Fri, 12 May 2000

Freeport still searching for missing people

JAKARTA (JP): A rescue team has yet to find the bodies of four people reported missing after the Wanagon basin collapsed last week, a company official said here on Thursday.

"We cannot say if they were killed in the incident, and our rescue team, supported by local police officers, is still searching for them," Mindo Pangaribuan, manager of External Communications, said.

He stated that the rescue team had located camps, bags and other items believed to belong to the four.

Mindo identified them as Conny Maay, 43, Dace Adera, 25, Yepta Purai, 30 and Marthin Palamba.

They are employees of PT Graha Buana Jaya, contractor to PT Freeport Indonesia.

"Appropriate steps, including contacting the relatives and families of the missing employees, have been taken by the contractor and Freeport, Mindo said, adding that Dace and Yepta came from southeast Maluku, Marthin from Toraja, South Sulawesi, and Conny from Serui, Irian.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives called on all parties, especially the Papuan people, to be patient while a government team looks into the incident.

"Various statements on actions to be taken against the company are not necessary," M. Yamin, deputy chairman of the House's Commission on industry and trade, said Thursday.

He said his commission would hold an intensive discussion with the government and Freeport's management and make a fair evaluation of the company's performance.

According to the Commission, Freeport's newly extended contract could be revised if the new company is found guilty and if its presence in Papua does not benefit the locals.

In Jayapura, the provincial council said on Tuesday that Freeport must be held responsible for the Wanagon incident.

"The company must be held accountable for the destruction of the environment as well as disturbances experienced by the local Amungme tribe living in the vicinity," councillor Anton Kelanangame said.

The council will send a team of three legislators to investigate the case as well as gather information from locals, he said.

Locals have long protested against waste dumping in the river which has caused flooding, he said. "But their complaints have been ignored."

Three people were admitted to the clinic at the Freeport compound. They were Sulaeman Mochtar, 21, Yanto Metubun, 35, and Yoas Lepong Bulan, 21.

Locals of the Amungme tribe also strongly called on the company to be responsible for the damage caused by the waste dumping in the Wanagon basin.

"Because of the dumping, the Wanagon lake has reached it capacity and this is why flooding occurs." (eba/edt/rms/sur)