Freeport: Student solidarity for change.

[awasMIFEE note: after a month where the giant Freeport mine became a topic for national debate across Indonesia once again, focussed as always on whether or not the US company should be obliged to hand over a controlling stake to the Indonesian Government,  Papuan students have been asking why no-one ever talks about the mine’s destructive impact on Papua amidst this outpouring of Indonesian economic nationalism. On 20th March, students demonstrated in Jayapura and Timika in Papua and in cities across Indonesia where Papuan students were joined by Indonesian supporters from the solidarity network “FRI West Papua”. The text below is a statement from the organisers of the demo in Jayapura, which reportedly attracted 500 people.]

Student solidarity for change.

United Student Front to shut Freeport [FPM-TF]

Shut Freeport and all foreign companies, which are the mastermind of crimes against humanity and environmental destruction in Papua.

“Allow freedom and the right to self-determination as the democratic solution for the Papuan people” 

On Monday, 20th March 2017, a peaceful demonstration tookk place, co-ordinated by students. This action took place in several areas simultaneously, including Jayapura city, Timika, Jogjakarta, Bandung, Manado, Bogor, Palu and Jakarta. The demands of the actions were to close the Freeport mine and to allow freedom and the right to self-determination.

The following is a reflection and statement of opinion written by the United Student Front to Shut Freeport in Jayapura City.

Whether or not Freeport should divest its stake in PT Freeport Indonesia, as legislated for in Presidential Regulation no 1/2017, is now becoming a hot topic for debate within Papuan society, ranging from Governor Lukas Enembe who supports Indonesian policy to institutions which have related interests, and also the Papuan bureaucracy. However, all those who support the plan to divest 51% or an extension of the contract of work, whether they are Papuans or from elsewhere, are drawing naive conclusions.

The squabble that divides the Indonesian Governent and Freeport, whether the company should divest a 51% stake or not, whether Freeport’s legal status in Indonesia should be changed to a special mining liscence (IUPK) or remain a Contract of Work, is a polemic played out between the vested interests of capital and bureaucrats claiming to speak on behalf of the people. In particular, it does not reflect the interests of the people of Papua.

This chaotic situation has already created many victims amongst the casual workers employed by PT Freeport Indonesia. They have been dismissed without their need for a livelihood having been taken into account(ie severance pay). It is very clear that it is a principle of capitalism that workers are needed in times of capital expansion and accumulation. In times of crisis, they are not troubled to think about the fate of workers.

The same is true for the social situation of the West Papuan people. PT Freeport Indonesia is known internationally as one of the biggest mining companies in the world. But what do the Papuan people get from this? Poverty, human rights violations, genocide, colonialism, and its nature destroyed by a capitalist system that produces more and more without consideration of the laws of nature and the effects on human life. Read More »

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Malalilis oh Malalilis, what fate has befallen you?

Malalilis is a village belonging to the Moi people in Sorong Regency, Papua Barat Province. The village is located quite far from the main road and with few inhabitants, but with an immense forest. What is it like now? Maybe it was because the forest was so vast and the inhabitants sparse that outsiders considered that the forest had no owner, and so cleared 40,000 hectares and planted an oil palm plantation. This area used to be part of a logging concession,but has now been converted into a lease title for cultivation. Now the Moi people in this place live a precarious live in the middle of an oil palm plantation owned by PT Henrison Inti Persada (HIP) What follows are the stories of the inhabitants, recorded when participants in the Conference for Indigenous Communities affected by Investment in the Land of Papua visited on Sunday, 4th December 2016. How sad it was….!

“We’re not against development, but as we understand it, development has to benefit us too. But what has been happening? They tear down our forest, they don’t respect us, their behaviour towards us is as if we weren’t the landowners. Some of the ways they treat us include: We’re not allowed to walk around the plantation in search of food during the daytime, they say if we want to look for food, go ahead, but just do it at night-time; 2) We are not able to keep livestock at home. They go from house to house and kill our animals, especially dogs, but those are the dogs we use to go hunting and find food”

“There’s a lot more we have to put up with. We’ve shouted about this all over the place, but it seems that all the doors are closed for us. Our young people who fight for our rights are just arrested by the police and put in prison. And then the men or women who work as labourers on the plantation, they have been fired without a reason and without severance payments. And at the same time, we no longer have the forest with which to sustain ourselves.”

