Freeport May Be Punished Over Tit-for-Tat Garuda Spat

The Jakarta Globe January 6, 2010

by Putri Prameshwari

The government may punish PT Freeport Indonesia if it turns out
that the miner denied airline Garuda Indonesia fuel at its
Timika airport in Papua as retribution for several Freeport
executives not being allowed to board a Garuda flight, a top
aviation official said on Tuesday.

Herry Bhakti Singayuda, director general of civil aviation at
the Ministry of Transportation, said that as the owner and
operator of Moses Kilangin Airport in Timika, Freeport had
failed to supply fuel to a commercial plane.

“There will be a punishment for that,” Herry said after a
meeting with Sahala Lumban Gaol, the deputy for strategic
industries at the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, Omar Anwar,
PT Pertamina deputy president director, and Emirsyah Satar,
Garuda’s president director.

“We’re evaluating and investigating the matter before we decide
on any punishment. We’ve also had summoned Freeport executives
to meet us on Thursday,” Herry said.

The status of Moses Kilangin Airport might be downgraded from
public to private, he said, and it could be prohibited from
handling any commercial flights.

The dispute appears to have its origins in an incident over the
weekend when Garuda Indonesia flight GA 652 from Jakarta to
Jayapura, via Denpasar and Timika, could not land in Timika on
Saturday due to bad weather, and was diverted to Jayapura.

According to Garuda corporate secretary Pujobroto, on Sunday
morning the plane was ready to fly to Timika when Freeport
Indonesia’s president director, Armando Mahler, and several top
executives from the company demanded that they be allowed to
board the plane.

The executives, Pujobroto said, were not booked on flight GA 652
but were booked on another Garuda flight — GA 653. Accordingly,
they were not allowed to board flight GA 652 because, as the
executives were told by the pilot at the time, diverted flights
could not accept any additional passengers.

On Sunday afternoon, the same plane, now operating as flight GA
653, was denied refuelling in Timika before heading back to
Jakarta via Jayapura and Denpasar.

Freeport sent a letter to Garuda, saying that the airport would
no longer be providing fuel until further notice, Pujobroto said.

On Monday, Garuda halted all flights to Timika until they were
guaranteed enough fuel, he said.

Pujobroto said that even though Garuda had received a letter
saying that Moses Kilangin Airport would provide fuel, the
airline was still considering whether to reopen the route.

“The fuel provided is limited, only 9,000 liters per day,” he
said, adding that because of Papua’s rugged topography, the
airline would not risk flying without being certain it would
have enough spare fuel.

Herry said that on Tuesday, Freeport issued a notice saying that
it was experiencing a fuel shortage.

“Therefore, they said they would impose a minimum fuel supply to
operators,” he said, adding that he expected Garuda to resume
flights to Timika in the next two days.

Herry said that during Tuesday’s meeting, Pertamina said it
would supply fuel to Garuda in Timika.

Freeport Indonesia spokesman Mindo Pangaribuan said that the
fuel shortage notice had been issued before the incident over
the weekend.

Mindo, however, declined to comment on the allegations that
Freeport not supplying Garuda with fuel was in retaliation for
its executives not being allowed to board the Garuda flight.

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