crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in October killed at least six people. An ongoing strike at the huge Grasberg mine run by Freeport-McMoRan has also escalated tensions, and a number of violent deaths of workers and security forces have been reported near the site.

Yudhoyono called for a firm stance on Papua while also urging restraint.

“I wish for the law to be enforced strictly, fairly and proportionally. Security must also be fostered because it is aimed at protecting the community of Papua and West Papua,” he said.

The president also called for government support to end the Freeport strike in order to “promote prosperity,” which should include “facilities and mediation.” Workers at Freeport on Wednesday further reduced their demands for higher wages from an initial demand of at least $17.50 per hour to $4 per hour.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, called for immediate action over Freeport’s payments to local security forces.

Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari said it was not enough for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to wait for the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to audit Freeport’s payments.

She said the KPK was taking a step backward since the payments had already been acknowledged by both the company and security forces. There was even a letter from the Papua Police chief setting out the use of the payments, she said.

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