Woman in NZ assault case speaks up

PETALING JAYA - The woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a Malaysian aide in New Zealand wants her name suppression lifted so that she can help address the problem of sexual violence in the country.

Tania Billingsley (pic), 21, said she was "not a bystander" and that she had a lot to say about the assault.

"I'm hoping that in revealing who I am and having a face to put to this alleged victim, I'll be able to help address some of the issues around sexual violence in this country," she told New Zealand's Channel 3 News yesterday.

Warrant Officer 2 Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, who is a defence staff assistant with the Malaysian High Commission in New Zealand, is alleged to have sexually assaulted Billingsley at her home in Wellington.

Rizalman reportedly followed her back to her home in Brooklyn on the night of May 9 and is alleged to have assaulted her with the intent to rape.

Billingsley said she first became aware of Rizalman's diplomatic status on May 11, which also happened to be her birthday.

Rizalman, 38, returned to Malaysia on May 22 after the Malaysian High Commission reportedly turned down a request by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to seek a waiver of his diplomatic immunity in order for him to face charges there.

It was only on that day that Billingsley discovered Rizalman was leaving the country.

"I found out that he was going to leave the day that he left. Up until then, the police had been really great at keeping me informed but even they didn't know what to tell me.

"Obviously, I was frustrated and angry because I had from the very beginning said that I wanted him to stay in New Zealand and be held accountable here," she added.

Rizalman is currently being warded at the Tuanku Mizan Military Hospital for medical evaluation.

Malaysia will send him back to assist in investigations although the date of his departure has yet to be determined. The Defence Ministry has set up a Board of Enquiry to investigate the case.