NZ foreign minister told to apologise to Malaysia

PETALING JAYA- New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has been urged to apologise to Malaysia for suggesting it was entirely to blame for immunity granted to a junior military officer facing charges of burglary and sexual assault in the country.

The New Zealand Herald said in its editorial that although McCully had apologised to the country's Prime Minister John Key, he also owed another to Malaysia.

"When Malaysia's Foreign Minister responded that New Zealand had been a party to the decision, McCully released an exchange of letters that seemed to give the lie to the claim.

"A more cautious minister would have suspected there was more to it when his counterpart had such a different understanding of events.

"Mr McCully ought to have checked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade before New Zealand said anything more," added the editorial.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman announced on Wednesday that Malaysia would send Warrant Officer 2 Muhammad Rizalman Ismail to Wellington.

It has also now been established that WO2 Rizalman left New Zealand at the suggestion of the country's foreign ministry officials.

The decision was reached following informal discussions between Malaysian and New Zealand officials.

In another development in the case, McCully declined Foreign Ministry chief executive John Allen's offer to resign over the fiasco but said that he was angry that his officials' mistakes had led to public embarrassment for him and Key.

Meanwhile, the newspaper's political editor Audrey Young lauded Malaysia's decision to send WO2 Rizalman back to Wellington, describing it in her column as the right move.

She said Malaysia's reputation was dented when it was wrongly believed that it had whisked WO2 Rizalman out of New Zealand and thumbed its nose at New Zealand's requests to revoke his diplomatic immunity.

"That was down to a bungle by a mid-grade official in the protocol division of the New Zealand ministry, who led the Malaysians to believe the New Zealand Govern­ment would not object to the course of action.

"Now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's reputation is dented," she wrote, adding that Malaysia's decision showed integrity.