Malaysia to return diplomat to NZ

Malaysia has decided to return a member of its diplomatic staff to New Zealand to face allegations of attacking a young woman in Wellington, a decision welcomes by NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully.


Defence attache Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail had escaped prosecution and returned to Malaysia in May after his country invoked diplomatic immunity.

But Mr McCully said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told him on Wednesday that the Malaysian authorities will be returning the staffer to New Zealand.

The police and courts will resume handling the case when he returns.

Mr McCully, who has taken political flak after his ministry officials apparently confused Malaysia about New Zealand’s stand on immunity for Rizalman, thanked the Malaysian government “for this very welcome development which underlines the good faith and integrity with which they have approached this issue.

“There was never any intention by either government to let this matter rest, and regardless of whether the process took place in Malaysia or New Zealand, there was a strong commitment to seeing justice done,” Mr McCully said in a statement.

He added that the attache had the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right to a fair trial.

He also acknowledged that the way the matter had been handled had added to the suffering of the young woman involved.

Rizalman was arrested on May 9 and charged with burglary and assault with intent to rape after allegedly following the Wellington woman home.

Mr McCully’s ministry asked Malaysia to waive diplomatic immunity, which was rejected on May 21. On May 22, Rizalman left New Zealand.

Mr McCully didn’t know Malaysia was initially prepared to waive immunity, but gained the impression from a New Zealand official that it wasn’t necessary.

Mr McCully told parliament he was informed on May 10 that Rizalman had been arrested, and that a waiver was being sought.

“I was not aware until Friday of last week that immunity had not been waived,” he said.

“I should have been informed. I was not.”

Mr McCully has apologised to Prime Minister John Key for the blunder, and ministry head John Allen has apologised to Mr McCully and the government.

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