Guest Blogger: Eric Ness

Regular readers of Unspun will be familiar with Eric Ness, son of Richard who is facing a court case for allegedly letting his company, Newmont, pollute Buyat Bay. Since Eric started blogging he’s been controversial.

Some praise him for using new media to secure the publicity for his father when the mainstream media has exhausted ints interest in the long drawn out case. His detractors, however, think that he’s just a front for some cynical PR men working for Newmont. Some even question whether he really exists. Among the allegations are whether all his activities are funded by Newmont.

Eric was in town last week and managed to meet up with two or three foreign correspondents at the Face Bar (the JFCC  “endorsed” meeting caused a flap among the squabbling foreign correspondents, but that’s another matter all together). Unspun, ever thirsty for alcohol paid a visit to the Face Bar after the meeting and caught up with Eric and his dad. Unspun also thought it would be a neat idea that Eric does a guest posting here, provided he also addressed some of the thougher questions posed by journalists. (Disclosure: Eric’s dad Richard, who was also there, was quicker to the draw with his credit card and as a result paid for the two glasses of shiraz tht Unspun consumed to improve his constitution).  Below is Eric’s posting :

Asking Real Questions
About a week ago I was asked by Unspun to be a guest blogger at his site. I thought it would have been good to share the experience of my trip to Manado to attend my Dad’s trial in court and my subsequent diving trip at Buyat Bay. The diving was actually amazing; in fact probably the best dive I have ever done.
Along the way I did interviews with a couple of reporters. Some of whom have asked to meet me. For example, a meeting with the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) was set up after my Dad did an interview with the head of the JFCC and they thought that it would be a good opportunity for some reporters and me to finally meet. There have been some reporters/bloggers I’ve wanted to meet like Unspun and there are some reporters my Dad recommended me to meet. I’ve really enjoyed talking to everyone I’ve met and having the opportunity to engage with a variety of people regarding my site and my Dad’s case. Overall, it’s been a huge learning experience for me.
However, about two days ago I received an email from Unspun in which he reported that some journalists have suggested that among other things Newmont paid for my ticket to Indonesia. This is not true and Unspun could be contacted for any verification. I flew economy and paid for the ticket myself. If I am in Jakarta and interact with a few journalists or the staff of Newmont because my Dad works there, it should not be misconstrued as some sort of a well organized PR plan. Initially, I have to say I was a little perplexed as I’ve tried to make myself available to answer any question from anyone and found it odd that no one has asked me directly. So if anyone would like to contact me directly I can be reached at eric .:|at|:.
Where is the forest?

And this leads me to the main issue. Unspun wrote a great blog last week where he rightly pointed out that the real story about Adam Air is not the fact that they painted the plane white, but how could Adam Air have the audacity to do such a thing and get away with it? The primary question is who should be held accountable for allowing this to even occur, not the color Adam Air chose to hide the evidence. Accountability or the lack thereof remains key in the many events that unfold around us everyday and should be the basis of any inquiry and frankly it is the unfounded allegations in my Dad’s case that are a primary example of accountability failure.
Holding people answerable for their actions begs a series of simple questions: why is an innocent man sitting in trial for a crime he clearly didn’t commit? How can the New York Times, who clearly was covering the Buyat Case, suddenly stop reporting when my Dad was presenting his defense? How can 24 samples taken at the Bay and used as evidence magically grow to 34 when it reached the Police laboratory? How could the Technical Team’s report mislead the whole government with the help of the assumption that people living around Buyat Bay eat 5kg of fish per day each and every day of their life? How could the Technical Team use a non-existent ASEAN standard to justify their erroneous conclusions? Where was the fairness in the process of investigation and prosecution of this case so far?  How can those entrusted and sworn to uphold the law themselves violate the laws they sworn to uphold? What about the devastating impacts this mis-information has had on the people of Buyat and the surrounding communities? Are those that perpetrated the Buyat Bay fiasco going to be held accountable for their misdeeds or are they going to walk away free into the sunset?  Does anybody care?  To me these are the real questions that need to be answered and not the query of if I flew Business Class to Indonesian and who paid for the ticket.
Also, there is no dearth of environmental issues in Indonesia but it will be the Buyat case that will go down in Indonesia’s history as the example of the wrong environmental case. Only time will tell if a real environmental issue will ever make it to a court. In the mean time I wait pensively to see the pathway to justice for my Dad-if there is one.
All that aside, I have enjoyed my short visit to Indonesia, the pleasure of finally meeting some of you in person and a special thanks to Unspun for inviting me as a guest on your blog.

