Jubi News in Jayapura
The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) has denied Indonesian media claims that Egianus Kogoya, the commander of a TPNPB faction, asked for money and weapons to free the New Zealand pilot they are holding hostage.
“No, we never asked for money and weapons in exchange for releasing pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens. That’s just propaganda from the Indonesian security forces,” said TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom.
“This is a political issue, the New Zealand pilot is a guarantee of political negotiations.”
Previously, Papua Police spokesperson Senior Commander Ignatius Benny Ady Prabowo had said the police would not follow a request for firearms and cash in exchange for releasing the Susi Air pilot.
“That was their request at the beginning. But of course we don’t respond. We will not give weapons that will later be used to shoot the authorities and terrorise the community,” Prabowo told reporters.
The Papuan Church Council said the capture of Philip Mehrtens as a hostage was “psychologically disturbing” for his wife, family and children.
The council demanded that the pilot be released in an open letter. With his release, of Philip Mark Mehrtens, the council said Kogoya would get sympathy from the global community and the people of Indonesia.
“There must be a neutral mediator or negotiator trusted by both the TPNPB, the community, and the government to release the pilot. Otherwise, many victims will fall,” said Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman, a member of the Papuan Church Council.
A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the welfare of its citizens was a top priority.
“We are doing everything we can, including deploying New Zealand consular staff to ensure the safe release of our citizen taken hostage,” she said.
The spokesperson added that New Zealand was working closely with Indonesian authorities to ensure the safe release of Mehrtens.
Republished with permission.
Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz