Papua Police Tell Strikers to Stop Rallying, or Else

Police have set a deadline of today for thousands of striking workers at Freeport-McMoRan’s giant gold and copper mine in Papua to confine their action to a specific area.

According to a permit for the strike issued by authorities, the workers are only allowed to gather at Checkpoint 5, an area in front of the gate to Kuala Kencana, where local subsidiary Freeport Indonesia has its headquarters.

But Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Wachyono said the strike had spread to several other locations, including the mining area itself. He also said workers were actually rallying rather than just striking, though he did not explain the difference.

“We are calling on workers who have gone from striking to demonstrating to stop their action because it is no longer in line with the permit given,” Wachyono said.

He said the strikers had spread to Checkpoints 1 and 27, as well as Freeport’s Gorong-Gorong bus terminal. “These workers are disturbing vital activities. We want this stopped,” he said.

He said that a warning letter had been sent to strikers on Sunday telling them they had 48 hours to stop demonstrating.

“If the protest rallies are not halted, we will summon the head of the SPSI [All-Indonesian Workers Trade Union] and disperse them in line with the prevailing laws,” he said.

Wachyono said residents were also complaining about the strike, saying it was disturbing their daily activities.

The local SPSI spokesman, Juli Parorrongan, said he was unaware of the latest developments in Papua because he was in Jakarta for medical reasons.

Pramono Anung, a House of Representatives deputy speaker, warned security forces to take care in disbanding strikers.

“If there is any violence, it will only become a new trigger [for unrest] especially after it was officially revealed that there is some money flowing to the police [from Freeport],” said Pramono, who is from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Pramono said the government should facilitate a dialogue between Freeport and the striking workers. He also called for the police to account for the money its officers had received from the mining company.

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