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West Papua Church leader urges release of NZ pilot held captive

Tabloid Jubi - December 19, 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – The President of the Union of Baptist Churches in West Papua, Rev. Ambirek G. Socratez Yoman, has made a heartfelt plea to the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) for the release of pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens, who has been held hostage for nearly a year by the Free Papua Movement's armed faction.

In a message conveyed on Monday, December 18, 2023, Yoman stressed the pressing humanitarian need to free Philip Mark Mehrtens, a New Zealand national employed by Susi Air, who was captured and held by TPNPB forces under the command of General Egianus Kogeya on January 7, 2023, in the Paro District of Nduga Regency, Mountainous Papua.

Expressing concern over the prolonged captivity of Mehrtens, Yoman proposed several conditions aimed at facilitating the pilot's release. "The first is withdrawal of non-organic troops from the Mountainous Papua, Nduga Regency, as well as the unblocking of restricted access in Nduga and surrounding areas, designating Nduga as a safe zone."

Additionally, Socratez Yoman urged General Egianus Kogeya to appoint trusted individuals, documented in written correspondence, to initiate dialogue with both the Indonesian government and the government of New Zealand.

Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of handing over Philip Mehrtens to the New Zealand Ambassador for Indonesia in a manner agreed upon by Kogeya and his representatives.

The pastor underscored that General Egianus Kogeya's commitment to the international community should affirm West Papua's struggle for recognition since December 1, 1961. He emphasized that General Egianus's leadership in releasing Philip Mehrtens during the Christmas season would exemplify the pursuit of West Papua's independence through peaceful means, justice, and the respect for human dignity.

Pastor Socratez Yoman concluded by extending Christmas greetings to General Egianus Kogeya and his associates while affirming his solidarity with General Egianus's aspirations and West Papua's collective ideals. He expressed his deep desire for a resolution that aligns with the hopes and aspirations of the people of West Papua.

Source: https://en.jubi.id/west-papua-church-leader-urges-release-of-nz-pilot-held-captive