Jakarta, Feb 14 (EFE).- The Free Papua Movement, a separatist group in easern Indonesia, said on Monday that the New Zealand pilot they had kidnapped last week is in good health.
The Movement’s spokeperson Sebby Sambrom said that within the next few days they would share photos and videos of the pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens, kidnapped on Feb 7 after landing in the Highland Papua province, situated in the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea.
The New Zealader, who was flying a light aircraft operated by local firm Susi Air with five passengers onboard, was taken hostage by the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB, initials in Bahasa), an armed group linked to the Free Papua Movement, an umbrella of several separatist militias.
Indonesian authorities- which have designated the organization a terrorist group – and New Zealand have called for the pilot’s release.
In a statement last week, the FPM said that the kidnapping was aimed at showcasing the Papuans’ suffering under the Indonesian authorities to the international community.
Its demands include a halt to the supply of arms to Indonesia by New Zealand and other governments, and that Wellington raise the Papua conflict in the United Nations Security Council.
The group also urged the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into the alleged abuses committed by Indonesia in West Papua, apart from urging Jakarta to recognize the region’s independence.
Indonesian Papua occupies the western half of the island of New Guinea, a territory rich in natural resources and where the independence movement gained strength starting in 1963, when the Netherlands withdrew from its last possession on the archipelago.
After World War II, the Dutch had wanted to help establish west Papua as an entity separate from Indonesia due to the locals’ ethnic differences, but the United States and Jakarta block the move.
The other half of New Guinea is made up of the independent state of Papua New Guinea. EFE