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Kamoro people take a stand against Freeport smelter plans

Kamoro people take a stand against Freeport smelter plans

Since Indonesia decided to enforce its 2009 mineral law that obliged
mining companies to process ore within Indonesia, attention has focussed
on the biggest mining operation in the country: Freeport McMoran’s gold
and copper mine in Timika, Papua. Freeport wanted to build a smelter in
East Java, where better infrastructure means a lower-cost operation, but
some in Papua have been determined that the smelter should be built
within Papua. Provincial Governor Lukas Enembe even made plans to visit
China to look for investors who might build the smelter, and national
government is now supporting an industrial zone to be built in the area.

These plans have been advancing quickly at the corporate and government
level without involving the Kamoro people who inhabit the lowland rivers
and coasts where the smelter would be built. This is despite many years
of opposition to Freeport’s operation (just this week, upset with some
company decisions, workers from seven tribes have been blockading the
access road to the mine), and just last December, the local leader had
to force an oil palm company to close down after it was having severe
negative effects on the Kamoro People.

Now, according to the article below which is translated from Tabloid
Jubi, the Kamoro people have decided to hold a ritual known as sasi, a
practice common to indigenous cultures all over Papua and Maluku which
forbids someone from doing something – in this case building a smelter.

    Tonight (Saturday 21/3) The Kamoro people will hold a Sasi ritual to
oppose the Freeport smelter.

    Timika, Jubi – The leadership council of the Kamoro indigenous
consultative organisation (LEMASKO), together with the Kamoro people
from ten villages along the Mimika coast, are planning to conduct a Sasi
ritual. This means a prohibition on taking certain plants for a defined
length of time, and is so the local people can really conserve their forest.

    Simson Saul Materaki conveyed this news and explained that the Sasi
process would involve several rituals.

    “We will also go to the Mimika Regency Government Offices, starting
from the smelter building site in Paomako,” Simson Saul Materaki said to in Timika on Friday night (20/3), 23.45 Papua time.

    Meanwhile acting chair of the LEMASKO leadership council Dominikus
Mitoro made it clear that LEMASKO was fighting to protect the basic
rights of indigenous people from Nake Village to Warifi village (Etna Bay).

    “The Kamoro people in Timika will gather to use their traditional
way of calling on their ancestors, and tomorrow morning, 21st March,
will establish Sasi for the Timika area. It is to oppose Freeport and
the smelter and any sort of investment in the area, in order to save the
mangrove swamps and sago groves”, said Dominikus Mitoro.

    It is said that the Sasi customary law refers problems or demands
back to the ancestors, asking the earliest forefathers to help guard the
land that is blocked off. This kind of customary blockade usually means
that anyone who resists it will fall victim.

    “So when they enact Sasi it means whoever violates it will drop
dead. After this Sasi ritual, Freeport or any other investor will
encounter endless problems. The main thing is, no business will run
smoothly until it leaves Mimika”, he explained.

    This was confirmed by a leading figure in the Kamoro indigenous
community, Jhon Nakiaya. He said that all the Kamoro people will gather
for the Sasi rituals calling upon their ancestors, from all ten of the
villages along the Mimika coast.

    “The event starts tonight, going on until the morning when we will
continue to the local government offices , the whole community will be
involved in the Sasi ritual, calling upon all our ancestors to protect
nature” jhon Nakiaya told

    Previously LEMASKO had conveyed its strong opposition to the local
and provincial governments’ plan to build a plant for purifying
concentrate, or smelter, in the Poumako area, East Mimika District.

    All of LEMASKO’s core organisers attended the press briefing,
including Robertus Waraopea (leadership council chair),  Georgorius
Okoare (deputy chair I),  Dominikus Mitoro (deputy chair II), Marianus
Maknaipeku (deputy chair III), John Nakiaya (leadership council
treasurer)and  Simson Saul Materaki (leadership council secretary).

    Robertus Waraopea said that the government had made plans to build a
smelter in Poumako without first approaching the local community or
indigenous organisations.

    Although the land in the Poumako area has already been passed on to
a new owner, the whole area is still claimed by the Kamoro people.
Furthermore, near the proposed smelter site  there is a settlement of
indigenous Kamoro people whose livelihoods are dependent  on being able
to find food in nearby rivers.

    “The government has made plans to build this smelter without asking
permission first, specifically from the indigenous community which has
customary land rights in that area. So we think that people in the
government are not making an effort to approach local indigenous
people”, said Robertus.

© Scoop Media

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