“Even more cruelly, we used to work for the company when it first started, and when we were thirsty and asked for water to drink, they just said to us to drink the water from the ditch. Before the forest was felled we could drink water from pools, swamps, rivers, and even without boiling it we never got sick. Now they use so many chemical sprays and then tell us to drink the water. Where do you come from? Who are you anyway? Why are we being told to drink ditch-water full of chemical sprays?”

“They have cleared land for smallholdings [a contractual obligation to provide a new livelihood for local people- tr]. They’ve felled our forest down to the bare earth, and you can see for yourself the weeds and thick undergrowth over there. We don’t know if there’s any government looking after us or not, because it seems that they’re just leaving us on a road to obliteration. The women that work have to leave for work at 4.00am, and what about the children they leave at home, our future generation? Are they deliberately trying to wipe us out? Are we citizens or aren’t we? If a woman is suffering from period pains and wants medicine from the clinic, she has to show sanitary pads as proof before they will attend to her.”

“Now it is as if we are living in prison. If we want to leave to the city we need to report to the security post and it’s the same when we arrive back home. Being treated like this drives us to oppose the planting of oil palm trees on the smallholding land. Just leave the cleared forest, leave it alone, eventually the forest wil grow back” Read More »

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PT Agriprima Cipta Persada clears the Mahuze Kewamese Clan’s Ancestral Forest.

Titus Mahuze, a resident of Afkab Makmur village in Muting District, Merauke Regency, has complained about how oil palm company PT Agriprima Cipta Persada has cleared land and ancestral forest belonging to the Mahuze Kewamese, without meeting with the community first and obtaining their agreement.

In 2015, PT ACP started to conduct a survey of land potential and concession boundaries within the ancestral land of the Mahuze Kewamese and Basik-Basik Alizan clans. The company carried out this work without holding a meeting to reach a consensus or waiting for the Mahuze Kewamese clan to reach their decision. In April 2016, PT ACP followed this up by clearing the ancestral forest and bulldozing the land which has now been planted with oil palm.

The people did not resist and made no effort to stop the company’s work. “Our clan-members could only watch and accept submissively, there was nothing we could do”, said Titus Mahuze, the leader of the Mahuze Kewamese clan.

There had once been an invitation to engage in negotiations over its use of the land, in the presence of the Mahuzes as well as other clans that own land in the area in 2014. That meeting was attended by the village head, members of the military and Titus Mahuze, but PT ACP was not present and nor were other clan members.

“The meeting was a failure and we erected markers as a customary prohibition against using land, forest and sago groves belonging to the Mahuze Kewamese clan, but then the company cleared our forest anyway”, Titus Mahuze said.

PT ACP promised it would give compensation money for the clan’s land which would be cleared and turned into an oil palm plantation. However the Mahuze Kewamese clan has still not received this money and does not even know how much it is supposed to be, and no agreement has been reached about the use of this land – even though the trees have already been felled and the land planted with oil palm. Read More »

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Three Clans in Yang Village Oppose new Plantation Companies

[awasMIFEE note: The letter below, from members of the Auyu ethnic group living near the Kia River, is in reaction to pressure to accept a new investor on their land. An Auyu man, vested with some authority from the local government, has been acting as a broker, in this case reportedly pushing people to reject one potential investor in favour of a new one, getting them to sign documents they didn’t understand and also giving them money. The community now fear that if two companies have rival claims over their land, and they are being pressured to take sides this will produce a conflict in which they will become involved.

