Rights commission criticised for towing government line in NZ pilot hostage case

Kompas.com – July 7, 2023
Former Komnas HAM Chairperson Ahmad Taufan Damanik pictured in Jakarta – August 30, 2022 (Kompas)

Singgih Wiryono, Jakarta – Former National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) Chairperson for the period 2017-2022, Ahmad Taufan Damanik, says that it is difficult to expect Komnas HAM to play a role in resolving the hostage case involving Susi Air pilot Philips Mark Mehrtens in Papua.

According to Damanik, this is because the current Komnas HAM leadership has taken a position that tends to follow the government line and does not have the courage to take the initiative to resolve humanitarian problems in Papua.

Damanik cites as an example the humanitarian pause agreement that was unilaterally cancelled by Komnas HAM, which triggered an escalation of violence in Papua, including the Susi Air pilot hostage case.

The humanitarian pause in Papua was an agreement reached by the Komnas HAM leadership for the 2017-2022 period to temporarily halt armed contact between the conflicting parties in Papua.

"Since they unilaterally cancelled the humanitarian pause without any good reason, as well as the lack of communication between parties, especially with our Papuan friends, it is difficult to expect them to play a role in Papua. The one-side cancellation caused anger among those who were pushing for a humanitarian pause in Papua", said Damanik in an SMS message on Friday July 7.

"With such a position, it is difficult to expect a strategic role for Komnas HAM. Their position tends to just follow what is being done by the government", he added.

Yet, according to Damanik, by maintaining the independence of its authority, the Komnas HAM could break the communication deadlock between the demands of the hostage takers, in this case the West Papua National Liberation Army of the Free Papua Organization (TPNPB-OPM), and the government.

Moreover there has been an offer by the TPNPB group led by Egianus Kogoya for the Papua Komnas HAM Representative Office to act as negotiator in the hostage case.

"Including the Philip hostage negotiations, the Egianus group asked for the involvement of the Papua representative [office] head's help. My hope is that the Komnas HAM national is welcomed in Papua, so it is better to provide full support to the Komnas HAM Papua representative office", he added.

Damanik also hopes that Komnas HAM, which is now headed up by Atnike Nova Sigiro, could be critical of central government policies that are wrong.

"Communicating criticism like this is what we used to do (when I served at Komnas HAM) and there is no need to worry about tension in the relationship [with the government]. That's normal in relationships between institutions", said Damanik.

Earlier, Sigiro said that the commission has entrusted all matters related to dealing with the Susi Air pilot's hostage case to the government, saying they hope that the case can be resolved peacefully.

"Authority for dealing with the hostage case is in the government's hands", said Sigiro on Sunday July 2.

New Zealand pilot Philips Mark Mehrtens was taken hostage by the TPNPB on February 7 after his plane was set on fire after landing at the Paro Airport in Nduga regency, Papua Highlands.

At the time, the plane was transporting five indigenous Papuan (OAP) passengers. Mehrtens and the five passengers reportedly fled in different directions. The five Papuans returned to their respective homes while Mehrtens was taken hostage by the KKB (armed criminal group).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Tak Terlibat Aktif dalam Upaya Bebaskan Pilot Susi Air, Komnas HAM Dikritik".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2023/07/07/23583831/tak-terlibat-aktif-dalam-upaya-bebaskan-pilot-susi-air-komnas-ham-dikritik