Separatist Group in Papua Reveals Reason Behind Pilot Hostage Situation

Translator Ricky Mohammad Nugraha Editor Laila Afifa 1

0 February 2023 12:57 WIB

TEMPO.COJakarta – A spokesperson for one of Indonesia’s most notorious separatist groups known as the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) Free Papua Movement (OPM), Sebby Sambom, in a written statement on February 7, explained the reason behind the recent hostage situation. He wrote the reason they took hostage of New Zealander Philips Max Marthen – who piloted a Susi Air plane that was arson by the separatists – is because of foreign countries’ contribution to supporting the Indonesian military. 

Sambom claimed countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and European nations must be held responsible for providing arms and training the Indonesian army (TNI) and Police in fighting Papuans. 

“Due to this reason, the pilot will be the collateral for the UN, Europe, America, and Australia to talk. Because they sent war equipment to Indonesia and trained them to murder us for 60 years. This is why one pilot has been taken hostage,” said Sambom in a voice recording on February 7.

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Representatives of the United States in a reply to Tempo’s email regarding Sambom’s demand did not mention weapons and training sessions. The US Embassy did not answer whether they are in communication with the New Zealand pilot. Emails were sent to representatives of the UN, Australia, and European Union in Jakarta but have yet responded to. 

Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Commander Yudo Margono on Tuesday said the joint law enforcement team mobilized in Papua has detected the location of the missing Susi Air pilot. He was reportedly taken hostage by local Papuan separatists – identified by Indonesian law enforcement as an armed criminal group (KKB) – at the Paro District in Nduga Regency, Papua, on February 7. 

The pilot who operated the Susi Air plane – which was burned by separatists at the airport runway – was Philips Max Marthin. Prior to that incident, the plane lost contact on Tuesday morning. 

“Not yet [being evacuated] but [they] have been detected. After we managed to evacuate 15 [local community health center workers], now the priority is to look for the pilot,” said Yudo Margono to journalists on Wednesday, February 8.

However, he rebutted that the Kiwi pilot had not been taken hostage by separatists but had escaped capture after the plane was burned by the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

“The pilot was threatened but eventually was likely rescued by a local resident,” he explained. 

The hostage situation was assumed after the separatist group led by Egianus Kogoya claimed responsibility for the incident with the plane and the hostage situation. 

Moreover, the separatist leader also demanded that the construction that had been carried out by the Indonesian government on Ndugama land be completely stopped. If development activities are still found, said Sebby, they will threaten to wipe out all existing developments.

“Jakarta cannot play games with us. We are ready personally, physically, mentally, and geographically, we are ready. TPNPB will take over our land again through a total revolution. Jokowi still wants to ‘play’ with us,“ said the Papuan separatist in the audio recording on February 7.

NAUFAL RIDHWAN

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