Sat, 15 Mar 2003

TNI chief admits to perks from Freeport

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Soetarto said on Friday some 600 troops stationed at the Freeport mine in Papua to protect the company's assets receive daily allowances and lunches from the United States-based company.

Endriartono said the money was given to soldiers in the field, but he did not know how much each soldier received.

"The boys at the mining site receive daily allowances and lunches, but I do not know if Freeport also donates additional money to the TNI," Endriartono said.

He did not say whether the TNI allocated money from its own budget for the protection of the company's assets.

Speaking to reporters after swearing in the new commander of the Presidential Guards, Brig. Gen. Agung Widjajadi, who replaces Maj. Gen. Nono Sampono, Endriartono said he would seek clarification on whether Freeport Indonesia provided additional money to the military.

Endriartono was commenting on a news report that TNI received US$5.6 million from the American-based company to protect its employees.

Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold Inc. disclosed this figure in a confidential document sent to the New York City comptroller's office and to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the report by AFX Global Ethics Monitor.

The report said these payments had been made since 2001, with $4.7 million provided for 2,300 troops at the site to cover their housing, fuel, travel and vehicle repair expenses.

In a Freeport document to its shareholders, the company also said another $400,000 was disbursed in 2002 for "associated infrastructure" in Indonesia.

The giant mining company has been operating in the country since the late 1960s, but its presence in Papua has become increasingly controversial of late, with critics linking it to human rights abuses and graft.

An ambush last year that killed two American teachers and an Indonesian employed by Freeport is one major case concerning the company.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping in the investigation into the ambush.

"Historically, the limited resources of the Indonesian government and the remote location and underdevelopment of Papua have resulted in PT Freeport Indonesia being requested to provide logistical and infrastructure support, for both the civilian government and the military/police," Freeport wrote in the document.

Endriartono reiterated he had never heard of or received the large amounts of money mentioned by Freeport in the confidential document. He said all he was aware of was the free lunches and allowances the company provided for the 600 soldiers at the site.

"I will talk to Freeport immediately. The company has never publicly provided such a report or said to whom they give this money," the general said.