So picture this:

You’re a skinny bloke from Christchurch who pilots chartered flights for an Indonesian air company and — if that’s not alternate enough — one day a man wearing a penis-gourd sets fire to your plane and takes you captive.

Phillip Mehrtens is being held hostage by members of the West Papua National Liberation Army.

Which is not to be confused with the Army for the Liberation of West Papuan Nationals. Or the National Army of Liberated Western Papua.

Recently, a crack force of elite Indonesian paratroopers attempting a rescue got their assess handed back to them by the WPNLA. That’s right, a bunch of guys mostly armed with bows and arrows and pointy sticks.

Something like thirty Special Forces soldiers died in a ditch trying to save Mehrtens, if you believe Rear First Admiral Julius ‘Maximum Force’ Widjojono — who might be more persuasive if the whole mission wasn’t FUBAR.

Now the WPNLA have bows and arrows, and the Steyr AUG bullpup assault rifle.

Nice work, Widjojono. 

Weighing in on the conversation, John Martinkus, a journalist who was once captivated by Sunni militants outside a Baghdad hotel, says Mehrtens must now ‘appease’ his kidnappers or end up on a skewer.

I can’t print what that conjurs to mind, but maybe this photograph explains it.


Mehrtens may have left his velcro gloves at home, but he’ll need to get a firm grip on the situation. A forbidden-love story transcending bounds of race, culture, gender and politics, etc., Mehrtens has to keep Ngopo happy.

And not just Ngopo, but all the lads. Including Mr Smiley in the penis-gourd and a couple of Rastafarians insisting he covers ‘Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)‘ when Mehrtens sings for his supper.

Mehrtens is still alive, so far as we know.

I hesitate to say that things could be worse (until Netflix buy the rights and I see the limited-series) but shortly after the abduction WPNLA spokesperson Sebby Sambom said Mehrtens would be ‘executed to dead’ if Jakarta is obstinate.

Don’t quote me, but sending in the cavalry seems a bit obstinate.

So I hate to say it, but Mehrtens is probably in a bit of a pickle right now

As in he may have actually been pickled by now, or at least ‘executed to dead’. Sure I hear you, but tell me first what happened to Michael C. Rockefeller in 1961 before you insist it couldn’t happen in 2023.

Oh no, Ngopo.

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