Diplomat case 'compromised', says Labour

Last updated 05:00 05/07/2014

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An investigation into a diplomatic blunder which led to a man accused of attempted rape return to his native Malaysia has been ''hopelessly compromised'' by the prime minister, Labour's David Shearer claims.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive John Allen has promised an inquiry into how the Malaysian Government took the impression that New Zealand accepted that Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail should be allowed to return home to face a military tribunal.

Rizalman is alleged to have attacked a 21-year-old woman in her home in Brooklyn, Wellington, on May 9.

While New Zealand had said officially that Malaysia should waive diplomatic immunity, meetings with officials made the situation ''ambiguous''.

On Thursday Prime Minister John Key dismissed questions that Foreign Minister Murray McCully should offer his resignation, but said the official who created the confusion should consider their career options if they were not clear that New Zealand wanted Rizalman to face justice here.

''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.

Shearer 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 kept 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.''

The official in question is Mfat deputy chief of protocol Mary Oliver, who discussed the situation with her counterparts at the Malaysian High Commission on May 12.

According to the Malaysian foreign minister it was at this meeting that ''the New Zealand side had offered an alternative for the accused to be brought back to Malaysia''.

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Rizalman is believed to be returning to New Zealand soon, potentially as early as the weekend, although Mfat was refusing to comment yesterday. 

Police and Crown Law were believed to have had meetings with Mfat at its Wellington headquarters yesterday, but Mfat insisted it was comfortable that the New Zealand legal system was in position to arrest Rizalman when he returned.

 


- Stuff

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