Papuan Tribal Leaders Demand Closure Of US Mine In Indonesia
Tuesday, 22 December 2009 13:46
Tribal leaders in Indonesia's restive Papua province Tuesday called for the closure of a massive US mine linked to allegations of rights abuses, as they buried a slain rebel leader.
Some 400 people followed the casket of Free Papua Movement (OPM) commander Kelly Kwalik, who was shot in a police raid last week, through the streets of Timika to his grave beside a local church.
Kwalik's death has triggered days of anti-Indonesian protests and calls for independence for the ethnic Melanesian region on the extreme east of the Indonesian archipelago.
Anger has also been directed at US miner Freeport McMoRan, which operates a huge gold and copper mine north of Timika that has long been at the centre of allegations of rights abuses against ordinary Papuans.
Kwalik, who was 60 when he died after spending 30 years fighting for Papuan independence, claimed to have been dispossessed by the mine and was accused of several deadly ambushes against Freeport workers.
Police blame him for a series of attacks this year which killed three people including an Australian mine worker on the road north of Timika. In 2002 he allegedly killed two American Freeport employees in similar circumstances.
Kwalik denied the allegations and some analysts believe the Indonesian security forces launched the attacks as a way of extracting more protection money from Freeport.
"Freeport is responsible for the death of Kelly Kwalik and that is why Freeport must be shut down," Papua Customary Council spokesman Dominicus Serabut told mourners ahead of Kwalik's burial.
"General Kelly Kwalik was not involved in the shootings in the area of Freeport Indonesia," he added.
Poorly-armed OPM guerrillas have waged a war of independence for four decades, often launching hit-and-run attacks against Indonesian troops with traditional bows and arrows and World War II-era rifles.
Kwalik's casket was draped in the outlawed "Morning Star" flag of Papuan independence, a last act of defiance given stiff penalties up to life in prison for anyone waving the separatist standard.
Some 800 people attended a funeral mass on Monday but disagreements among tribal leaders delayed the burial.
Indonesia gained sovereignty over the Papua region in 1969 in a UN- backed vote widely seen as rigged.