Hostages freed, hunt for captors goes on
Ina Parlina, Tama Salim and Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Jayapura | Headlines | Sat, September 19 2015, 6:25 PM
The government has announced that two Indonesians taken hostage in the jungles of Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been released with the help of the neighboring country’s authorities.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Friday that the two Indonesians, 28-year-old Ladiri, alias Sudirman, and 29-year-old Badar, were released following negotiations backed up by a PNG military presence on Thursday night and were subsequently handed over to the Indonesian Consulate General in Vanimo, PNG.
“Let me take this opportunity on behalf of the Indonesian government to once again thank the government of PNG, and all other parties involved, for their cooperation and assistance in securing the release of the hostages,” Retno said in a press briefing in Jakarta on Friday.
Retno said the hostages were released around 7:30 p.m. at a village in Victoria Mountain, PNG, on Thursday.
The minister said she had been in intensive communications with the PNG foreign minister and the country’s military commander, as well as the team on the ground in Vanimo.
Retno said she had spoken with the two men early on Friday to confirm that they were indeed in good health.
The two loggers were escorted by the Indonesian Consul General Elmar Lubis to the border area of Skouw-Wutung before being handed over to the Papua Military Regional Command (Kodam) XVII/Cenderawasih at around 1 p.m. local time on Friday.
The two will undergo a medical checkup before they return to their families. The Papua Police are also scheduled to question them.
The hostage release operation led by PNG’s negotiation team involved about 100 PNG military personnel.
“There were neither demands nor a shoot-out during the release,” Elmar said.
Retno went on to say that the government was looking to identify the perpetrators of the “criminal and inhuman act” in the hope that they would soon be caught and prosecuted. The abductors remain at large following the rescue operation.
She indicated that the armed group responsible for the abduction of the two men was affiliated with a network of activists that had been advocating for the resolution of human rights violations in Papua.
“This incident has shown the world the extent of human rights violations and criminal acts that these groups have committed. Indonesia hopes that the perpetrators will soon be captured and processed according to the rule of law,” Retno said.
However, later on Friday at the State Palace, after meeting with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Retno declined to provide more details regarding the kidnappers although she said they had been identified.
Retno said she would release details about the hostage takers after all information had been verified.
She said the President had also ordered an investigation to discover the motive behind the kidnapping.
Less than four hours before the PNG authorities secured the release of the hostages on Thursday night, Jokowi spoke on the phone with PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, saying that Indonesia was ready to assist PNG in speeding up their release.
“I am worried about the safety of the two Indonesians being held hostage. I hope PNG authorities will continue the flow of information regarding progress from the field,” Jokowi told O’Neill.
Last week, the kidnappers, previously thought to be a splinter group of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), took the two men across the border into PNG following a shooting incident in Skofro hamlet in Keerom, about an hour’s drive from the border between PNG and Indonesia, in which another logger, Kuba Marmahu, was injured.
The group reportedly demanded the exchange of the hostages for two prisoners detained by the Keerom Police on minor drug charges, a demand the Indonesian government flatly rejected.
The police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) claimed that the group was part of the OPM under Jeffry Pagawak.
“Jeffry’s group is a new criminal group that has created terror in Jayapura and Keerom,” Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw said.