Editorial: Return the diplomat

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2014

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OPINION: The Malaysian diplomat charged with assault with intent to rape should be returned to New Zealand to face the music.

And Malaysia should be making it happen.

It is just wrong that Mohammed Rizalman Bin Ismail doesn't have to answer the charge in this country.

Even if diplomatic immunity is an option under the Vienna Convention. Even if it has been invoked in this way before, both here and overseas.

Diplomatic immunity was designed to give those working in a foreign land the ability to do their job without fear of coercion or harassment.

What it should not be used for is to allow immunity from the law when the action has nothing to do with the person's job, as is the case here.

And it is the home country, not the individual, which invokes the immunity, and that makes it so much worse.

Friends do not do that to their hosts. Diplomats are guests in this country. If one of them errs, and in a serious way, they should be held accountable.

Picture this.

You invite a family into your home and one of them makes inappropriate sexual advances to your daughter. The visitors don't simply put the offender on a bus and then stay on enjoying your hospitality.

Yet that is what is happening here.

So Malaysia should send Rizalman back, to save face at least. And to quell the feeling of outrage around this country. He will get a fair trial, and the woman involved will be able to put her case.

And it's not enough that Rizalman, who has a military rank of warrant officer, faces a military board of inquiry in Malaysia. That is not justice being seen to be done.

It sounds like the New Zealand Government did what it could prior to the diplomat leaving, to the further discredit of Malaysia. We appealed, it didn't listen.

Maybe it was reacting in the heat of the moment.

Everyone has now had a chance to draw breath.

There is still a chance for Malaysia to make amends.

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- The Timaru Herald

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