Wenda calls on West Papuan rebels to release kidnapped NZ pilot


Share post:

RNZ Pacific

A West Papuan independence movement leader, Benny Wenda, says the release of New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens held hostage by armed rebels is out of his hands.

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) fighters kidnapped Mehrtens on February 7 after he landed a small commercial passenger plane in Nduga regency.

The group then burned the Indonesian-owned Susi Air plane and demanded the New Zealand government negotiate directly for Merhtens’ release.

Exiled Wenda is president of the peaceful United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

He told RNZ Pacific he did not condone the actions of the liberation army rebels and had called for them to release the pilot peacefully.

He said he sympathised with the New Zealand people and Merhtens’ family but insisted the situation was a result of Indonesia’s refusal to allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit West Papua.

“Because the place where it’s actually happening is where hundreds of thousands [of indigenous Papuans] have been displaced from 2018 up to now — in Nduga, Intan Jaya, Mybrat and also Oksibil,” Wenda said.

‘Warning to Indonesia’
“So this happening right now is a warning to Indonesia to let the UN High Commissioner visit which they have been ignoring these last three years.”

Philip Mehrtens
Philip Mehrtens, the New Zealand pilot taken hostage at Paro, Nduga regency, and his aircraft set on fire. Image: Jubi News

“We are not enemies [with New Zealand]. We are very good,” Wenda said.

“New Zealand is a very strong supporter of West Papua.

“I do not think the [TPNPB] group can harm the pilot unless Indonesia uses the situation to do harm. That is my concern.”

He said Indonesia should consider TPNPB’s demands.

Wenda is leading a delegation from the ULMWP that is currently in Fiji ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The group has observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and is lobbying to become a full member.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Cafe Pacific Publisher
Cafe Pacific Publisher
Café Pacific's duty editor.
- advertisement -

Related articles

20 people wounded in Indonesian police crackdown on Papua protest

Asia Pacific Report At least 20 people were wounded when police used batons, water cannon and tear gas to...

Open letter criticises ‘colonial’ French agency, media over Kanaky sexual violence allegations

Pacific Media Watch A controversial report by a French metropolitan not-for-profit about sexual and sexist violence in France’s overseas...

Rainbow Warrior sails Pacific seeking evidence for World Court climate case

By Sera Sefeti in Suva International environmental campaign group Greenpeace’s flagship Rainbow Warrior is currently sailing across the Pacific,...

West Papuan solidarity group condemns arrest of 21 activists protesting 1962 ‘tragedy’

Asia Pacific Report An Australian West Papuan solidarity group has condemned the reported arrest of 21 activists protesting in...