Malayasian diplomat back in NZ 'sometime soon' - McCully

By Michael Botur

Rizalman is accused of assault with intent to rape Tania Billingsley, right, on May 9.
Rizalman is accused of assault with intent to rape Tania Billingsley, right, on May 9.

A Malaysian waiver of immunity to speed up the return of a crime-accused diplomat to New Zealand has not been granted swiftly enough, Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully said today.

Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail, initially charged with intending to rape a Wellington woman, will be back in NZ "sometime soon," Mr McCully told TVNZ's Q&A. The precise date is "completely in the hands of the lawyers."

Mr McCully said he had told the Malaysian government that Mr bin Ismail is going to get a fair trial in New Zealand which is "not prejudiced with a lot of loose talk".

"My job is here to try and make sure that the Malaysian government can have confidence in our system. I'm not going to get tied up in a domestic debate, even though it's coming close to an election."

Mr McCully said he told the Malaysian government that Mr Rizalman is going to get a fair trial in New Zealand.

"I'm doing my level best to make sure that's the case, and that it's not prejudiced with a lot of loose talk."

Asked to explain problems discovered in a review of MFAT handling of the incident, Mr McCully said an overworked staff member didn't open a relevant email until after the matter became a public issue in the early part of July. Mr McCully said he wouldn't discuss resigning over that aspect of the case.

He said he hasn't watched a television interview with the alleged victim because he was working to secure New Zealand a UN Security Council seat.

Mr McCully also said the Israeli Ambassador was "called in the week before last to convey formally the New Zealand Government's views [?] on the mounting toll of civilian casualties in Palestine."

Mr McCully said the Gazan tragedy will have "a very predictable outcome" and he is hopeful of "of a unilateral [Israeli] withdrawal over the next few days."

He said he had been "doing my share of miles" to try to bolster New Zealand's case for a UN Security Council seat. New Zealand is not the front runner for the seat, and instead of working with tens of millions of dollars like Australia, New Zealand has been "doing this on an oily rag," he said.

"We are a country that can't buy our way on to the Security Council [?] we do have to compensate for our weaknesses by doing more visiting, having more people on the road."

- APNZ

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