Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Two countries, two kidnappings – Port Moresby shows Jakarta how it’s done with 3 PNG hostages freed

NZ 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


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.

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”.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

West Papuan cat-and-mouse over NZ pilot taken captive by ‘freedom’ rebels

New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens taken captive by Papuan rebels . . . a "Papua Merdeka"
- Free Papua message. IMAGE: TPNPB screenshot APR


Papuan independence rebels are playing a desperate game of cat and mouse with Indonesian authorities over their hostage taking last week with a New Zealand pilot caught in the middle.

Christchurch-raised Philip Mehrtens, 37, a pilot for the national feeder airline Susi Air owned by a former cabinet minister and with Jakarta government supply contracts, was seized by rebels last Tuesday, February 7, shortly after he had touched down at the remote Paro airstrip near Nduga in the Papuan highlands.

Five Indigenous Papuans on board the aircraft were set free and the plane was set on fire.

After initial reports saying the authorities were trying to pinpoint the actual place where the rebels are in hiding and that a rescue operation is under way, the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) played a trump card today by releasing “proof of life” video footage and photos.

“Papua Merdeka!,” said Mehrtens in one of the obviously coached video messages. “The Papuan military have taken me captive in the fight for Papuan independence,” he added hesitantly while surrounded by a group of armed rebels.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Papuan journalist award-winner Victor Mambor targeted for his reports

Papuan editor and publisher Victor Mambor . . . “Journalists need to break
down the wall and learn freely about our struggle." IMAGE: Victor Mambor FB


When Papuan journalist Victor Mambor visited New Zealand almost nine years ago, he impressed student journalists from the Pacific Media Centre and community activists with his refreshing candour and courage.

As the founder of the Jubi news media group, he remained defiant that he would tell the truth no matter what the risk while facing an oppressive and vindictive regime.

“Journalists need to break down the wall and learn freely about our struggle,” he said in a message to New Zealand media via an interview with Pacific Media Watch.

Now the 49-year-old journalist and editor finds that the risks are growing exponentially as his media network has expanded — with an English language website and Jubi TV becoming add-ons — and the exposure of his networks have also widened.

He writes for the Jakarta Post, Benar News and contributes to international news services. Two years ago he was also co-producer of an award-winning Al Jazeera 101 East documentary about the plunder of West Papuan forests for oil palm plantations.

But last week the timing was impeccable over his latest award, the Oktonianus Pogau Prize for courageous journalism. It came just eight days after a bomb blast had happened in the street outside his Jayapura home.

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