Labour: Diplomat inquiry 'compromised'

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 15:40 04/07/2014
Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail
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RETURNED TO NEW ZEALAND: Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail.

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Mfat's investigation into the botched handling of a request that Malaysia waive political immunity has been "hopelessly compromised" by the Prime Minister, Labour's David Shearer claimed.

Yesterday Key dismissed questions about whether Foreign Minister Murray McCully should resign, but said an official that led to New Zealand's position seeming ambiguous should review their career options.

Key said New Zealand would have always wanted the diplomat, accused of attempting to rape a 21-year-old woman in her home, tried in New Zealand, rather than returning to Malaysia to face a military tribunal there.

''If that person doesn't have clarity about that position then they need to think very strongly about whether they're in the right job,'' Key said. The situation had added to the distress of the victim by creating ambiguity.

''That led to a situation that is unacceptable to me, and I think it is very distressing for the woman,'' Key said.

While New Zealand formally requested Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail waive diplomatic immunity, the government says subsequent communication between officials meant Malaysia believed in good faith that New Zealand accepted the man be returned home.

Shearer, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, said the investigation into what went wrong was now tainted by Key's comments.

"Mr Key has decided who is to blame and wants action taken to protect himself and Minister McCully. He's taken on the role of judge, jury and executioner," Shearer said.

"McCully has said he will have an investigation. But Key's words show that this will just a whitewash because the culprit has already been found, so that no ministerial responsibility will required."

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff said Mfat chief executive John Allen needed to step up to ensure Ministers should keep their noses out of operational matters.

"The Mfat official in question deserves a fair investigation, rather than simply being told by the PM that she should go before the inquiry has even started," Wagstaff said.

"Natural justice should not be compromised for the sake of political expediency."

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