NZ apologises over handling of Malaysian diplomat's sex assault case

NZ apologises over handling of Malaysian diplomat's sex assault case
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully (right) and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.

PETALING JAYA: New Zealand has apologised to the woman at the centre of an alleged rape by a Malaysian diplomatic official for bungling the high-profile case.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully also apologised to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) is investigating how officials sent mixed messages to Malaysia about what actions were acceptable regarding the case.

"The ministry has fallen well short of its obligations to the Government on this occasion and we take this failure very seriously.

"The victim and her family are entitled to a better standard of performance. I think that the communication that was undertaken formally was perfectly appropriate, but it wasn't supported by unambiguous communication of the standard that I would've expected," he was quoted as saying by Radio New Zealand News on Wednesday.

McCully added that he also apologised for not having the full information of the case when he spoke with Key.

The minister added that New Zealand had formally requested immunity be waived, but MFAT officials had made informal phone calls and sent emails which sent an ambiguous message.

He said Malaysian authorities could have interpreted the communication as meaning New Zealand approved of the suspects return to Malaysia.

Diplomatic aide Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, 38, 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 was originally scheduled to appear in court on May 30 to answer the charges but claimed diplomatic immunity.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the Ministry would have waived diplomatic immunity for Muhammad Rizalman if New Zealand had not offered an alternative in dealing with the case.

He said that during a discussion of the case on May 12, New Zealand had offered an alternative for the accused to be sent back to Malaysia.

Muhammad Rizalman, a Warrant Officer 2 is set to be tried in Malaysia and will face a Board of Inquiry set up by the Defence Ministry.

If the accusations are found to be true, he will be court-martialled.

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