Publicerad 16 februari, 2023
Reporting in English
West Papua: Kidnapped pilot “transferred to PNG”
WEST PAPUA | According to not-yet-verified information from sources in West Papua, Philip Mehrtens – the Susi Air pilot from New Zealand who was recently taken captive by the West Papua Liberation Army (TPNPB), the military wing of the West Papuan independence movement, OPM — has been “transferred to Papua New Guinea.”
If true, it would signal a significant rise of the stakes in an already geopolitically delicate hostage situation.
“It might as well be a smokescreen,” a source tells Tidningen Global.
The geographical distance, the limited time frame and a hard-crossed terrain speak against such a trek — although the weakly guarded border region between Indonesian-controlled West Papua and PNG is known to be a stronghold for quick-footed and mobile OPM units, and a suitable spot for the liberation army to install Mr. Mehrtens while publishing its demands for a granted liberation.
If true, it would pile pressure on the back of the PNG government in Port Moresby, who has kept opting for relatively harmonious financial ties to Indonesia and Australia instead of joining an ever-growing regional Melanesian chorus of advocates for an independent West Papua.
What is clear is that the ongoing hostage crisis has granted OPM — and the West Papua issue in general — far more media exposure than recent years of Indonesian human rights violations and 50,000 internally displaced civilians have managed to muster.
Cynically thinking, it might thus be harder for Western media outlets to keep turning a blind eye to West Papua on the other side of the hostage crisis, despite Indonesia’s effective direction of information and denied access for independent reporters and human rights organizations to armed conflict “hotspots” such as Nduga.
“No journalists are allowed entrance to Nduga, the only information that reaches us from the region springs from Indonesian military press releases,” a West Papuan freelance reporter tells Tidningen Global.
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