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Silence no longer so golden

Categories: Accountability, Asia-Pacific, Corporate responsibility, Corruption, Democracy, Ernst & Young, Genocide, Globalisation, Human Rights, Indonesia, Mining, Rule of Law, Shared humanity, West Papua

by: Bakchos
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Complicity takes many forms, as discussed in posts by both Bakchos and me. Many believe that silent complicity is the least culpable, but to my mind if the silence enables the perpetrator of the wrongdoing to continue causing harm, then the silence is of a gross kind. An example of such silent complicity allowing continuing harm is described by Steven Miles generating discussion in both the Lancet and via his book Oath Betrayed.

I’ve given a lot of thought to Bakchos’ post on human dignity and justice in trying to express to others the reasons why I believe in protecting the rights of others.

If society or community has no body, if it is merely the expression, construct or tool of many individuals who each have their own moral responsibility, then the moral responsibility to direct out communities to behave in a just and honourable manner lies in each individual person.

It’s a profound realization, this concept of personal responsibility. Socrates took it so seriously that he was willing to drink hemlock as sentence for heresy against the gods. In reality, Socrates paid the price for pointing out the failings of the democratic Greek state in adhering to the tenets of democracy itself.

What constitutes community or society? Is it singular or a mutli-variate depending on its focus? If the latter, what is the focus of that society?

I argue that society is both singular and multi-variate. Each tribe, province and nation forms its own societal boundaries, built upon the values that form the focus from which all other norms emanate. Those norms will differ between cultures and religions, but the most fundamental similarity that continuously re-appears is that of human dignity, the Golden Rule, to not subject others to treatment that we ourselves would not wish imposed upon ourselves.

Society in this global economy governed by constructs such as the World Bank, the UN, the WHO, is also singular. As soon as one society joins with or accepts aid from a global entity, it must accept that its local focus may require adjustment lest it be mal-aligned with that of the greater blended body. The basis of international bodies such as these is the betterment – economically, physically and psychologically – of all people; each is underpinned by a desire to protect the human rights of the people. The ethos, in concept at least, is that every culture has equal rights. Without the will of a people there is no community and hence, each person has equal right to the protection of the Big Brothers of our global construction.

Socrates was found guilty of failing to believe in the gods of state and corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens. He refused to uphold the societal norms and in doing so sowed seeds of discontent. He could have fled Athens, but felt instead it was his duty, having chosen to be part of the Athenian democracy, to subject himself to its debates and legalities for the sake of the stability that he himself was accused of destroying. Talk about chasing your own Socratic tail in circles! Nonetheless, his argument that it was his duty to point out the failings of his community to itself prevented him from being complicit in the eventual downfall of the Athenian state.

Socrates poses a lesson that has not changed in 2,000 years. Each person, as part of the will that owns our societal constructs, has a responsibility to ensure that it is not corrupted by the very attitudes and behaviours that conflict with the focus of protecting human dignity. At the first sign of corruption it is each person’s responsibility to identify, expose and eliminate the tainted influence. Failure to do so results in harm to others.

Wettstein discusses the concept of silent complicity, arguing that the minimum passive requirement of ‘do no harm’ is no longer sufficient in a globalized world. Rather, in this age of shared finances and backroom deals, active denouncement of wrongdoing should be the standard. She discusses Shell in the Niger delta, already covered by Bakchos in a post last week. The case is eerily similar to that being played out by Freeport McMoRan at the Grasberg Mine in West Papua. Paying for security whilst turning a blind eye to the atrocities performed on the indigenous people may seem as passive encouragement; however when the ex-gratia payments are made, one wonders at the active enablement of the Indonesian forces earning extra money through private ‘contract’ work. To whom does the allegiance lie – protection of the people of West Papua or Freeport? When the Indonesian Government holds a 9% share in Freeport and condones the ex-gratia payments, do they serve the people of West Papua or their colonial interests?

