New Zealand minister says Malaysia acted in good faith in case involving junior envoy

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully (left) said today that Malaysia had refused to lift diplomatic immunity in the case as it felt that it could pursue the matter in a robust manner. — AFP pic
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully (left) said today that Malaysia had refused to lift diplomatic immunity in the case as it felt that it could pursue the matter in a robust manner. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, July 1 — New Zealand’s foreign minister has said that Malaysia has acted “entirely in good faith” in the case of the junior envoy alleged to have committed burglary and sexual assault in New Zealand.

In a statement on the New Zealand government website, Murray McCully said Malaysia had refused to lift diplomatic immunity in the case as it felt that it could pursue the matter in a robust manner.

He went on to add that there may have been some ambiguity in the communications between the countries on the matter.

“It is clear to me from my conversation with Minister Anifah (Aman) that his Government’s decision to decline New Zealand’s request for immunity to be lifted was driven by his Chief of Defence’s desire to put in place a robust judicial process to deal with this matter and his officials’ belief that this would be an outcome acceptable to New Zealand,” McCully said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has this evening provided me with the correspondence between New Zealand and Malaysian officials on this matter. While the formal request is absolutely unambiguous in seeking the lifting of immunity, it is now clear to me that officials engaged in informal communications over what is a complex case, in a manner that would have been ambiguous to the Malaysian Government,” he added.

The junior envoy, Muhammad Rizalman Ismail, 38, was arrested by Kiwi police on May 9 on allegations of attempted burglary and sexual assault on a 21-year-old woman.

He was charged in a New Zealand court a day later for burglary and assault with intent to commit rape, with the court granting a suppression order to protect his identity.

The suppression order was lifted earlier today, amid growing outrage in New Zealand with Prime Minister John Key saying that he would prefer the Malaysian tried in New Zealand.

McCully said he had been assured by his Malaysian counterpart that the junior envoy will face proper judicial process.

He added any material provided by New Zealand police will be placed before the Board of Inquiry in Malaysia which will handle the case.

“The Minister made it clear that he would not allow the actions of one individual to tarnish the reputations of all Malaysian diplomats,” he added.

“Due to the nature of the proceedings that lie ahead, I am unable to be more forthcoming on the matter at this stage. However, I can say that the Malaysian side have acted entirely in good faith,” he added.