The Malaysian government’s handling of the diplomat accused of sexual assault in New Zealand is “appalling”, and the alleged offender should be extradited, Malaysia’s opposition leader says.
Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the People’s Justice Party, said it was beyond belief the Malaysian high commission had requested all charges against Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail be withdrawn on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.
Rizalman was arrested in Wellington on May 9 after an alleged attack on a 21-year-old woman in her home last month.
Police had sufficient evidence to charge him with assault with intent to rape, as well as refusing to leave the property, but had to release him because Rizalman had diplomatic immunity.
Documents released to Fairfax Media on Tuesday showed the Malaysian high commission had requested New Zealand authorities seal the file on Rizalman, and withdraw all charges against him.
It has since emerged that informal communication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade could have led Malaysian diplomats to believe that Wellington was comfortable with Rizalman returning to Kuala Lumpur to face a military tribunal.
“I am appalled that they had the audacity to suggest that an attempted rape and assault crime should be withdrawn on the basis of diplomatic immunity.”
“I know how rotten the failure of the governance here is, but I cannot imagine that we can write to a different country and request the withdrawal of these criminal charges.”
The Malaysian government should reconsider its position, and if the allegations were found to have a basis, Rizalman must be tried in the New Zealand courts, Anwar said.
“We are dealing with New Zealand, and there is no question about the independence and due process of the courts.”
It was “only proper” the New Zealand courts dealt with the matter, as that was where the alleged offence was committed, Anwar said.
Witnesses, police officers, and matters pertaining to the investigation were all based in New Zealand, which would prevent a trial taking place expeditiously in the Malaysian courts, as required by due process.
Many leaders of women's organisations had contacted Anwar since the revelations about the diplomat emerged, expressing their disgust and “protesting vehemently” at the use of immunity for an offence of this nature, Anwar said.
There was a perception of an attempted cover-up of the alleged offence, which occurred almost two months ago.
“It’s all hush hush and avoiding the media for all this time.”
The handling of the situation echoed the “fiasco” of the government dealing with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Anwar said.