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Jakarta Post

In memoriam: Mining executive Philip Jessup'€™s deep connection to Indonesia

  • Evi Mariani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, October 23, 2013   /  12:40 pm
In memoriam: Mining executive Philip Jessup'€™s deep connection to Indonesia Philip C. Jessup, Jr (third from left). (Courtesy of Soffie Wahju)

Philip C. Jessup, Jr (third from left). (Courtesy of Soffie Wahju)

Almost two months have passed since Philip C. Jessup, Jr. passed away in the United States but his friends and family in Indonesia still remember him fondly as a warm person with a big heart.

Jessup '€” a senior executive and lawyer to one of Indonesia'€™s largest nickel miners PT Inco (now Vale Indonesia) '€” was a key player in the creation of the so-called Second Generation Contracts between the Indonesian government and mining companies.

This contract, made in 1968, would later become the model for later contracts of work and followed the first contract of work of this kind between the government and PT Freeport Indonesia'€™s, which was signed in 1967. The project was a billion-dollar investment project and turned the sparsely-populated Soroako, South Sulawesi, from a village of around 700 people to 29,000 people.

Jessup'€™s role in the founding of Inco, the construction of the Soroako mine and his frequent trips to and from Indonesia in the late 1960s meant that the country became a significant part of Jessup and his family'€™s life. Helen Ibbitson Jessup, Jessup'€™s widow, said she had many fond memories during their stay in Indonesia.

'€œIt is impossible to settle on just one,'€ she said. '€œI think what always amazed us was the capacity of Indonesians to confront problems and find acceptable compromises and concessions on the part of the adversaries. I often thought of this enlightened cultural phenomenon during our recent governmental shut-down here in the US.'€

Jessup'€™s son, Timothy C. Jessup, who works as a forest and climate specialist at AustralianAID in Jakarta and lives here with his Indonesian wife and their three children, said he knew Indonesia through his father.

Tim was about 20 years old and in college when his father came to live in Indonesia but he and his two sisters would often visit his father, stepmother and his three step sisters and a step brother.

'€œWe would go to the National Museum, Bogor Botanical Gardens, Sunda Kelapa Port and of course Yogyakarta and Bali,'€ he said.

Tim said there was limited Western food in Jakarta back then but his father did not mind because he loved Indonesian food. '€œHe loved sambal, tempeh and anything spicy.'€

But the family'€™s experience of living in Indonesia was tainted by legal problems surrounding Inco in 1977. Consequently, Jessup was drawn into a preposterous lawsuit and faced four years in jail if convicted of criminal libel.

The case made The New York Times'€™ headline, which quoted Jessup'€™s lawyers as saying that the judge had hinted that a bribe of US$10,000 would sway his decision. Helen said many people, including several ambassadors, rallied to the cause and eventually the case was dropped.

Tim said despite the difficult times, his father still maintained his connection to Indonesia right until the end of his life. He and Helen regularly visited Indonesia, especially because of Helen'€™s involvement with the United States-Indonesia Society (Usindo). The last time Jessup senior visited was last year.

Soffie Wahju, a friend of Jessup'€™s family whose late husband, Beni Wahju was a pioneer geologist at the Soroako nickel mining, recalled a particular checkered sarong that Jessup would not only wear in tropical Indonesia but also during the summer in the US.

'€œHe was a kind, caring person,'€ Soffie said, '€œeven to me, a mere wife of an employee. He cared and was sincere about it.'€

Jessup was born on Aug. 30, 1926 and died of liposarcoma on Aug. 28 this year. He and his family lived in Jakarta from 1972 to 1978 in Kemang, South Jakarta.

He was survived by Helen, his wife of 44 years, his three children from his first marriage including Tim, his four stepchildren from Helen and eight grandchildren. After retirement from Inco in 1984, he was appointed the legal adviser to the US National Gallery of Art.

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