Buyat Bay case, what's the verdict? Richard Ness is Dutch

A verdict on Buyat Bay case will be held next month, 4 April 07. It's gonna be a surprising verdict considering a lot of matters capturing the social-economic issue, environmental issue, historical, even the social-political issue.

A verdict in a high-profile pollution trial involving the Indonesian unit of Newmont Mining Corp and its American chief will be delivered on April 4, the judge trying the case said on Friday. PT Newmont Minahasa Raya (NMR), which once operated in North Sulawesi province, and its president director Richard Ness face charges over allegations the miner dumped toxic substances into a bay near its now defunct gold mine, making villagers sick. (read more)
It has been seemed as a fight between NGOs unfortunately supported by the Indonesian government and a multinational corporation fortunately supported by local experts/scientists/academists.

There were two seminars held to discuss this case:

21 August 2004, National Seminar: "National Seminar and Workshop on the Buyat Bay Controversy", that were attended by a number of local and national experts.

The conclusions (as described by Prof. Dr. M.I.J. Umboh, MS, DEA):
  • Environmental health in the Buyat Bay region is very poor from the point of view of behavior and available infrastructure
  • Community education and knowledge about health is very poor.
  • The diseases found are diseases typically found in other regions, especially coastal regions, which have poor sanitation and low economic levels.
  • The pathology of the tumors indicates benign tumors.
  • No signs of Minamata Disease have been found.
  • Research is needed to monitor and evaluate the community’s long-term health status.
10 May 2005, International Seminar: "Mining, environment and sustainable development: A lesson from the gold mining controversy in Buyat Bay, North Sulawesi", that were attended by 34 international scientists.

The conclusions:
  • The quality of sea water around Buyat Bay did not show the danger/threat to sea biota environment (link).
  • The bay had not been polluted (link).
I consulted and confirmed my aunt (MIJ Umboh) a few times to ensure the conclusions and she sticked to the genuine conclusion, that is, there is no evidence and proof of pollution. I personally support her, nevertheless, I try to see this case more in the matter of social-political.

Historically, Buyat was used as an official southern border of De Minahasa from the Kingdom of Bolaang set by the Dutch in March 1756. The area of gold mining is in Ratatotok village, South Minahasa, 4 km from Buyat Bay. Buyat residenst are migrants from Bolaang and Talaud which are separated historically from Minahasa. They live from fishing.

Minahasa is identified strongly with the Dutch language and connection and also the Protestant faith, in fact, that when Indonesia became independent in 1945 inhabitants of the region pleaded with the Dutch to let it become a province of the Netherlands (source). If Minahasa became a province of the Netherlands, all the gold resource might had still been owned by Nederlandsch Mijnbouw Maatschappij which started the gold mining in 1887.

Supporters of Newmont and Richard Ness are mostly Minahasan scientists who have strong international links. By supporting Newmont and Richard Ness as expert witnesses, they indirectly fight the attorneys of Indonesian government represented by the local government of North Sulawesi.

If local autonomy or decentralisation is the main issue here, it means that the local government of North Sulawesi under the central government of the Republic of Indonesia has to face resistance from the local scientists, who may believe in neoliberalisation. Actually, it has been offered to the people of Minahasa from the Dutch in 1945 to be the 12th province of the Netherlands.

If NGOs' involvement is the main issue here, keep them away from Buyat Bay. Because they know nothing and obviously have no competency to analyse compared to the local scientists. They have strong resistance from the Minahasan scientists in terms of scientific evidence.

One Malaysian blogger, Ong Hock Chuan, mistakenly identified as Indonesian blogger by another blogger, Jennifer Marohasy, has been wondering why WAHLI did not open for discussion in his blog. Ong should have realised that the scientific evidence of no pollution has kept WAHLI's mouth shut.

For me, this case is quite complicated. On one side, NGOs are quite supported by the government, which is uncommon, probably because De Minahasa has a bargaining power in case of separation from the Republic. On the other side, Newmont is supported by the educated locals, who understand the value of their lands historically and culturally.


Richard Ness is American and of course from the Ness family, which could be originally from Holland, otherwise Scottish.
Spelling variations of this family name include: Ness, Nes, Neser, Nesse, Nessen, Nessel, Nest, Nesh, Neste, Netz, Nas, Nass, Nos, Noss and many more.

First found in Holland, where the name became noted for its many branches in the region, each house acquiring a status and influence which was envied by the princes of the region.

Some of the first settlers of this family name or some of its variants were: those recorded from the mid 17th century onward in the great migration from Europe to the New World.
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