17 killed in West Papua, group claims
Pro-independence groups claim 17 people have been killed in the last couple of days as Indonesian military forces use mining company helicopters to attack villages in the troubled West Papua province.
The western half of New Guinea island and formally known as Irian Jaya, West Papua has been claimed by Indonesia since 1969.
Fighting under the ''Morning Star'' flag which is illegal in Indonesia, the West Papua Liberation Army or TPN has fought guerrilla style engagements against the Indonesian Army or TNI and its National Police arm.
West Papua Media Alerts say they produce the ''latest independently verifiable news from West Papua''.
They say that in actions against TPN, 20,000 people in the Paniai area of West Papua have been left homeless after the army attacks.
They believe an Indonesian counter-terrorism unit Detachment 88 is involved in ongoing military operations in Paniai.
Quoting human rights defender Ferry Marisan, Media Alert says 30 people have died in the latest round of violence, including 17 this week.
''Only 10 of these victims were members of the TPN, according to Marisan.''
Children aged between two and four were among the dead.
The latest conflict area is in the area of the Derewo River Gold, a joint venture between an Indonesian company and Australian investors, Paniai Gold, a fully owned subsidiary of Melbourne based gold mining company West Wits Mining.
Media Alerts claim mining company helicopters are being used in the attacks and they produced an aircraft spotting sheet to help locals identify make and models.
Although most of West Papua's 70,000 people are Melanesian, and culturally close to adjourning Papua New Guinea, Jakarta keeps a tight hold on the region as it is the country’s most mineral rich.
The US company Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold operates the Grasberg mine in West Papua. Widely accepted to be the world’s most profitable mine, it has also been the scene of violence and severe environmental damage.
The New Zealand Superannuation Fund (the so called Cullen Fund) has been accused of investing in Freeport-McMoRan, but in a statement, the CEO of the Guardians of the Fund, Adrian Orr, says there is ''only very small, passive investments, representing a fraction of a per cent of the near $18 billion in the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, in Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold and in Rio Tinto plc.
''Nevertheless, we have over the past five years repeatedly communicated our concerns about the social and environmental issues associated with the operation of Grasberg to company management,'' Mr Orr said.
''We believe that our engagement, and that of other investors and of Non Governmental Organisations, has improved the practices at the mine and the disclosure of those practices.
“That would not have happened had we, and the other investors who got involved, simply divested our holdings...
''Responsible investment is not about making New Zealanders feel good about the guardians' investments.
''The Guardians cannot and do not invest to be popular. The Guardians must apply the law and its own and relevant international standards to making responsible investment decisions, because those decisions must make enduring sense from both a responsible investment and a commercial perspective,” Mr Orr said.