Sex case diplomat's accuser: I want an apology

By Staff reporters

Tania Billingsley appeared on TV3 3rd Degree last night, and said she's yet to receive a direct apology from Murray McCully. Photo / 3rd Degree
Tania Billingsley appeared on TV3 3rd Degree last night, and said she's yet to receive a direct apology from Murray McCully. Photo / 3rd Degree

The woman at the centre of a diplomatic incident and the victim of an alleged sex attack says Foreign Minister Murray McCully should resign.

Tania Billingsley, 22, said she was deeply unhappy her alleged attacker, Malaysian warrant officer Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail, had been allowed to go back to Malaysia, after mixed messages from an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mfat).

In an interview with TV3's Third Degree, the Wellington resident said she had yet to receive a direct apology from Mr McCully about errors made in her case. By having name suppression -- automatically granted to alleged sexual attack victims -- lifted and speaking out, she was putting a "face" to the alleged victim.

"I guess that I'm someone who has something to say about this assault, I mean it happened to me and throughout this whole process, especially once it's become so public, my voice hasn't been heard," she said.

"I think he [McCully] should resign."

Rizalman, a former staff member at the Malaysian High Commission, is accused of following Ms Billingsley home and assaulting her with intent to rape. He was arrested on May 9 and appeared the next day in Wellington District Court, but invoked diplomatic immunity and returned to Malaysia on May 22.

Rizalman is accused of following Billingsley home and assaulting her with intent to rape.
Rizalman is accused of following Billingsley home and assaulting her with intent to rape.

The New Zealand Government has maintained it always wanted Rizalman to stay in the country and face the charges. But an informal, ambiguous communication from the Mfat official led to a belief that Rizalman's return to Malaysia was acceptable to New Zealand.

Ms Billingsley, who said she spent the morning of her birthday being told by police her alleged attacker was a diplomat, said Mr McCully's actions had been unsatisfactory. "I would like an apology from him [McCully] ... not just for ... what I feel is a really incompetent handling of the situation but in his reaction, like the fact that even when asked directly about me and things like that, that he just kind of brushed it off and he was so intent on trying to put responsibility and blame on everybody else."

Mr McCully said: "I have publicly apologised to the young woman whose distress has been aggravated by the poor management of this case. The terms for a full inquiry ... are being finalised. I do not wish to compromise either the inquiry or any criminal proceedings by commenting further."

An Mfat spokesman admitted there had been faults in the handling of Ms Billingsley's case.

"The ministry deeply regrets the distress caused to the individual concerned. Mfat CEO John Allen has apologised to her publicly and by letter."

Wellington's district police commander, Superintendent Sam Hoyle, said officers were continuing to support Ms Billingsley.

Police did not oppose her decision to have name suppression lifted.

International relations expert Professor Robert Patman of Otago University said Mr McCully should have regularly consulted with ministry staff about the case.

"In particular, given the fact the Government had indicated early on that it wanted Malaysia to waive diplomatic immunity, I would have thought the Government would have been very active in its efforts to persuade the Malaysian Government to retract its decision from the moment it knew that the diplomat was returning to Malaysia on May 22," he told 3News.

Labour party foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said the incident was incompetently handled and the Government had not treated it seriously.

"John Key and Murray McCully were both briefed about this incident - it wasn't a parking ticket, it was an alleged attempted rape, and yet both of them didn't think it was serious enough to come back and say to officials, 'what's the story with this case, this is a serious case'," he told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme.

There was "obviously some reason to believe that something like this was wanting to be swept under the carpet rather than actually brought out in the light of day".

He praised the young woman for her bravery in coming forward, saying she had been forgotten "while blame was being pushed around and everybody was dodging for cover".

"I believe that Murray McCully should have done the honourable thing and offered his resignation to John Key, and I still believe that's the case," he said.

Read also: Psychiatric tests delay Rizalman's return

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 19 Sep 2014 15:10:04 Processing Time: 514ms