17 Jul 2009

Doubt surrounds Indonesian claim of foreign role in Papua violence

3:29 pm on 17 July 2009

A Papua human rights activist has dismissed claims by Indonesia's Defence Minister that foreign governments or NGOs could be behind a series of deadly ambushes near the Freeport mine in Papua.

The Minister, Juwono Sudarsono, says the attacks by unidentified gunmen which left three dead near the Grasberg mine in Timika could be an effort by foreign competitors to close the mine down.

He says foreign NGOs and governments have a history of backing groups that agitate in Papua.

When asked which countries he was referring to, Mr Sudarsono referred to neighbouring countries to the south.

However, Australia-based activist Nick Chesterfield says this contradicts the Minister's earlier statements about who was behind the attacks.

"You've got to remember that a couple of days ago the same Defence Minister was saying that it's very likely that it was rogue elements of the Indonesian military, or even police. He also was on record saying it was likely it was [due to] an argument between police and military over who controlled the illegal gold trade. So I really wouldn't put too much credibility in his statements."

Nick Chesterfield