Here’s a little bit of background on the companies involved: PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu is one of seven Menara Group concessions which obtained permits in Boven Digoel, and the only one which was not sold on to a Malaysian company. That company distributed money as compensation for taking the Auyu people’s land back in 2013, and even though that process was also coercive and manipulative (the company did not allow a proper decision making process, it held one meeting in the regency capital and then distributed cash) the community recognise that this transaction will in practice give PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu rights over their land. The new companies are PT Perkebunan Boven Digoel Abadi, which has been allocated an area of 37,010 hectares in Subur subdistrict, PT Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa, with an area of 30,190 hectares in Kia sub-district, and PT Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera, with an area of 39.440 hectares, however maps of the concessions are not available. Although the ownership of these companies cannot be confirmed, all three are registered at the office of an oil palm company called PT Bumi Mitratrans Marjaya, which is owned by Vence Rumangkang, one of the founders of the Demokrat Party].

A statement of opposition to the new companies which wish to operate on PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s concession by the indigenous people of the Kia River watershed in Boven Digoel, southern Papua.

PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu is a subsidiary of the Menara Group. In April 2013 PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu paid money to the indigenous community to release their customary land to the company – the Woboi and Afu clans in Meto village were given this money on Monday 22nd April 2013. Since then the company has disappeared and has yet to surface, now in 2017 entering the fourth year. We don’t know whether or not the Indonesian State has any regulations to deal with companies which disappear in this way, such as revoking their permits.

PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s disappearance without a trace was perceived as an opportunity by other companies. So in early November 2016, one of the three companies whose permits were signed by the Bupati of Boven Digoel regency in November 2015 came to Asiki, accompanied by an official of the Boven Digoel Indigenous People’s Association (LMA) and encouraged the local people to oppose PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu, with the reason that the company had been absent for so long leaving no way to be able to get in touch with them.

The LMA official prepared a letter of agreement with the new companies, pushed the people who felt they were being held in Asiki without consent to sign a letter of opposition, giving each of them an envelope containing 1 million Rupiah. They were told that their signatures were only for the attendance list, but it seemed that a lot of signatures were required, and the attendance register was a thick book. It appeared we were being forced to sign, (in particular by the LMA official). Now we feel we were lied to and forced to sign something which we didn’t ourselves properly understand.

The Woboi and Afu clans in Meto and Yang villages are clans whose ancestral forest is part of PT Usaha Nabati Terpadu’s concession and is now targetted by other companies as explained above. The following are some of the clear points which arose from a meeting of the Woboi and Afu clans which took place in Yang village on 2nd January 2017. Read More »

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The traps and manipulations that place control in the hands of capital

Oil palm companies in Papua refer to themselves as a pioneer industry, opening up the interior, trailblazers for new investment and stimulators of local economies. The government has prepared various pieces of legislation to facilitate investment, permits and economic incentives to smooth the way for this pioneer industry, even providing security through the use of state security forces.

On the ground, companies introduce a system of contract law relating to transferral of land rights, in which this is a legal requirement and a condition to obtain cultivation rights title (Hak Guna Usaha). Traditions and customary law around land tenure and land use are stripped away, and they are obliged to follow national laws and corporate management protocol. If there is any recognition of indigenous traditions and precepts, such as a ritual to ask permission or a gift, then it is only undertaken as a formality, a matter of business ethics.

The Worait clan, along with the majority of the Aifat people living arounf the Kais and Kamundan rivers in South Sorong and Maybrat Regencies, and the Puragi people around the Metamani River, South Sorong, are currently having to deal with one of these pioneers of oil palm plantations, part of the ANJ (Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk) Group. Three subsidiaries of ANJ are operating in the area: PT Permata Putera Mandiri (PPM), PT Putera Manunggal Perkasa (PMP) and PT Pusaka Agro Makmur (PAM), with a total planned plantation area of 82,468 hectares.

The majority of the ANJ Group’s licensed area is forest land which was formerly part of PT Wanagalang Utama’s logging concession, which was part of the Kalimanis Group owned by timber mogul The Kian Seng alias Bob Hasan. Then, in 2011, 2012 and 2014 the government issued a series of decrees to release the land, which had been classified as production forest which may be converted, to be turned into oil palm plantations by ANJ’s three subsidiaries.