Ernst & Young as auditors of Freeport are silently complicity in the torture and death of people such as Yawan Wayeni. In failing to expose and denounce the ex-gratia payments made by Freeport, Ernst & Young reinforce the supposed acceptability of ‘buying’ protection, when it is well known that the protection is being delivered at the end of a machete or gun. Yes, Ernst & Young may well lose the contract with Freeport if they were to be vocal about the under the table payments, but at least their integrity would rate more highly, especially when they express such pride in their accolades to corporate responsibility and diversity.

The protection of human rights only comes with transparency of records and accountability for actions. Without these two things we feed a cancer that eats at the focus of society eroding the values and denying the original premise to respect human dignity, until one day we wonder how we came to live in a community where atrocities have been allowed to happen on our doorstep unchecked, even consented. The Germans learned this lesson in the hardest possible way.

This is the world we are fostering. These grand bodies and highflying firms are the constructs of people like you and me. They are our tools, our servants. We must be ruled by them only as far as they serve to promote the human dignity of each person. As soon as they cease to do so, we must expose the festering sores lest we be complicit, silent though it may be, in the destruction of society. The denigration of a single person at the expense of another speaks of inequality, of social classes and differing standards depending on status. Ernst & Young has had within its power the ability to denounce the ex-gratia payments made by Freeport to the Indonesian enforcers for the past 12 years, but has remained silent. As such they are complicit in the genocide that is occurring just north of the Gulf of Carpentaria. It seems for all their skiting that political expediency and fiscal expectations hold greater sway for the Big 4 accounting firm than does the protection of human rights.

We are responsible for our institutions. Without us, they cannot exist. We are therefore responsible for pointing out the failures of those institutions within our societies. If we do not, then we cheat ourselves and must accept the consequences, consequences that will inevitably lead to the break down of the society we failed to hold accountable. The saying that people get the government they deserve would perhaps be well expanded to express that we get the society we deserve. That society includes corporations who, without its customers cannot succeed in business. Ernst & Young has an ability to influence the unscrupulous behaviour of Freeport in West Papua and we have an opportunity to point to both Freeport and it’s accountants. As long as the West Papuan people continue to be tortured, raped, attacked, live in sub-standard dwellings, be denied educations and live in fear of their Indonesian governors, we have a responsibility to speak up for them. If pressure can be borne to bear on Joseph Kony by the voices of millions of people spurred on by a single video, then the same can happen for the West Papuans. Ernst & Young could be leading the way, but they are not. This complicity, it’s all about money, but then, that’s business. I’m not sure I want to live in a world where business takes precedence over human dignity. What about you?

Will you sign the petition calling for a Royal Commission into the Australian Federal Police?


  1. Anne Shiny via Facebook says:

    Tom Ashby, part two of my answer to your query.

  2. Those cunts at Ernst and Young should take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Human beings are human beings, white, black and yellow. Where does it say in the Bible, the book the Yanks hold so dear, that it’s OK to murder a blackfella fo the benefit of a white fella?

  3. Yes Anne I believe that everyone has a moral responsibility to speak out about or against things that are wrong. We can’t, though we do, turn a blind eye to those who suffer so that we in Australia and elsewhere in the West can enjoy a confortable life style.

  4. Thank you Anne Shiny for responding to the question I threw into the mix. Yes I agree that EY by their silence are approving of what their client is doing, in this case their client is complicit in genocide, a big thing to be silent about.

  5. Tom Ashbyya right buddy, if EY keeps its trap shut about a crime being committed by one of its clients, especially a big crime like genocide then it is guilty, after the fact, of that crime. Shame EY isn’t black, the nit would see the wrong side of the law.

  6. Anne I follow your argument. Do you believe that just because EY has not spoken out against or at least drawn attention to Freeports payments to the Indonesian military that it is guilty of the crime of genocide? In other words does EY’s greed for fees make them complicit in their clients wrong doings or jusr, greedy and self-centered?

  7. Susan Rendall EY are the auditors, they know what is going on, they are guilty of genocide in the same way that Freeport is!

  8. Silence is golden, something we say to children when that misbehave. Perhaps EY and Freeport are the children of the corporate world, if so, then perhaps it’s time a responsible adult came and took control. Until that happens, keep up the punishement. There is never an excuse for genocide. Bakchos Glass I have been told by the LA Israeli Consulate that your parents-in-law are Holocaust survivors, perhaps you should ask then about whether there can ever be an excuse for genocide, their response might make for an interesting post.

