Triplets' father looks to PM for help
The father of New Zealand triplets who were killed in a mall fire in Qatar says the only way he will be closer to getting official answers into what caused the blaze is if the Prime Minister John Key personally becomes involved.
Martin Weekes' triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher and 16 others were killed when the Villaggio Mall in Doha went up in flames on May 28.
Saudi Arabia-based news organisation Al Arabiya released documents on Monday which suggest that Syria's Assad regime was behind the fire.
Weekes and his wife Jane have requested the investigation report into the fire and other information from Qatar officials but say they still have no answers four months on.
"We don't even know if the letters have gone to the right people."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also requested the inspection report into the fire, and a spokesperson said it would pass on any information to the Weekeses when it arrived.
But Weekes said the request needed to come directly from Prime Minister John Key and be made to the ruling Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani.
"If the Prime Minister of New Zealand phones the Emir he's going to respond to it but if something gets sent from a junior level below it will never get to him," he says.
"He needs to speak to him personally, leader to leader, to say what he thinks needs to be done.
"You're not dealing with a culture that responds in the way that we do ... it takes direct involvement from that level to make a difference."
Weekes has knowledge of the required process as he is still employed as an adviser to the Qatar government, even though he says the government has flatly refused to give him any information.
Key, through a spokesperson, today would not say whether he would contact the Emir or not.
He said he had "enormous sympathy" for the Weekes and said that Foreign Minister Murray McCully had been in contact with them.
"I completely understand Martin and Jane Weekes' anger and frustration with the time it is taking for information to arise from the investigation into the fire at the shopping mall in Doha.
"Mr McCully is currently in the Caribbean, but I understand he is attempting to touch base with Martin Weekes in the next day or so."
The documents released by Al Arabiya, allegedly between Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and government officials, indicate that the fire was planned as a way of embarrassing Qatar, which had lent its support to the opposition, the Free Syrian Army.
A document allegedly from Syrian Major General Dhu al-Himma Shaleesh to the president indicated that the "Vilaggio blaze" mission had been successful. It was dated June 2, just four days after the fatal fire.
Weekes said he didn't know if the documents were genuine, but said when the Qatar government refused to give any information to the families, public or media, then rumours would start to surface.
Qatar officials said soon after the fire that it was caused by "faulty electrical wiring in a fluorescent light" in the sports store next to the daycare centre, where 13 children, including the triplets, were killed.
The government released a press statement but has refused to give the families the investigation report, despite various media suggesting it had, Weekes said.
Five people were arrested in relation to the fire but the families have not been told who they are or what they have been charged with, he said.
Those arrested failed to show at their first court appearance so it has been rescheduled for next week.
The Weekes are currently in America and will not be attending, but they hope a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be able to be present.
"It shows the court in Qatar that the New Zealand government also wants answers," Weekes said.
"There are plenty of Kiwis living in Qatar. You don't want anything to happen to them."
A Mfat spokesperson said the New Zealand embassy in Saudi Arabia was in regular contact with Qatar authorities and would monitor the court proceedings closely.
"We're just nine families that have lost our children....we need help," Weekes said.
"I just don't want [the New Zealand government] to give up."
- © Fairfax NZ News