Jayapura, Jubi – Susi Air pilot and New Zealand national Capt. Philip Mark Mehrtens has called on the Indonesian government to stop military operations in Nduga in an effort to free him from hostage-taking by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) led by Egianus Kogoya.
According to Mehrtens, last weekend, the Indonesian Military (TNI) dropped bombs on the area where he was with other Nduga residents.
“Indonesia dropped bombs on this area [Nduga] last weekend, and it was unnecessary because it was dangerous for me and the people here,” Mehrtens said through a video recording made on Monday, April 24, 2023, and received by Jubi on Thursday.
In the 1-minute 38-second video, Mehrtens was seen wearing a black t-shirt and shorts. He was sitting and flanked by two men, allegedly TPNPB members. He also explained that he was in good health.
“Today, April 24, 2023, it has been almost three months since the TPNPB captured me in Paro. I am alive and well. I live with the people here, sit together, walk together, rest together, there is no problem with me,” Mehrtens said in the video, alternating between two languages, Indonesian and English.
In a written statement, TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom urged President Joko Widodo to immediately stop military operations in Nduga and asked Indonesia to open negotiations.
“We emphasize that the release of Philip Mark Mehrtens must be through negotiations, not through military operations. Therefore, Indonesian President Joko Widodo must stop military operations in Nduga immediately, otherwise they only jeopardize the pilot’s life,” Sambom said.
Sambom said the video containing Mehrtens testimony was also addressed to the New Zealand Government and Mehrtens’ family.
“We initially made a video showing Mehrtens in good health for the New Zealand Government and the pilot’s family in New Zealand. However, because Indonesia is bombing the Nduga Region, we want the people to know,” he said.
Mehrtens has been held hostage by TPNPB for 79 days since he was arrested on February 7. The Indonesian government so far has increased the status of military operations. On April 18 in Timika, TNI commander Adm. Yudo Margono upgraded operations in Papua to a land combat alert.
Yudo said the operation was upgraded after TPNPB attacked TNI personnel on April 15. He said the increase in the status of this operation aimed to awaken the combat instincts of TNI soldiers.
“The land combat alert means the operation is increased,” Yudo said at that time at Yohanis Kapiyau Air Base in Central Papua’s Timika.
Military observer from the Institute For Security & Strategic Studies (ISSES) Khairul Fahmi said the combat alert in Papua meant that all troops were ready to fire.
“’Combat alert’ is the term for the condition of the troops ready for battle. This means that soldiers are allowed to shoot their weapons at any time whenever the threat is present. The troops no longer need to hesitate to open fire if there is an obstacle or attack,” Fahmi said on April 20, as quoted by Antara. (*)