The minister gave his approval to release forest land, changing its intended use from forest to non-forest (ie. deforestation) to become an oil palm plantation, only based on technical considerations from state bodies concerned with forestry, accordance to spatial plans, and of course economic and political considerations under the pretext of being a “national programme” and in the name of development. The minister issued his decrees without consultation or agreement of the local community. Such policies and practices still work on the assumption that the state has an absolute right of control. It is in contradiction with the Papuan Special Autonomy Law which recognises the rights of indigenous Papuans.

The way that business works in Papua is that corporations use government decrees as assets and a means to consolidate power, and then take control of the land. The majority of the people are not able to reject government decisions and company plans to use forest products and land, just as they couldn’t stop the logging companies that used to exploit the forests in this area, destroying sacred forest areas, clearing social and cultural sites, logging areas which provided food and economic resources for the community.

Memoria passionis, the memory of irregular incidents, violence, discrimination and violations of basic rights that have occurred time and time again in decades past, and continue to the present day, has made the community choose a defensive attitude, preferring to giving in easily rather than being subjected to more violence and insinuated allegations, and the risks of other kinds of aggression. Read More »

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In 2016 plantation expansion in Papua slowed due to international pressure – but can it last, and can indigenous Papuans set the agenda?

In 2016 indigenous opposition to new plantations has continued around Papua: In Muting, Merauke some clans from the Marind, Yei and Mandobo ethnic groups have declared that their land is not to be used for oil palm. Representatives of the Auyu, Wambon and Muyu ethnic groups in Boven Digoel and members of the Aifat people in Maybrat have complained that they have been deceived by palm oil companies operating in their areas. People in Sorong and Maybrat regencies have demonstrated to demand the revocation of plantation permits in their areas. In Keerom, the Marap people have established customary law blockades and held protests at state-owned company PTPN II’s plantation, saying they were taking back the land the company grabbed decades ago. The Yerisiam people in Nabire have also opposed a palm oil company which started clearing their sacred sago groves for a smallholder program, when the community had expressly requested the company to leave the groves alone just two months before.

These local conflicts are not a new phenomena, Papuans have been determined to defend their rights to ancestral land for many years. In recent years, as more and more plantations are established in Papua, many communities realise they have more to lose if their forest is destroyed than they might gain from the plantation economy. Opposition from local indigenous communities has been successful in halting several plantation projects in Papua, where potential investors regularly cite the problems of obtaining rights to indigenous land as one of their main obstacles.

However, a major change this year is that action at a entirely different level also seems to be changing the outlook for the palm oil industry in Papua, limiting its expansion, which would be good news for the forest, and probably forest-dependent communities too. In 2016 several international environmental organisations have chosen to focus on companies involved in Papua, which they are starting to see an important frontier for forest protection.

As a result, several oil palm companies have halted planting, and it looks likely that the pace of forest conversion will have significantly slowed as a result. But it is by no means certain that this trajectory is set to continue, it could still go either way depending on whether a new push for sustainability manages to transform the industry or whether it fails and settles back into business as usual.

The main mechanism being used to drive this change is through companies’ supply chains. In 2013 and 2014, key palm oil trading and refining companies bowed to pressure from their major customers and signed up to policies saying they would not source palm oil from companies engaged in deforestation, draining peat bogs or exploiting local people or workers.

At least 60% of palm oil traded around the world is now supposed to be covered by these ‘no deforestation, peat or exploitation’ (NDPE) commitments. The three largest trading companies, Wilmar, Golden Agri Resources and Musim Mas, which were all well-known for terrible records of deforestation, were convinced to sign up, and this had an important direct result for Papua as all three groups abandoned plantation plans which would have involved deforestation (Wilmar c.160,000 hectares of sugar cane plantations, Musim Mas 160,000 hectares of oil palm plantations and GAR 20,000 hectares of oil palm). Read More »

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The Auyu people strategise to defend their rights.

The problems around local objections to oil palm companies menacing the territory of the Auyu people around the Digoel and Ki rivers in Boven Digoel regency are not over yet. Now, local government has issued location permits to three new palm oil companies.

