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Monday, June 30, 2014

NZ warns ties may sour if diplomat escapes action


In a stern warning, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said if the Malaysian diplomat accused of sexual assault in Wellington does not face charges, it will affect relations between the country involved and New Zealand.

According to New Zealand-based news portal stuff.co.nz, McCully said officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) had made clear New Zealand's wish that the diplomat, now back in Malaysia, must face justice.

Acknowledging that there was no way to force the issue, he, however, warned that there would be consequences if New Zealand did not believe that justice was done.

"It will have a bearing on how we deal with the country concerned," McCully was quoted as saying, without naming Malaysia due to a suppression order by the court there on grounds of diplomatic immunity.

Commenting on a meeting between MFAT officials and the Malaysian head of mission in New Zealand, he said: "The New Zealand Government's position was spelt out and the head of mission was asked to convey those views (to his government).”

Asked why it had taken so long for the meeting to take place, when the alleged incident took place in May, McCully said the contact had been ongoing.

"There have been a range of interactions but I made the decision that we should formalise the discussion yesterday," he added.

He also supported moves by New Zealand media organisations to challenge suppression orders to name the country involved.

He had taken advice from the solicitor-general that he could not name the country, but indicated he was not happy with the situation.

"I wish you [the media] well. I can't see any good public policy reason why you'd want to protect someone from publicity, given that there won't be a trial," he said.

It is learnt that the suppression order has been lifted.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman is scheduled to hold a press conference on thematter this afternoon.

He also stressed that Wisma Putra was not protecting the diplomat involved and that the probe in New Zealand be continued.

"Just because he is a diplomat does not mean he gets off scot-free. Diplomatic immunity is not about having the licence to commit crime," he was quoted as saying by news reports.

Anifah also stated that the diplomat would be returned to Wellington only if he was assured of a fair trial and that his life was not in danger there.

The diplomat, who is in his 30s, is alleged to have followed a young woman back to her home in Brooklyn on the night of May 9 and assaulted her with the intent to rape.

Some reports  also linked him to burglary.

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