West Papua Council of Churches calls upon TPNPB to start negotiations or release kidnapped pilot

The West Papua Council of Churches (WPCC) published an open letter addressed to the Indonesian Government and the West Papua National Liberation Army in February 2023. The letter contained several recommendations and calls addressed to the TPNPB Commander, Mr Egianus Kogeya, who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of New Zealand pilot, Mr Philip Mark Mehrtens on 7 February 2023. Given the deteriorating conflict situation in West Papua, the church leaders issued the letter to prevent further conflict escalation and additional suffering for the civilian population due to armed clashes and security raids.

They urged both armed parties, the Government of Indonesia and the TPNPB, to consider the following principles before taking further action:

“1. Prevention of more civilian casualties in West Papua, especially in the Paro District and all districts around Nduga. There are already many victims; enough is enough.

2. The humanitarian aspect of the pilot and his needs in the hostage situation must be the focus of all efforts. Is he still alive? Does he have a congenital disease? We request evidence from Mr Egianus Kogeya that Mr Phillip is still healthy.

3. Past hostage-takings by the TPNPB/OPM have not led to positive outcomes, such as the hostage-taking incident in Mapenduma in January 1996.

4. Mr Egianus Kogeya needs to release the pilot as soon as possible. Taking civilian hostages is not in line with proper military conduct and undermines the dignity of the Papuan struggle.”