A member of the Indonesian military is seen helping to secure a mining site operated by PT Soe Makmur Resources in East Nusa Tenggara province, which remains in dispute with local residents. (Photo supplied by the Franciscan JPIC)
Catholic and Protestant leaders in South Central Timor district in East Nusa Tenggara have accused the military of backing a mining company and intimidating local people and activists.
Franciscan Father Mikael Peruhe, advocacy coordinator for the Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, said the military has been providing security for the PT Soe Makmur Resources mining company and intimidates and harasses local activists and opponents of the mine.
Father Peruhe said he and a group of activists filed a complaint March 2 at the military office in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara's capital and will be sending complaint to military headquarters in Jakarta this week.
"People were silenced in facing the company's arrogance, because the role of military is obvious," he told ucanews.com.
"They don't only secure the mining site or the company's office, but apparently also serve as the company's public relations arm, trying to convince the people to accept the company," said Father Peruhe.
PT Soe Makmur entered South Central Timor in 2008 after receiving a permit to exploit 4,555 hectares of land, covering six villages in two districts.
However, local people opposed the move because the permit allowed the company to grab people’s agricultural lands. Activists said mining activities also dried up a number of springs, which are the principal water source for many people.
According to Father Peruhe, the military have not remained neutral. On Feb. 26, military officials facilitated a community meeting in Supul where villagers were threatened with arrest.
"During the meeting, the company urged authorities to investigate and arrest people they referred to as provocateurs, including religious leaders," he said.
The Rev. Yos Manu of the Protestant Evangelical Church in Timor said he was dismayed by the military's actions but told the people to not lose hope.
"We continue to encourage people not to be afraid, because we are fighting for justice," he told ucanews.com
Meanwhile Melky Nahar of Friends of the Earth Indonesia said he suspects that the military is being paid by the mining company to repress opposition by local residents.
Company officials were unavailable for comment.