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TPNPB plans to release kidnapped New Zealand pilot after year-long captivity

Jakarta Globe - February 2, 2024

Sevianto Pakiding, Nduga, Papua – The West Papua Liberation Army, a faction of the Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM), has confirmed plans to release Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens.

The New Zealand citizen has been held captive for almost a year by the separatist group led by Egianus Kogoya, after being kidnapped at the Paro airstrip in Nduga Regency in the Indonesian eastern province on Feb. 7, 2023.

TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom said the central headquarters of TPNPB has agreed to release Philip, despite the lack of follow-up from the governments of New Zealand and Indonesia regarding previous negotiations.

"Yes, we have confidence and good intentions to release the pilot," he confirmed to Beritasatu.com, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe, on Friday.

Sebby said the initial high-level meeting with the New Zealand government delegation took place on April 5, 2023, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. However, there has been no follow-up to that meeting.

According to Sebby, TPNPB has also sent a letter to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo since May 2023. He claimed to have received intentions that President Jokowi agreed to negotiate with TPNPB, but once again, there has been no further confirmation."Both the governments of New Zealand and Indonesia have failed to engage in discussions regarding the release of the pilot because these governments lack an understanding of humanity. We plan to proceed with the release based on humanity," he said.

One of the reasons TPNPB is releasing Philip is due to his nationality; Philip is a pilot from New Zealand, a country emotionally connected to Papua.

"Most Australians and New Zealanders support Papua's independence. We are holding him not as an enemy but as a friend who lives with TPNPB forces in the Ndugama region, Papua," said Sebby.

On behalf of the TPNPB Central Headquarters, Sebby mentioned that they have sent a message to Egianus Kogoya and his forces to release Philip immediately.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/tpnpb-plans-to-release-kidnapped-new-zealand-pilot-after-yearlong-captivit