KKB Papua has been holding Susi Air pilot from New Zealand Phillip Mehrtens hostage for 4 months and has not released him. Photo/TPNPB/AAP
JAKARTA – Papua Armed Criminal Group (KKB). has been holding Susi Air pilot from New Zealand, Phillip Mehrtens, as hostage for four months. Damien Kingsbury, the professor who was the negotiator for Mehrtens’ release, has now spoken out.
Damien Kingsbury adalah Profesor Emeritus di School of Humanities and Social Sciences Deakin University.
KKB Papua, which calls itself the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) kidnapped Mehrtens on February 7, demanding that the Indonesian government recognize West Papua’s independence. Nduga regency, where Mehrtens was taken and his plane burned, is known for separatist violence.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: “We are doing everything we can to obtain a peaceful resolution and safe release for Mehrtens, including working with Indonesian authorities and deploying New Zealand consular staff.”
While the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) continues to carry out military operations to hunt down the Papuan KKB, the separatist group released a “proof of life” video from Mehrtens.
“Since the end of February, I have been authorized by TPNPB to act as an intermediary with the New Zealand government. This is based on (that I) have worked with pro-independence groups in West Papua and confirmed in a video from TPNPB to the New Zealand government,” said Kingsbury , as quoted from The Conversation, Friday (9/6/2023).
In his capacity as a negotiator, Kingsbury admitted to communicating regularly with negotiators from the New Zealand Police, including when the KKB Papua changed its demands.
“TPNPB initially said it would kill Mehrtens unless Indonesia recognized West Papua’s independence. However, after agreeing to negotiate, TPNPB said it would save Mehrtens’ life while seeking concessions from the New Zealand government,” he explained.
“The current position is for New Zealand to stop its citizens from working or traveling to West Papua, and also to stop military support for Indonesia. However, in late May, frustrated by the lack of response, TPNPB again said it would kill Mehrtens if talks did not take place,” he added. Kingsbury.