Report into diplomat debacle shows Ministers’ failures – Green Party

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The report into the treatment of a diplomat found guilty of indecent assault highlights a failure of Government Ministers to show political leadership over sexual violence, the Green Party said today.

After months of refusing to release the report by former Treasury Secretary John Whitehead, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has finally made public the findings. The report only looks at the actions of MFAT officials and how they led to Malaysian diplomat Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail being allowed to leave New Zealand before being tried for indecently assaulting Wellington woman Tania Billingsley. The report doesn’t cover the actions of Ministers.

Following the assault, Malaysian officials invoked Mr Rizalman’s right to diplomatic immunity and he was allowed to leave the country, after New Zealand officials had indicated they approved of the move.

“This report reinforces the National Government’s poor record on sexual violence,” said Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie.

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“From the Prime Minister’s rape comments to this report, National Ministers keep showing how unimportant they consider the issue of sexual violence to be.

“Ministers were told about the attack on Ms Billingsley well before Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail was allowed to leave the country.

“The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Police both had an opportunity to show leadership and to ensure that officials treated the attack seriously. Instead they removed themselves from the review.
“The report clearly shows there was no attempt made by the Murry McCully, the Prime Minister or Police Minister Anne Tolley to keep an eye on what was happening with the Rizalman case.

“By excluding themselves from the investigation, they further perpetuated their lack of political leadership on this issue.

“They not only failed Tania, they also failed to provide the leadership that New Zealanders expect from their Ministers.

“I am sorely disappointed at the way this situation has been handled. The right thing to do would be to ensure an inquiry looks into the actions of all the Ministers in this case, not just the staff.

“This Government needs to do more to help victims of sexual violence, starting with demonstrating proper leadership on this issue,” said Ms Logie.