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West Papua – OPM STATEMENT on the 1996 Hostage Deaths

Although it has been some time now since the 1996 hostage situation in Papua New Guinea was concluded, we feel a statement to set the record straight is now appropriate.

The Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) – the Free West Papua Movement – does not accept total responsibility for the deaths of two young Indonesian hostages held by the OPM on May 15th 1996, although it does accept its share.

OPM accuse the Indonesian government of being responsible for the situation which led up to the brutal killings on May 15th. We further accuse the British and Dutch governments of collusion with the Indonesians in orchestrating that situation.

The individual who carried out these barbaric killings was not a member of the OPM; he was in fact working for the Indonesian dictatorship. He was not acting on orders from the OPM leadership.

The world’s press has thus far been very selective with the truth, not wishing it to get in the way of a good story….

They give the impression that the British Foreign Office and the Indonesians were doing all that was possible for the hostages, and that only the OPM were refusing to co-operate.

This in fact is completely untrue. While the British and Indonesians were telling the world that the OPM had stopped negotiating, they themselves on those same days were rejecting the OPM leadership’s offer to release the hostages to their UK representative unconditionally.

This offer was first put to the British and Indonesian governments on the 16th of January 1996, only eight days after the hostages were taken.

The first rejection came from the British on the 17th of January, and the Indonesians rejected the offer on the 18th of January.

During the 129 day ordeal, the OPM leadership in Papua New Guinea, through their UK representative, offered to give up the hostages unconditionally no fewer than 18 times to the Indonesian, British and Dutch governments respectively. All of these offers were rejected out of hand.

The OPM asked the families of the hostages to help 15 times — Rejected. We asked the hostages’ employers, the World Wide Fund for Nature, 10 times — Rejected. The International Committee of the Red Cross was asked to help many times — Rejected.

We asked the Labour Party (in Britain) and at their request had a meeting with them at their London, Millbank offices — but our request for help was rejected. We asked the Church of England, the UNPO, Cristian Aid, Oxfam — but all rejected our call for assistance in freeing the hostages.

For example, on February 9th the ICRC joined the mission to try to “restart” the negotiations — on the same day that the OPM via its UK representative again made an offer to the Indonesian Embassy in London to hand over all the hostages unconditionally to their UK representative. Two days later, on the 11th of February, the Indonesians again rejected the OPM’s offer.

The OPM leadership based in Papua New Guinea gave a number of interviews to the British press, and took part in a BBC Radio interview on March 13th. In all of these interviews the OPM offered to hand over all the hostages unconditionally.

At no time did the Indonesian, British or Dutch authorities try to talk with the OPM’s leadership. On March 6th the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, declared : The Indonesian government will never talk to the rebels.
The British government said : We will not negotiate with terrorists.

…… So who exactly was “negotiating” with whom?

It is obvious by their actions — or lack of actions — that both the British and Indonesian governments wanted the hostage situation to end in the way it did; and by it ending in this fashion they gained a propaganda victory over the OPM…..

They were determined that the hostages would only be freed on their terms, and they collaborated to ensure that the OPM would receive no credit for their release whatsoever — even if this meant the deaths of the hostages. The Indonesian and British governments were playing a cynical political game with the lives of the hostages, and they frustrated every effort made by the OPM leadership to facilitate the hostages’ earIy and safe release.

The OPM leadership deeply regrets the deaths of two young people at the hands of the Indonesian dictatorship — this was never the OPM’s intention.

The situation which led to the tragedy was orchestrated by the British and Indonesian governments for ther own sordid political and commercial purposes. Because of this, responsibility for the deaths must also fall upon the British and Indonesian governments.

Source : UK Representative, Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM)


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