The Editors Respond to Freeport I bring you the stately matron named Christendom returning bedraggled; besmirched and dishonored from pirate-raids in KiaoChow Manchuria, South Africa and the Philippine& with her soul full of meanness her pocket full of boodle and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies Give her a soap and a towel but hide the looking-glass Mark Twain, Dec 1900 THOMAS EGAN, Jim Bob Moffett and Freeport-McMoRan are very quick to call their critics “liars”even attempting to appropriate Mark Twain, who unforgettably denounced U.S. colonialism in the Pacificin defense of their continuing exploitation of the mineral and human resources of Irian Jaya. Despite Freeport’s and Egan’s attacks against him, journalist Robert Bryce should be applauded for his dogged pursuit of this story in the Observer, the Austin Chronicle and the New York Times. The editors of the Observer stand by his stories, which have been based upon government records, reports by established human rights organizations and the Catholic Church, and Freeport’s own information and material. As regular readers of the Observer will realize, Thomas Egan’s letterlike the rest of Freeport’s current public relations blitzrests upon hair-splitting and specious distinctions between the three human rights reports on Irian Jaya published in the past year. In the first place, these are hardly the first reports documenting human rights abuses in Irian Jaya; they are only the first to receive widespread U.S. dissemination. Secondly, despite Egan’s protestations, the three reports in fact corroborate each other, and what they say tosupports Egan’s position that Freeport is simply an innocent bystander to random unpleasantness that occasionally happens to occur in the Republic of Indonesiawhere Freeport is the single largest taxpayer. To begin with, as Egan well knows, Irian Jaya has been off-limits to journalists, human rights groups or other investigators for years, precisely because the Suharto regime wants to keep outsiders from finding out what is happening to the local people. Nevertheless, the April report by ACFOA confirmed in detail earlier reports in which other human rights groups, especially Amnesty International, described violations in Irian Jaya. Moreover, ACFOA is not an “activist group,” but an umbrella organization of more than ninety Australian Non-Governmental Organizations eign policy matters. As Robert Bryce reported in these pages, the ACFOA report documented human rights abusesincluding murder, torture, and illegal detentionby the Indonesian military, in and around the Freeport mine site, allegedly with the use of Freeport facilities and perhaps with the cooperation and support of Freeport personnel. Because of fully justified fear of retaliation by the military, some sources in the ACFOA report were anonymous, but the overall reliability of the report is apparent to any objective reader. In response to the ACFOA report, the local Catholic Church of Jayapura conducted its own investigation. Despite Egan’s misleading characterization of the church’s findings, the church’s August report in no way “disproves” the ACFOA report. Rather, in addition to confirming many of the allegations of that report, it documents additional instances of Indonesian state terror and human rights abuse, in fuller detail, with additional, named eyewitness accountsthe absence of which, according to Freeport, discredits the ACFOA report. The church’s report also says Freeport facilities and shipping containers have been used by the military during the torture of the local people. Finally, in response to public pressure, the state-sponsored and carefully limited Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights issued its own report on the human rights situation in Irian Jaya. Although it was not as detailed as the previous investigations, the Commission’s report confirmed extensive and persistent violations of human rights in Irian Jaya. Egan now says that Freeport “deplores” these violations of human rights, but that the Catholic Church and Commission investigations exonerated the corporation of any responsibility for these outrages. In fact, the two reports disclaim any knowledge of Freeport’s involvement or lack thereof, as does Bishop Munninghoff s subsequent disclaimer: “My report is not about Freeport and does not contain accusations regarding Freeport.” \(Egan also berates Robert Bryce for not acknowledging, in an article published November 17, statements made by Bishop Munninghoff on government Human Rights report makes the further admission that the confirmed military violations occurred “in the framework of safeguarding mining operations of PT Freeport Indonesia.” Egan and Freeport, over many years, have accepted the brutal “protection” of Indonesian military thugs, yet they want to be publicly immunized from any responsibility for the inevitable results. For Egan to assert that these reports, with their tepid disclaimers, exonerate his corporation is laughable; for him to use them in an attempt to discredit legitimate critics is an outrage. THE REST OF EGAN’S DE-FENSE is similarly disingenu ous. His corporation’s self-proclaimed generosity to the people of Irian Jayaor rather, to those who have not fled in terror, in the thousands, to neighboring Papua New Guineaof sixteen million dollars annually, amounts to less than one percent of the 1.7 billion dollars Freeport brags to its stockholders of extracting from its Grasberg mineeven after deducting, of course, its ten percent share paid over to the grisly Suharto regime. Then there is the OPIC matter. When the story of the political risk-insurance cancelMoffett denied that the U.S. federal insurer, OPIC, had cited environmental reasons for the cancellation. Now that OPIC’ s reasons are public \(a result in part of Robert Bryce’s Freedom of Information Act rehad intentionally understated its production levels, Freeport counters that its mine is “in compliance with Indonesian environmental regulations.” So we return to the progressive authority of the Suharto regime. Let’s be frank. Egan’s attempts to intimidate or discredit Freeport’s critics by threats, or by primly insisting that Freeport security personnel do not themselves carry weapons \(why should they, when the Indonesian miltempts to obscure a much larger truth: for many years, the Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Corporation has been in a direct and mutually sustaining partnership with the See “Response,” page 1 1 Egan well knows, Irian Jaya has been off-limits to journalists, human rights groups or other investigators for years 6 JANUARY, 1995
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