TPNPB denies asking for money and weapons to free New Zealand pilot

Pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens with a TPNPB member - Jubi/IST

Jayapura, Jubi – The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) denied media allegation stating Egianus Kogoya, the commander of TPNPB Kodap III Ndugama-Derakma, asked for money and weapons to free the Susi Air pilot they were holding hostage.

“No, we never ask 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,” Sambom continued.

Previously, Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Ignatius Benny Ady Prabowo said the police would not fulfil the 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 terrorize the community,” Benny told reporters last week.

Hostage liberation efforts from various parties

On the other hand, the Papuan Church Council said the hostage-taking of Philip Mark Mehrtens was psychologically very disturbing for the family, wife, and children of Mehrtens. The Council demanded the pilot be released. With the release of Philip Mark Mehrtens, the Council was sure 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 Rev. Socratez Sofyan Yoman, a member of the Papuan Church Council.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs chief media advisor Corinne Ambler said the welfare of its citizens is 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,” Ambler said.

Ambler added that New Zealand is working closely with Indonesian authorities to ensure the safe release of Philip Mark Mehrtens. (*)

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