The national human rights body vowed on Monday to carry out a lengthy investigation into the deteriorating security situation in the Papua mining town of Timika, following complaints by local residents.
Nur Kholis, deputy chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said the commission would set up a special team to conduct a three-month investigation into the complaints.
“The special Papua team will have wide-reaching authority and can speed up our investigation because they can go in there and call witnesses,” he said.
He added that the results of the investigation would be presented openly as a form of public accountability.
The announcement came as a group of representatives from Timika in Mimika district, which services the massive Grasberg gold and copper mine that is run by US-based Freeport-McMoRan, visited the Komnas HAM headquarters in Jakarta to complain about a recent spate of attacks that have claimed nine lives, including those of six Freeport workers.
On Monday, the police chief of the town of Mulia in neighboring Puncak Jaya district was reportedly assaulted and shot dead by unknown attackers.
One contract worker and two others were shot by unknown gunmen early on Friday. Several days earlier, five Freeport workers were killed — two by police trying to control a crowd and three by unknown gunmen.
Sammy Rumbiak, a member of the Timika delegation, said the climate of fear first descended on the area in 2009.
“I worked at the underground mine in Freeport and I always felt safe. But since 2009 I have felt threatened, without the freedom to live in my own country,” he said.
“For how long must I feel unsafe in my own land, even though I am an Indonesian citizen? Especially since we are led around everywhere by men with guns.”
Sammy said that ever since the first shooting incidents in 2009, widely blamed on the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM), no single case had been resolved, resulting in heightened anxiety among the public.
“We want President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to roll up his sleeves and visit the site directly to see for himself what’s going on, because we have been living in terror for the past three years,” he said.
Nur Kholis said Komnas HAM would deliver a recommendation to the government following its investigation.
“Restoring security is the most important thing to do in order to prevent more serious incidents,” he said.
“Therefore, we are going to coordinate with the police, both the national and Papua branches [to work to make it happen].”
Oktavianus Kalilago, a resident of the neighboring town of Kuala Kencana, where Freeport’s operations are headquartered, said the people were fed up with the climate of fear that had “robbed them of their lives, freedom and sense of security.”
“We demand that concrete, firm and fair steps be taken immediately by the government to protect all those who live near Freeport,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “We no longer want to live in constant fear of the threat of violence, terrorism or other acts that rob us of our dignity.”
Oktavianus also called for the swift resolution of all the shootings in the area and demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice. He said that ultimately, the people of Timika, Kuala Kencana and other areas in Mimika district wanted to be able to live their lives in a climate of security and peace.
Shokilin, another resident, warned that the area was fast running out of badly needed food and medicine because of the blockade of the main access road there by Freeport workers who since mid-September have been striking for higher pay.
He said the blockade, in place since Oct. 10, had “severely impacted” the local population.
“It’s affected not just Freeport but also the residents, because the only way that supplies reach us is through Freeport, and now the only road leading to us is blocked,” he said.
Orpa Padwa, a resident of Kuala Kencana, confirmed that food and other supplies were quickly running out.
“We mothers can only cry and can’t do anything else,” she said. “Our children cannot go to school because we’re afraid [of the attacks].”
She said she hoped that the standoff between Freeport and the striking workers, as well as the spate of shootings and other attacks, could be resolved as soon as possible “because we want to celebrate Christmas peacefully.”