M'sian diplomat's alleged victim wants NZ foreign minister to quit

M'sian diplomat's alleged victim wants NZ foreign minister to quit

WELLINGTON - A woman whom a Malaysian diplomat allegedly tried to rape in Wellington called Wednesday for New Zealand's foreign minister to resign over his handling of the affair.

Alleged victim Tania Billingsley, 21, waived her legal right to anonymity to call publicly for Foreign Minister Murray McCully to step down.

Billingsley told broadcaster TV3 that she felt her plight had been overlooked as McCully attempted to deal with the diplomatic fallout from the alleged attack by Malaysian military attache Muhammad Rizalman Ismail.

"He's so intent on trying to put the responsibility on everybody else that he wasn't putting energy towards fixing what had happened," she said.

"It's embarrassing watching a grown man trying to put blame and talk his way out of what is failure at his own job... I think he should resign."

Muhammad Rizalman appeared in a New Zealand court on May 10 accused of stalking Billingsley the previous night and attacking her at her home in the same Wellington suburb where Malaysia's High Commission (embassy) is located.

Police charged him with burglary and assault with intent to commit rape -- both offences that carry jail terms of up to 10 years.

The case sparked outrage in New Zealand when officials in Wellington initially said Malaysia had refused to waive diplomatic immunity and had sent the diplomat home.

However, it later emerged that in sending Muhammad Rizalman home, the Malaysians were acting on suggestions by New Zealand foreign affairs officials during informal discussions.

Billingsley said police in New Zealand had been considerate but she never felt her wishes had been a factor for foreign affairs officials in whether or not Muhammad Rizalman would face justice in New Zealand.

"From the very beginning I said that I wanted him to stay in New Zealand and be held accountable here," she said.

McCully has said that the option of sending Muhammad Rizalman home under the cloak of diplomatic immunity should never have been canvassed by his ministry and he has launched an investigation into how it occurred.

Malaysia has said it will return Muhammad Rizalman to New Zealand to face trial for his alleged offences.

He is believed to be undergoing psychiatric tests in a Malaysian military hospital and the date of his departure for New Zealand is unclear.

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