  9. Sharon Coc well said, so I wonder who a responsible adult might be, who could come along and deal with the naughty greedy children, perhaps the OPM? As for Blak and Black, keep up the punishment until the responsible adults arrive.

  10. Ey and freeport need a bat around the head or a pipe in the solar plexus, what they are do is a disgrace. I only pray that OPM can deliver the kind of justice they deserve. Whate price genocide, well for a tax partner at EY about $550.00 p/hr. Life is cheap to a blood sucking fuck!

  11. Estelle Dunlop yep it’s time for bats and pipes in Papua, first bwe need to get rid of the corruption, for that we should start with the AFP, followed by Freeport then the Indonesian’s themselves. Justice can only come at the end of a bat for these people. First revolution, then freedom, then justice!

  12. Anne Shiny our slience does come at a cost, in this case the cost is borne by the indigenous people of West Papua, how a corporation can turn a ‘blind eye’ to genocide in the name of corporate profits is beyond me. I have made a submission to my employers finance committee recommending that we cease using EY until is showes some corporate maturity and stops turning a ‘blind eye’ to genocide.

  13. Interesting that EY, Freeport and their corporate mates only behave like naughty children when they are dealing with indigenous people, bet this kind of bull shit wouldn’t occur in the US or Oz or Canada. Yes they are naughty and they need to be punished!

  14. I used to believe in giving children a free hand to explore life, but children can certainly do a lot of damage. Even a “Little Fly” has rights and children must learn to respect those rights. Lets hope the OPM comes along with a big spear and teaches Freeport and EY to respect “Little Fly’s”

  15. Helen Roland whitie, especially corporate whitie treat indigenous people worse than the “Little Fly” at least Blake could feel sympathy for the Fly, what does corporate whitie feel for us? Nothing

  16. Yep Richard Millhouse ya got it, to whitie the blackfella ait’t worth a pinch of Fly shit, let alone a whole Fly!

  17. One day with a bit of luck Crporate whitie might elevate us to the level of a Fly, then they can openly exterminate us using nuro-toxins instead of the more stuble forms of police brutality, unlawful arrest and detention during whichwe hsppen to fall from locked windows on the 40th floor of buildings, rape and durg addiction.

  18. Phillipa Coe I’m not sure that corporate whitie would spend the money on neurotoxins, anyway the parts can be traced. It’s easier to pit one indigenous person against another. Say you are all primative and could not adjust to the corporate whitie world. Much simplier.

  19. Mahmud Ahsan via Facebook says:

    Jenifer Trees with All”ah’s mercy corporate whitie will meet with justice. You can’t ignore law, justice and heaven indefinetly. God sees everything and he judges everyone. All’ah be praised for his kindness.

  20. Mahmud Ahsan God may well be watching but he seems to be blinded by the bleach or white paint the whiter than white christians use to cover all the crimes they commit against humanity in the name of greed and envy. Sadly a fellwo country man of mine in Canberra has been responsible for a lot of crimes against humanity including racism, racial hatred, rape, assault, theft and he is still employed by the ACT Government!

  21. Anne Shiny via Facebook says:

    Your countryman, Paulo? You really want to claim him as such? I’d happily strip him of his Australian citizenship, which I understand he must have if he’s working in the public service. He must have missed this line in the citizenship docs: “the rule of law — The laws protect all Australians and no one is ‘above the law’, not even the Prime Minister or the police.” http://www.citizenship.gov.au/learn/schools/_pdfs/secondary_school_teaching_resource.pdf

    Susan Rendall, I am saying that EY is complicit in the abuse of human rights in West Papua, which makes them complicit in the genocide being played out by the Indonesian overseers. The sheer number of Papuans killed in the past 43 years is sickening. For more than a decade EY has had the ability to point to questionable transactions, be it the ex-gratia payments mentioned in the post or other under the table payments that may have been made. In failing to denounce such transactions, they commit the West Papuans to a future where utility is more important that individual dignity.

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