EDITORIALS Primitive People They take our land and our grandparents’ land They ruined the mountains, which are the head of our mother , without any hesitation. They ruined our environment by putting the waste in the river. We cant drink our water anymore…From all the mining, what do we get? Humiliation. Torture Hostages. Killing They ask us to leave our land They’ve taken away our tradition and our culture We’ve become alien ated in our own land… I come here to ask for justice. Those are the words of Tom Beanal, a leader of the Amungme Tribal Council \(officially known as Lembaga Musyawarah Adat home is Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Beanal spoke through an interpreter at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he had come to give testimony in a lawsuit filed against the Freeport-McMoRan Corporation, owner of the Grasberg mine, also located in Irian Jaya. Regular Observer readers are familiar with the controversy surrounding Freeport, not only concerning its mining operations in Indonesia, but its geological research/public relations operations at the University of Texas, and its real estate operations in Austin. The class action lawsuit filed in New Orleans on April 29 is the latest development in the international controversy. Beanal’s suit, filed on behalf of the indigenous people of Irian Jaya, seeks six billion dollars in damages, for “human rights violations, environmental violations, and cultural genocide” alleged to have occurred as the consequences of Freeport’s mine and the company’s close collaboration with the Indonesian military regime. It remains to be seen whether Beanal will be allowed to make his case in a U.S. courtroom. Freeport responded by calling the lawsuit “frivolous and opportunistic,” and tried to drive a wedge between Beanal and his lawyer, Martin E. Regan, Jr. The company’s lawyers argued for a dismissal on the grounds that Regan had filed the suit without fully consulting his client, and that the suit was filed in haste simply to create bad publicity just prior to the company’s annual shareholder meeting. But in testimony last month before U.S. District Court Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Regan and Beanal each responded that despite some initial confusion over timing and translation problems, Beanal wanted the suit to proceed. Beanal and his people contend they have exhausted their limited recourse with the Indonesian authorities, who assumed control of their homeland \(West pire in the 1960s. Said Beanal, “I think it is appropriate to proceed here because it’s an American company, and the [Indonesian] government has an interest in the mine.” The night before his testimony, he told his university audience, “During the last thirty years, we tried to find justice, but we never found it. And now comes Mr. Martin [Regan] and I can see justice. I come here to ask for justice.” Beanal’s frank perspective provides an illuminating contrast to that of Thomas Egan, the Freeport Vice President whose corporate press release, thinly disguised as a letter to the editor, also appears in this issue \(“Dialogue,” page January 12, reported, along with Freeport’ s denials, the persistent charges of human rights violations and environmental damage made against the company and the Indonesian regime. Egan returns to that theme, this time alleging additional but still unspecified “falsehoods and innuendos.” Then, after reciting Freeport’ s recent public relations achievements, he requests that we “report these developments with the same zeal…displayed in reporting OPIC’s cancellation and the environmental and social allegations against us.” Apparently Jim Bob Moffett does not have enough adver tising copywriters already in his employ. For the record: while the Observer had not yet noted Freeport’s sub-contracted, self-exonerating “independent” environmental audit \(the Dames & Moore report ported OPIC’s renewal of Freeport’s political risk insurance, its environmental trust fund, and its purported agreement with the local people of Irian Jaya. We have not, it is true, taken Freeport’s versions of events at face value; we have reported the context in which all these events have taken place \(the recent popular uprisings in Irian Jaya, which resulted in several deaths and extenhave reported that, contrary to Egan’ s “unflagging optimism,” some of the people of Irian Jaya have taken an understandably dimmer view of Freeport’s recent attempts to proclaim that its problems have been resolved. Local leaders, including Beanal, have specifically rejected Freeport’s claim of an agreement between the company and the local people, under which Freeport says it will contribute to community development projects and hire more local people to work at the mine. In April, for example, immediately following Freeport’s unilateral annquncement of this agreement, LEMASA issued a statement saying that it had in fact rejected Freeport’s offer, because “it fails to address the roots of the problem” \(Observer, Beanal’s lawyer, Martin Regan, the specific timing of the class-action lawsuit was in fact a consequence of Freeport’s fullpage newspaper advertisements in New announcing its settlement. In any case, Egan’ s real interest is not in factual journalism, but in buying or bully 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 14, 1996 6111111111111.111111111111111111111111111″-‘-eT” –
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