3 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Eric Ness

  1. Unspun, Eric:

    Very interesting and some very pertinent questions raised.

    I’d just like to pursue the “who funds Eric’s activities?” angle in a bit more depth.

    Eric, in at least one of your one-one-on meetings with a foreign journalist last week, the venue was a rather sumtuous luncheon buffet at the Ritz Carleton in Jakarta.

    That venue – and the fact that you were accompanied by a Newmont “media relations” staffer – suggests a pretty obvious hands-on effort by Newmont to assist you in getting their message out about Buyat Bay and your father’s case.

    Don’t get me wrong – if a close relative of mine was in similar situation I’d pull out all the stops to help him/her as well.

    But I think it’s disingenuous in the extreme to keep claiming that you’re some “lone wolf” in your efforts to describe the apparent inconsistencies in the case against your father.

    Obviously Newmont sees you as useful means to try to drum up sympathy for your father’s case among members of the Indonesia-based foreign media by personalizing the issue.

    There’s a very logical symbiosis there and Newmont would be remiss to pass it up.

    And your relationship with Newmont – whether you care to recognize it or not – doesn’t undermine what are no doubt highly altruistic motives on your part to help your father.

    But the above gives useful context to the rest of the community about your and Newmont’s activities.



  2. Hey Kay,

    Thanks for the comments. Probably the best way to respond to your comments is to provide some additional context.

    The meeting you are referring to was with an AP reporter Chris Brumitt (sp?) and yes, I was accompanied by a Newmont “media relations” staffer, yes it was at the Ritz-Carlton and yes, I think the food could be described as “sumptuous”.

    I do think however, it is also important to note that the geneses of this interview started when the head of AP here in Indonesia (I don’t know her name but, with whom I was told was going to originally interview me and was called away) interviewed my Dad and much to my amusement, her final question I remember my Dad telling me was some people wondered if I even exited. So when I arrived in town it was invited to meet with them.

    Now does it “suggests a pretty obvious hands-on effort by Newmont”? I have no idea. In the 4/5 interviews I’ve been to and that were accompanied by PR, I’ve seen reporters and PR act as if the were friends and in other cases simply do introductions and walk out of the room. So at this point did I think it was inappropriate or odd? No, and I think the most reporters would agree.

    In response to some of your other comments, I don’t think I’ve ever categorized myself as a lone wolf and to be honest I don’t think it is fair to suggest that I am a PR puppet. I wrote Unspun an e-mail a few days ago that I think aptly summarizes my entire relationship with Newmont’s PR.

    “To be honest I’m always a little confused by these [comments] because I think some would be surprised at how little contact I’ve actually had with anybody related to Newmont ….as an example up until a week ago I don’t think I have ever even met any of Jakarta’s PR people and I’ve literally meet some of the guys over at McGinn [A Newmont Consultant] about five/ten times … in part because they are based out of DC and we have been at some of the same functions.”

    And to give readers a little additional insight in what I’ve been trying to accomplish, I consider the site about half of what I am trying to do for my Dad. In DC, every couple of months I go up to the US Capital and give my Dad’s Senators and the US Dept of State an update as to the current status of the trial – which as a side note is a huge part of the reason I started the blog. You may also be interested to know how many times up until about 3 weeks ago how many of these meetings Newmont has set up? Zero. I have also done several press and radio interviews from people I’ve met through the blog in the US.

    I do agree with a number of your later sentiments regarding Newmont and that we share a similar goal.

    ….and well there you have it. And if you would like to discuss this further please feel free to contact me – my e-mail is posted above and maybe we can go have a “sumptuous” coffee.



  3. Hey Eric,

    Just a suggestion, on the question of whether or not your activities are funded by Newmont… The line that ‘it’s just a coincidence that I’m here’, I don’t think’ll fly too well.
    Apart from anything else, your Dad works for Newmont, he’s given you financial support either now in the past (presumably because you seem to have a good relationship), so you’ll be on the same side as Newmont.
    Might be better to pitch yourself as the Dutiful Son fighting for his Dad. That’ll work a whole lot better.

    But the residual suspicion is something you’ll come up against again and again – especially from Indonesians. But pushing the family angle would disarm them. They love family.

    Kay makes these points about the sumptuous meal at the Ritz-Carlton. People would expect Newmont to throw resources at this campaign. As Kay says — no-one would blame you for stepping in to help your Dad. But the Lone Wolf spin won’t fly, you’re a bit young to be playing this game, son.


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