PUTRAJAYA- The Foreign Ministry would have waived diplomatic immunity for Muhammad Rizalman Ismail if New Zealand had not offered an alternative in dealing with his case.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said during a discussion of the case on May 12, New Zealand had offered an alternative for the accused to be sent back to Malaysia.
"It was never our intention to treat the matter lightly. The Foreign Ministry was prepared to waive diplomatic immunity of the accused to enable prosecution in New Zealand.
"Those involved in the discussion were the Malaysian High Commissioner in Wellington, the (New Zealand) deputy chief of protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and officers from the New Zealand police.
"With the agreement of the New Zealand side, the accused and his family returned to Malaysia on May 22, accompanied by a high-ranking Mindef (Defence Ministry) official," he told a press conference at Wisma Putra here yesterday.
Anifah said the Foreign Ministry had no intention of exercising diplomatic immunity to save the accused.
"We would have brought him back on our own had we felt that he would not get a fair trial or his life was in danger. But in countries like New Zealand, we have no doubt about their justice system as we have almost the same system.
"But we were offered an alternative, so we thought it was best to take the offer to bring him back but a thorough investigation will follow with the full cooperation of the New Zealand authorities," he added.
Muhammad Rizalman, 38, a Warrant Officer 2 at the Defence Ministry, had been attached to the high commission since last year.
He was arrested on May 9 and brought to court the following day to face charges of burglary and assault of a young woman with intent to commit rape.
He had apparently followed the woman back to her home in Brooklyn on the night of May 9.
The Star learnt that TVNZ had called Anifah for an interview over the phone yesterday during which the minister read out a note sent by the New Zealand ministry's deputy chief of protocol.
Among the matters mentioned in the note were: "If he (the accused) were to complete his posting prior to May 30 and return to Malaysia with his family, that would be the end of the matter."
Muhammad Rizalman was originally scheduled to appear in court on May 30 to answer the charges.
Anifah said Mindef had set up a board of inquiry (BOI) to investigate the case comprehensively.
He said Wisma Putra had no qualms aboutsending the accused back to New Zealand if it was absolutely necessary and if the country requested for the extradition.
"But we have confidence in Mindef and the board will communicate with the New Zealand authorities for evidence.
"What is important is that he must be investigated thoroughly and given a fair hearing. If he is found guilty, punishment must be meted out accordingly," he said.
Anifah said the Government acknowledged that the incident was a serious matter and did not have any intention to "sweep the matter under the carpet".
He said the accused had been referred to a psychiatrist for observation at the Tuanku Mizan Military Hospital to assess his mental and emotional condition.
Anifah also said bilateral relations between Malaysia and New Zealand would not be affected by the incident.