pilot Philip Mehrtens with some of his West Papuan rebel captors . . .
hopes for his |
release as with the hostages in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.
IMAGE: TPNPB video screenshot APR
By DAVID ROBIE
TWO countries. A common border. Two hostage crises. But the responses of both Asia-Pacific nations have been like chalk and cheese.
On February 7, a militant cell of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), the armed wing of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) — a fragmented organisation that been fighting for freedom for their Melanesian homeland from Indonesian rule for more than half a century — seized a Susi Air plane at the remote highlands airstrip of Paro, torched it and kidnapped the New Zealand pilot.
It was a desperate ploy by the rebels to attract attention to their struggle, ignored by the world, especially by their South Pacific near neighbours Australia and New Zealand.
- READ MORE: ‘Thank God’ says PM Marape in a social media post about 3 freed hostages
- Inside rescue mission to free Australian professor taken hostage by armed bandits in PNG jungle – Natalie Whiting, Theckla Gunga and Belinda Kora
- Metaphysics of a hero: Egianus Kogoya – is he a Papuan hero or villain? – Yamin Kogoya
- Kidnapped pilot a frightening reminder of forgotten war on Australia’s doorstep – Ben Bohane
- Other West Papua reports
Many critics deplore the hypocrisy of the region which reacts with concern over the Russian invasion and war against Ukraine a year ago at the weekend and also a perceived threat from China, while closing a blind eye to the plight of the West Papuans – the only actual war happening in the Pacific.
The rebels’ initial demand for releasing pilot Philip Mehrtens is for Australia and New Zealand to be a party to negotiations with Indonesia to “free Papua”.