OPM denies asking for money after police offer to pay ransom for NZ pilot

CNN Indonesia – June 30, 2023
Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens pictured with Papuan independence fighters – Undated (Istimewa)

Jakarta – West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM) or KKB (armed criminal group) spokesperson Sebby Sambom claims that they have not asked for a ransom to be paid for the release Susi Air pilot Mark Mehrtens, who has been held hostage since February.

This was conveyed by Sambom in response to a statement by the Papua regional police (Polda) that they would only agree to a request to pay a random for Mehrtens’ release.

“We are not criminals and are not asking for money”, said Sambom in an SMS message on Friday June 30.

Sambom said that one of their demands is that the government must acknowledge the existence of the struggle by the TPNPB, which is demanding Papuan independence.

“That our demand is very clear, namely that the Indonesian government must acknowledge the existence of the struggle by the TPNPB which is demanding the right to independence for the Papuan nation”, he said.

Mehrtens has been held hostage by KKB leader Egianus Kogoya since February after he landed his aircraft at the Paro landing strip in Nduga regency in the Papua highlands.

Yesterday the Papau regional police emphasised that they would not provide arms or independence to the KKB in return for the release of the New Zealand pilot.

Papua regional police chief Inspector General Mathius Fakhiri said that they would only agree to pay a ransom to the KKB, which they would send in return for Mehrtens’ release.

“It would be impossible for us to agree with those two requests (independence and weapons). But for the money that has also been requested it will be prepared and handed over to Egianus Kogoya providing that the hostage who is a New Zealand national is released and handed over to security forces”, said Fakhiri in Jayapura on Thursday June 29 as quoted by the state-own news agency Antara.

Fakhiri said that negotiations on Mehrtens’ release are continuing and that the police have involved Kogoya’s family in the talks. They hope that the family can lobby Kogoya to release Mehrtens.

“We hope that Egianus will not carry out his threat, namely to shoot the Susi Air pilot on July 1”, he said. (yoa/ain)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Polisi Siap Tebus, KKB Papua Bantah Minta Uang untuk Pilot Susi Air".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20230630124606-12-968038/polisi-siap-tebus-kkb-papua-bantah-minta-uang-untuk-pilot-susi-air