A Papuan woman fighting for human and environmental rights

Linked with Yosepha Alomang – Papua, Indonesia.

Published on Down to Earth online, no. 63, by John Rumbiak, Nov. 2004.

The relationship with Freeport/Rio Tinto has dominated Yosepha’s life and work. The book contains an account of Freeport’s presence in Papua, from the company’s negotiations with Suharto regime in 1966, through the violent history of the mine’s development and the Indonesian military’s brutal response to whoever challenged the takeover of indigenous land or wholesale destruction of the environment. This included mass protests in 1994 and a large-scale military crack-down in 1994-1995 which saw the massacre of eleven adults and children in Hoea village …

… Yosepha also worked to free other Papuan prisoners held in containers by the security forces around the Freeport mine. She has been a constant thorn in Freeport’s side, repeatedly demanding that the company answers for the damage inflicted on local people’s lands and livelihoods and protesting against human rights violations.

When news of the Wanagon dam collapse of May 2000 reached Mama Yosepha, she immediately returned to Timika from Jayapura, and phoned Freeport. She secured permission to visit the inundated village downstream of the dam, Banti II. She saw how the flood had swept away all gardens and houses and livestock. Mama Yosepha returned to Jayapura with several other Amungme people. They organised a large demonstration outside the provincial parliament.

In 2001, Mama Yosepha set up Yahamak, the Foundation Against Violence and for Human Rights, using money from the Yap Tham Hien human rights prize, awarded to her in 1999. Its purpose was to continue the struggle for human rights in Timika.

In the end, her dogged campaigns against Freeport were successful in that the company decided unilaterally to award Yosepha funding for her work. Shortly before Mama Yosepha went to the States to receive her Goldman award, Freeport announced that it would give her USD248,000. In the book, Mama Yosepha says she challenged Freeport to put its money where its mouth was. An agreement was signed under which Freeport funded the construction of the Yosepha Alomang Complex – consisting of a clinic, meeting hall, orphanage, human rights violations monument – then used by Yahamak for its programmes … (full text).

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