The three companies are PT Perkebunan Boven Digoel Abadi, which has been allocated an area of 37,010 hectares in Subur subdistrict, PT Bovendigoel Budidaya Sentosa, with an area of 30,190 hectares in Kia sub-district, and PT Perkebunan Bovendigoel Sejahtera, with an area of 39.440 hectares. These companies all come from Jakarta and operate from the same address: 11th floor of the Graha Pratama building, Jl. MT Haryono Kavling 15. The three companies were issued with location permits in decrees issued by the Bupati of Boven Digoel in November 2015.

The communities in Meto village in Subur sub-district and Watemu village in Kia sub-district, admitted to feeling anxious as company staff and government officials showed up, accompanied by organisers from the official indigenous association (LMA) of Boven Digoel Regency.

Lukas Kemon, a community leader from Meto village related that “The government and the head of the Boven Digoel LMA, Fabianus Senfahagi, brought the company here to take away our land. They didn’t hold a consensus meeting with the community, and we fear the company will destroy our entire forest”.

Some time ago, company staff and Fabianus Senfahagi, who as well as being head of the LMA is a well-known figure amongst the Auyu people and is head of Satpol PP (Civil Service Police Unit) in Boven Digoel, came to visit villages near to the Ki river, in Subur and Kia sub-districts. They attempted to persuade the community to accept the companies’ plans. Company workers also carried out a survey and entered the forest without the community’s permission.

Lukas Kemon gave a summary of the plans, promises and offers the company and government had made: They told us that the Auyu people should not continue to be poor, to live in poverty in the forest, asking for handouts and suffering. We’re bringing you a good company, they said, its leadership includes religious leaders, it’s sure to do good work. You have to accept these companies moving onto the Auyu lands.

In 2011, exactly the same thing had happened, community figures at the regency and sub-district level showed up with government officials and staff of the Menara Group oil palm company, approached the community, gave them donations, compensation money, and then asked for their agreement and signatures so the company could obtain land for an oil palm plantation. Tens of thousands of hectares of land and forest belonging to the Auyu people in Subur, Kia and Jair sub-districts is now in the company’s clutches, and meanwhile the community has descended into conflict and disharmony. Read More »

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Declaration of Indigenous Papuans affected by Forestry, Plantations and Mining.

A conference of indigenous Papuans affected by the forestry, plantation and mining industries was held in Sorong on 2nd and 3rd December 2014,  a follow-up to a similar conference held in Waena, Jayapura in 2014. This is the joint statement agreed by participants in that meeting.

Joint Declaration

We, as representatives of indigenous peoples from the land of Papua who live in and around forest areas, along with civil society organisations from around Papua and further afield, held a conference in Sorong on the 2nd and 3rd December 2016, to discuss various problems related to development policy and investments in forestry and land, and their effects on people and environment.

We have repeatedly conveyed the facts surrounding the negative impacts of investment in forestry and land on the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples around Papua, including violations of their right to life, right to freedom, right to justice and freedom from discrimination, right to not be tortured, right to feel safe, rights to our land, forest and territory, violations of the principle of free, prior informed consent, right to food, right to welfare and development, and also low rates of pay and poor working conditions, forest degradation and destruction, and environmental damage.

We wish to state our pain and deep concern about all these rights violations, the suffering and the losses which we have experienced, both in the past and until the present day, which have come abut as a result of forestry investment and exploitation of forest products, plantations and mining, carried out by private or state-owned companies, with no just settlement or attempts at redress for what we have lost.

We wish to state our concern at government plans and policies for the acceleration of development in the Land of Papua, by providing opportunities and increased flexibility for wealthy companies, through the large-scale national food and energy development programme in Merauke, expansion of oil palm plantations and other export commodities, exploitation of forests, industrial forestry plantations, mining permits, transport infrastructure, and so on, all of which take place with insufficient prior protection of our fundamental rights, our right to land and livelihood and environmental conservation.

Based on this scenario, we would like to make the following recommendations: Read More »

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The Menara Group* has not carried out its obligations.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Forestry Minister issued decrees releasing state forest land to twelve oil palm plantation companies in and around Jair sub-district of Boven Digoel Regency.

