The Armed Forces on Sunday again denied that it was still receiving payments from US mining company Freeport McMoran to provide security around the giant Grasberg mine, which was the scene of two deadly attacks over the weekend.
“This is only gossip made up by an irresponsible party who wants to divide us,” military spokesman Air Vice Marshall Sagom Tamboen said. “The division of the Armed Forces [TNI] and the National Police is a rumor-prone matter.”
He said the military would never accept payments because it was its job “to protect all citizens in the country. Besides, the law states that the security of all vital installations are now handled by the police.”
In March, the TNI denied reports from Bill Collier, a Freeport spokesman, to AFP that its local subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia paid “less than” $1.6 million through wire transfers and checks in 2008 to provide a “monthly allowance” to police and soldiers at and around the mine, which had three incidents on Saturday and Sunday.
Collier said the direct payments were part of $8 million Freeport paid in broader “support costs” for 1,850 police and soldiers protecting Grasberg last year.
At the time, Sagom denied the claims, stating that the law barred the TNI from securing objects of vital national interest.
Speaking on Sunday, Sagom said that if any officers were involved in accepting payments, they would be punished.
“I cannot say that all TNI officers are good but if that happens, let us resolve the matter together and we will punish the irresponsible officer,” he said. “People accused us of receiving security payments maybe because they think that we are jealous of the National Police. And it is not true.”
TNI and the National Police were separated back in 2000 during Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid’s presidency.
Mindo Pangaribuan, a spokesman for Freeport Indonsia, also denied the report stating that they paid the TNI.
“It is not true at all. We never give them any money to protect us,” Mindo said. “We are now mourning as shootings occurred again in the province and that is only gossip.”
An Australian national and an Indonesian employed by Freeport were killed in separate ambushes on vehicle convoys on Saturday and Sunday, while five mining company employees were injured. In a third incident, two police officers were wounded in an ambush on their convoy on Sunday.
An Indonesian-based researcher on Papua, who only spoke on condition of anonymity, said allegations that the TNI received military payments from the mining company haven’t gone away.
“As of around 2005 or 2006, the Army’s not getting payments, officially. But there are still military units there that are part of the task force that’s under police command,” he said. “They get part of the official security payments. There was an allegation that Freeport was still paying money to the military, which the TNI denied.”