Jakarta – The leader of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) or KKB (armed criminal group), Egianus Kogoya, has denied asking for 5 billion rupiah for the release of Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens, who they have held hostage since February 7.
Kogoya said that reports saying his organisation had asked for 5 billion rupiah as ransom to release the hostage were nonsense. He emphasised that they took the Susi Air pilot hostage in order to seek Papuan independence.
"So in all of the media on TV as well as media where there has been [reports] on the issue that the Kodap III [Defense Command Area III] asked for 5 billion rupiah, it's nonsense. From where did I ask for 5 billion rupiah", said Kogoya in a video statement received by CNN Indonesia on Saturday July 8.
"I took the pilot not to ask for money. I only ask for independence. Only for that one thing did I take him", he added.
Kogoya emphasised that they would not accept money regardless of how much it is for the release of the Susi Air pilot. He said that he will only release the hostage if Papua is independent.
"If Indonesia wants to give out 5 billion rupiah in money, or however many billions Indonesia gives out, we won't accept it. Only if Papua is released [from Indonesia] will we hand over the pilot. If Papua is not independent, we won't hand over the pilot", he said.
Meanwhile TPNPB National Commission spokesperson Sebby Sambom said that the Susi Air pilot was originally going to be released but the plan failed after there were claims that they were asking for 5 billion rupiah.
According to Sambom, this was untrue. He also said that because of these claims they now have to renew lobbying Kogoya and his fighters so that the New Zealand pilot can be released.
"This is the stupidity of the Indonesian military and police leaders. Therefore we have to work hard again to lobby commander Egianus K and his fighters, so that the New Zealand pilot can be saved", said Sambom.
Earlier, the Papua regional police said that the armed criminal group led by Egianus Kogoya had asked for a 5 billion rupiah ransom in exchange for the release of Captain Mehrtens.
Papua regional police public relations division head Senior Commissioner Ignatius Benny Prabowo said that the request for money was conveyed by the KKB when Mehrtens was initially taken hostage.
"At the start of the hostage taking [they] asked for a (ransom) of Rp5 M (billion)", he said when sought for confirmation on Friday June 30. (thr/isn)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Egianus Kogoya Bantah Minta Rp5 Miliar untuk Bebaskan Pilot Susi Air".]