Five of those companies are owned by or still have connections with a Malaysian company, the Menara Group*: PT. Usaha Nabati Terpadu (37.918 ha), PT. Megakarya Jaya Raya (39.920 ha), PT. Kartika Cipta Pratama (38.160 ha), PT. Graha Kencana Mulia (38.725 ha), PT. Energi Samudera Kencana (38.525 ha). Currently, only one of these companies, PT Megakarya Jaya Raya is operational, and is based in Anggai Village, Jair Sub-district, Boven Digoel Regency.

According to Stevanus Meanggi, a resident of Anggai village, PT MJR has been clearing forest since 2013, and has currently cleared an area of over 3000 hectares, which is less than 10% of the concession. The majority of the area has been planted with oil palm. The company is also trying to develop a plywood factory at a place called Sabageran.

The head of the Planning Division of Boven Digoel Forestry Service, Zeth Manti, reckons that PT MJR has been under-performing in the oil palm business, meaning the company is behind schedule with planting. “They once applied for a two-year extension of their permit for the nursery, although it would have been possible in three months. There are obstacles and objections to land acquisition coming from the community, and maybe that’s because the company failed to approach the community beforehand”, said Zeth Manti.

Several problems have been identified, including the following: there are still clan members who have not agreed to let a company manage their land, intimidation to acquire land, an unfairly low level of compensation for land, clearing sago groves, a low rate of compensation for timber – 10,000 Rupiah per tree, discrimination against Papuan workers, low wages, company promises that haven’t been followed-up, the company ignoring agreements it has made, the community has still not received a written agreement concerning the use of the land and so on.

Zeth Manti complained that actually a company should make regular reports to local government and related bodies concerning matters such as any obstacles encountered, how work is progressing and draft work plans.

Companies have a responsibility to make regular reports and send them to us, so we know about the company’s situation. But in fact this company has never reported to us or coordiated with us”, he said.

Zeth Manti had also heard the information that a plywood factory was being built in Anggai village, and that a traditional ritual to offer thanks for its development had been held, but the Boven Digoel Forestry Service had not been informed or invited, and so they had no further details. Read More »

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DAP statement on potential mining related conflict in Nifasi, Nabire

(This statement was first published on November 18th)

PT Kristalin Eka Lestari first arrived in Nifasi, in the ancestral land of the Wate people, in 2007, but left after exploration did not yield results. PT Kristalin then made an agreement with the Makimi indigenous group in 2012. There has been no activity between 2012 and 2016.

PT Tunas Anugerah Papua made an agreement with the people of Nifasi in 2014 and started operations. This included corporate social responsibility activities, which included setting up bank accounts for each household, paying for education, health, religious facilities and even a motorbike for each head-of household, as well as distributing basic foodstuffs each month paid from production profits.

The Mosairo River forms the boundary between the two blocks, the Makimi Block and the Nifasi block.

The main issue

Arriving as a contractor to PT Tunas Anugerah Papua in early October 2016, PT Kristalin came to Nifasi village and set up their outpost next to PT Tunas Anugerah Papua’s basecamp. They took over a community outpost and replaced it with a military post. As there was no response from the Nifasi indigenous people PT Kristalin Eka Lestari rallied around 30 members of the military (Yonif 753 Raider) and several Papuans from the highland Dani tribe to secure the location so the company could mine it. A military post was set up directly, displaying a sign reading NKRI Harga Mati: “Unified Indonesia or Death”.

To provide cover for this plan, the local unit commander sent a letter to the district commander in Paniai asking to use the area as a training ground (letter reference B/621/X/2016, dated 17th October 2016), but this is just a pretext to remain in the area for an indefinite time. Each time they bring fuel or food they say it belongs to the Regional Military Commander.


This situation has made the Wate people in Nifasi anxious, as they are continually being questioned by members of the military. On 7th October the military also conducted a sweeping operation, looking for foreign workers.

Another impact is that PT Tunas Anugerah Papua’s work is disrupted, which has meant that corporate social responsibility activities have been disturbed, such as a prayer meeting with the local community which was blocked by army forces. The security forces intimidated employees and were believed to have taken material belonging to PT Tunas Anugerah Papua. Read More »

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