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New Zealand police monitors ongoing efforts for release of Susi Air pilot in Papua

Jakarta Globe - February 28, 2024

Sevianto Pakiding, Mimika – New Zealand Police Attache, Paul Laurence Borell, visited Mimika Regency in Central Papua, to oversee the progress of the ongoing efforts to secure the release of Susi Air pilot, Captain Philip Mark Mehrtens.

During his visit on Tuesday, Borell met with the Head of the Cartenz 2024 Peacekeeping Operations, Faizal Ramadhani, and his team, as well as the Nduga Police Chief, Vinsensius Jimmy Parapaga.

Vinsensius shared various challenges encountered in the release of Captain Philip, a New Zealand national, with Borell. Despite this, he assured that the hostage release efforts would continue and remain a top priority.

"The negotiation process was briefly hindered by widespread media coverage," Vinsensius said on Tuesday.

Vinsensius also addressed Borell's concerns regarding the expiration of the term of the Acting Regent of Nduga, Edison Gwijangge, at the end of this month, as he is currently leading the negotiations for Captain Philip's release.

According to Vinsensius, the acting position of the Nduga Regent will not affect the negotiation process. The established negotiation system will continue to operate, even if Edison Gwijangge is replaced by a new official.

"Regardless of who takes over, the system is already in place. The efforts made by the regional leadership are through welfare. We bring food supplies and open a dialogue regarding the pilot's release," he explained.

Borell appreciated the efforts of the Cartenz Peace Task Force in handling this case. He expressed hope for the safe and swift release of Captain Philip.

"We extend our condolences for the fallen members of Indonesia's military and police during the hostage release operation. We hope that Cartenz Task Force can resolve this case as soon as possible," he stated.

Philip Mehrtens was abducted in February 2023 after landing his Susi Air aircraft in the remote Nduga region of Papua.

Mehrten appeared emaciated and neglected in a video message he recorded in December. In the video, the 38-year-old man, presumably recorded by separatist group TPNPB commander Egianus Kogoya, who orchestrated the burning of Mehrtens' plane and his abduction last year, chuckled softly as he introduced himself.

"I'm okay. They treat me well. I try to stay positive. I hope you and Jacob are healthy and well and getting support. When we meet again, the commander said we can try to call through WiFi," Mehrtens conveyed in the message to his wife and son.

The Indonesian military has been conducting operations in the mountainous Nduga region to locate Mehrtens after his single-engine plane was attacked by the armed group. Six Indonesian soldiers were killed in a firefight with separatists during the search for the New Zealand national.

On Feb. 2, TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom said the central headquarters of TPNPB has agreed to release Philip.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/news/new-zealand-police-monitors-ongoing-efforts-for-release-of-susi-air-pilot-in-papu