Indonesia Refuses International Aid to Free New Zealand Pilot
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud Md explained the reason why the government refused international assistance to release New Zealand pilot Captain Philips Max Mehrtens who is being held hostage by the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organization (TPNPB-OPM).
The involvement of international institutions, he argued, will only make the case worse. “We will handle it internally. Our policy is not to involve other countries and this is internal issues. And we can do it whatever the stakes are. International communities are not allowed to join the case,” Mahfud said when met in South Jakarta on Monday, May 29, 2023.
If the government receives assistance from international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), then other international institutions will intervene in the case, including even the United Nations (UN).
“So, we reject any attempts of international interference offered by NGOs, by international NGOs,” Mahfud underlined.
OPM threatens to shoot Susi Air Pilot in two months
On Friday, May 27, TPNPB-OPM spokesperson Sebby Sambom sent a video showing a “visibly emaciated” Mehrtens surrounded by Egianus Kogoya and his fighters. Mehrtens said the rebel group will shoot him if other countries did not urge Indonesia to recognize Papua's independence.
In the same video, Kogoya threatens to shoot the New Zealander if Indonesia does not recognize Papua's independence within two months.
The Papuan separatist group has been holding Mehrtens hostage since February 7, 2023, right after the latter landed the Susi Air aircraft with flight number SI 9368 at Paro Airport, Nduga Regency, Pegunungan Papua Province. They ambushed the plane and set it on fire. After releasing the passengers, they took Mehrtens hostage.
The government dispatched the Damai Cartenz Task Force to carry out an operation to rescue the Susi Air pilot. However, the effort came to no avail to date. In April, Mahfud stated that the rescue operation was hampered because the TPNPB-OPM made Philips Max Mehrtens, women, and children as human shields.
M JULNIS FIRMANSYAH | EKA YUDHA SAPUTRA
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