M Rosseno Aji, Jakarta – Separatist group Free Papua Movement or OPM asked to have a peaceful negotiation with the Indonesian government, the Military (TNI), and the police concerning the hostage of Philip Mark Merthens, a pilot for Susi Air. They asked the TNI and the police to stop military operations to rescue to New Zealand man.
"We urge the Indonesian government, TNI, and Polri to stop military operations in Ndugama," PM spokesman Sebby Sambom said in a written statement, Friday, April 7.
Sebby said they are willing to release Philip, who has been a hostage for two months, using peaceful and diplomatic means.
Philips was taken hostage on February 7 this year when the Susi Air PK-BVY aircraft he piloted was hijacked after landing at Paro Airport, in Nduga, Papua. The hijackers, led by Egianus Kogoya, set fire to the aircraft.
In video footage the OPM released, the abducted New Zealand pilot could be seen surrounded by OPM fighters. Philip was told to speak on their behalf, demanding Indonesia pull military forces out from Papua.
"The Free Papua Movement has captured me. The Papuan military has taken me captive in the effort to fight for Papuan independence. They have asked for the Indonesian military to go home back to Indonesia and if not I will remain captive or my life is threatened," Philips said in the video.
The Indonesian military and police have launched efforts to rescue the captain, so far to no avail.
Meanwhile, the TNI's head of information for the XVII Cenderawasih Military Region, Lt. Col. Herman Taryaman, denied military operations in Papua. He said the OPM's demand that the government stops military operations was propaganda. "I implore the public not to fall into this narrative," he said.
He said that what was carried out by the TNI, Polri and the State Intelligence Agency in Papua was an effort to search for and rescue Pilot Susi Air who was being held hostage.
He said the TNI and Polri are using both soft and hard approaches to carry out releases. "All for the sake of prioritizing pilot safety as the main thing, and also public safety," he said.
He urged the OPM to immediately release Captain Philips Max Mehrtens, safely and unharmed.