IRIAN JAYA TRIBESMEN CLAIM PT FREEPORT WITHHOLDING TRUSTEESHIP FUNDS

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (September 23, 1999 – Jakarta Post)---Two Irianese tribal chiefs accused mining company PT Freeport Indonesia on Tuesday of withholding the distribution of trusteeship funds worth Rp 7 billion (US$ 850,000) to local Irianese people.

Victor Janampa and Nico Magal, who said they represented the Aruanop tribe and the Tsinga tribe, demanded the company immediately distribute the funds in accordance with a 1996 agreement between the company and local Irianese.

"We want to know where PT Freeport is keeping the money," Aruanop tribal chief Victor Janampa said in a statement.

The two men went at about 8:30 a.m. to PT Freeport's office in the Plaza 89 building on Jl. Rasuna Said, South Jakarta. However, they failed to meet with any Freeport officials.

Victor said he would call on his men to force PT Freeport from the land if the company refused to heed their demands.

Tsinga tribal chief Nico Magal said the 1996 agreement stated that PT Freeport, through its trusteeship fund, would allot some of its shares to Irianese tribes whose land is occupied by PT Freeport for mining operations.

The 1996 agreement only recognized two tribes as the recipients, namely the Amungme and Kamoro.

Nico said that the Tsinga and Aruanop tribes were part of the larger tribe of Amungme.

Asked why he had not contacted the Amungme Traditional Community Board (Lemasa), which represents the Amungme community at PT Freeport, Nico said Lemasa's membership included representatives from other tribes. "Lemasa, therefore, does not have the right to interfere with this matter."

Nico said he and Victor were scheduled to meet on Thursday with officials of the National Commission on Human Rights to discuss the matter.

Freeport's senior manager for corporate communication affairs, Siddharta Moersjid, denied allegations that the company had delayed payment of the trusteeship fund.

He said Victor and Nico were not entitled to represent the Aruanop and Tsinga people.

"They can't just show up at our office, claim that they represent the Aruanop and Tsinga tribes and ask for money," Siddharta said.

He said he doubted the veracity of the two men's claims to leadership of the Irianese tribes, saying that anyone could make such claims.

KABAR IRIAN ("Irian News") Website: http://www.irja.org/ 

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