Indonesian and international public could get a clearer picture of how Papua’s gold reserves have been divided among elites the whole time, and how the country’s military has for years wasted tax-payer money by moonlighting as guard squad in mining sites in the province.
Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, known for a nickname as “Lord Luhut” for his powerful influence within the government, finally made a police report Wednesday against a country’s prominent activists, Haris Azhar, who uploaded a video in his YouTube channel, accusing Luhut as being involved in a gold mining project in area known as Wabu Block, a mountain in Intan Jaya in Papua, an area also called “Mountain of Gold”.
A number of media have reported that the block has reserve of 8.1 million tons of gold, or equal to around US$15 billion or Rp 220 trilliun. To put it in perspective, this amount is enough to buy a proper house for each of Indonesia’s 28 million poor families.
Gold mining firm Freeport, who previously owned the block but already transferred to Indonesian government, also confirmed the huge reserve the block has, with its president Tony Wenas saying that it did not exploit the block because the company wanted to focus on Grasberg site instead.
Beyond money, based on a joint investigative report from a number of civil society groups the video also highlights that the main objective of military operations in Papua have been to secure mining sites in the natural resource-rich province for some elite and rich Indonesians and used eradication of rebel movement as a cover.
After filing the report, Luhut dismissed all allegations made in the video, saying that he had to make a police report to defend himself and stop all slanders against him. “I have the right to defend myself also, and I tell you there is no such thing as limitless freedom. Freedom always comes with responsibility,” adding that Haris has failed to present any evidence to back the allegation.
“I have no time to get involved in such activities. I have so many works to do. With all my responsibilities, I can’t even think about other things.”
Beside a coordinating minister, Luhut also holds at least five different strategic positions within Jokowi Cabinet, which range from leading a Covid task force to heading efforts for economic recovery.
Luhut also included Fatia Maulida, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) in the police report as she was the one who was interviewed in the video titled “There Is Lord Luhut behind Relations of Economic (Motives) with Military Operations in Intan Jaya, Papua.”
In the video, Fatia and Haris discussed about the results of studies conducted by organizations, such as KontraS, Walhi, Jatam, YLBHI, and Pusaka, in regard to military involvement behind the gold mining business or exploitation plan in Wabu Block, Intan Jaya of Papua. In the video Fatia mentioned that Luhut was involved as an owner of one of companies possessing the right to mine the block.
Beside filing a police report, Luhut has filed an Rp 100 million case against both Haris, current director of legal and human rights foundation Lokataru, and Fatia, for slander and defamation.
But Luhut’s move risks of opening up a Pandora box that could reveal the ugly face of Papua exploitation for the benefits of a few elites in Jakarta, including several military commanders.
If the case ever reaches the court – as both parties seem to be willing to – then all evidence will be presented. With local and international media covering the ensuing trials, Indonesia’s exploitation in Papua and the use of military personnel to secure the mining will again become an international attention.
With such a high stake, activists and media are surprised that Luhut, considered by many Indonesia’s most powerful state official after Jokowi, is willing to attract public attention by filing the police report.
Nurkholis Hidayat, lawyer of Haris Azhar, said that the legal process will be a good opportunity to shed light to the public who Luhut actually is and how his track record is.
“We have an opportunity to reveal about his involvement in Block Wabu in Papua,” he said.
However, Luhut becoming one of Indonesia’s most powerful politicians is not without a reason. While he has yet to present an evidence negating the joint investigative report by the civil society groups, many expect that he has something in his hands that he is willing to make the case bigger than it is.
The police report is just a beginning, and the case still has months or even years to go. As a seasoned and pragmatist politician Luhut must have containment and exit strategy when he filed the report.
And the public will know it as the case is reaching the court.