- The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) Wednesday ordered its armed faction to release a New Zealand pilot it took hostage a year ago in a remote and mountainous area of Nduga in Indonesia's Papua province.1
- The kidnapped pilot, Phillip Mehrtens, was flying a small aircraft for Susi Air, providing 'vital air links and supplies to remote communities,' when he was abducted by armed rebels on Feb. 7, 2023, reportedly as a bargaining chip to advocate for Papua's independence.2
- Though TPNPB hasn't disclosed the details of Mehrtens' release, the chief of the group's general staff said that the pilot will be returned to his family to 'protect humanity and...human rights.'3
- However, the Indonesian police in the Papua province claims the authorities haven't been informed about TPNPB's decision to free Mehrtens, adding, 'We suspect they raised the issue to seek attention.'4
- This news came after New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, Monday appealed for Mehrtens' immediate release 'without harm,' arguing his continued detention served the interests of no one.5
- Pro-independence fighters have been conducting deadly attacks in the resource-rich western half of the island of Papua, formerly a Dutch colony since it was controversially brought under Indonesian control in a vote overseen by the UN in 1969.6
- Narrative A, as provided by Stuff. Papua's demand for recognition of independence in exchange for a hostage is a desperate attempt to attract international attention toward the West Papuan crisis. Instead of using the pilot as a pawn for high-level political negotiations, the rebels should call for the UN to mediate the conflict.
- Narrative B, as provided by Atlas News. This incident has renewed attention to one of the world's least-known and longest-running conflicts, which is why the TPNPB shouldn't lose its bargaining position. It should only free Mehrtens if Indonesia allows Papua to become a sovereign country after more than six decades.