Sentani, Jubi – The Papuan Church Council called on the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) led by Egianus Kogoya to immediately release the Susi Air pilot they held hostage, Philip Mark Mehrtens.
The Council's request was delivered during a press conference attended by Rev. Benny Giai as moderator and member Rev. Socrates Sofyan Yoman at the Council's secretariat in Sentani District, Jayapura Regency on Friday, February 24, 2023.
Yoman said he had written an open letter to Egianus Kogoya explaining that hostage-taking events like this were not the first time in Papua. There needs to be a complete settlement and not by force.
"The Council and the international community understand the issue that the TPNPB brings, namely the Papuan struggle. We know TPNPB are not terrorists. Therefore, in the open letter I asked Egianus to free the New Zealand pilot," he said.
Yoman also explained that Kogoya is a great commander, and what is being fought for has been going on since the 1960s, and must be seen as the struggle of the entire Papuan people.
This hostage-taking, he said, was psychologically very disturbing for the family of the pilot. He asked that the pilot be released. He was sure if the pilot was released, Kogoya would also get sympathy from the global community and the people of Indonesia. According to him, the same letter has also been sent to President Joko Widodo.
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 Yoman.
Meanwhile, Benny Giai said there were a number of root problems that had not been resolved in Papua that triggered the hostage-taking events.
"If the root problems in Papua are not resolved, things like this will keep occurring in the future. There are people in the forest carrying weapons while remembering their families who have been killed, these conditions fuel revenge," said Benny.
Therefore, the Council invites everyone to view that the hostage-taking occurred several days after the humanitarian pause agreement was withdrawn by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) when it should have continued.
Furthermore, Giai said he regretted there was no negotiation team formed by the government to immediately release the pilot.
Giai himself was part of a negotiating team resolving the similar issue in Ilaga in 2010. At that time, Giai said, security guarantees were given directly by then Papua Police chief I Made Pastika, and everything went smoothly.
"In our letter we emphasize that humanity must be respected. If the release is not carried out, it is certain that civilians will become victims. Therefore, we ask that the hostage must be released, directly or through a negotiating team," he said. (*)