Minister clarifies ransom and release of hostages

Minister for Internal Security, Peter Tsiamalili Jnr, has clarified the State’s involvement in the release of hostages in the Southern Highlands.

“I can confirm that neither the Prime Minister, James Marape nor the National Government were engaged directly with the hostage takers in relation to the terms of release or the ransom sum requested.

“Negotiations were deliberately undertaken by third parties, through an agreed operational strategy, so as to not compromise the State position on law enforcement,” Minister Tsiamalili said.

The Minister said that families of the hostages, supporters, local communities, and local authorities were engaged in the negotiations.

In total, a sum of K100,000 was made available by third parties to assist with intelligence gathering and to support the negotiators who secured the hostages release.

“It is important that members of the public understand the sensitive nature of what occurred in what was an act of terrorism,” he said.

The Minister provided the following points by way of clarification:

  1. It was always the intention of the government to negotiate to secure a positive outcome. Whilst security forces had the capability and capacity to intervene, the decision by the Commissioner for Police was to pursue a NEGOTIATED OUTCOME. I fully support the Commissioner’s approach and commend him and his officers for their work to secure the release of the hostages.
  2. Clear, concise, and effective communication with both the captors and hostages was critical. However, language barriers impeded this process.
  3. Given this, a decision based on OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS was made to engage a third party to deliver messages and confirm requirements for the safe delivery of the captees. AT ALL TIMES the third party took directions from the RPNGC Operational Command.
  4. Throughout, consultation with stakeholders occurred to determine how best to approach negotiations based on intelligence, the complexities of securing the release of the hostages and the minimisation of harm. At all times, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Minister for Internal Security were kept informed through regular briefings.
  5. In the course of these briefings it was agreed that the State could not be party to negotiating a financial settlement, as it recognised the risk of setting a precedent.
  6. From an operational standpoint the outcome was the desired one, which was the safe return of the hostages.
  7. Given the sensitives of the operations, negotiations were kept confidential to avoid compromising efforts to secure the release of the captees. 8) Government security forces continue to work to bring those involved to justice.

Minister Tsiamalili said the full weight of the law must be brought to bear on the captors.

“The actions of the hostage takers were abhorrent, causing significant distress to the captives and their families.

“Papua New Guinea is a nation founded upon laws. We will not tolerate those that seek to take the law into their own hands, and all necessary resources will be deployed to ensure that those responsible face the full weight of the law and are held to account for their actions.”

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