Muhammed Rizalman Bin Ismail has returned to Malaysia with
his family, but Murray McCully says it would still be
possible to seek his extradition. Photo / Facebook
The Malaysian Government asked New Zealand to drop all
charges and seal the court record of an official accused of
sexual assault, documents released by New Zealand officials
The diplomat at the centre of the allegations was identified
yesterday as Muhammed Rizalman bin Ismail, a 38-year-old
junior military official with three children, who had worked
at the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington since October.
The Herald and other news organisations successfully appealed
in the High Court at Wellington to have a suppression order
The Malaysian and New Zealand Governments appeared at odds
over the case yesterday. Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Minister
told local media that his Government was willing to waive
immunity for Ismail, but New Zealand allowed him to invoke
immunity and leave the country.
This directly contradicted statements made by Prime Minister
The comments prompted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT)
to take the rare step of releasing its correspondence with
the high commission.
In a diplomatic notice on May 10, MFAT wrote: "The New
Zealand police believes it is in the public interest to
prosecute these offences due to the serious nature of the
Ismail was facing charges of burglary and assault with intent
to rape after following a 21-year-old woman home in Brooklyn
the previous day.
MFAT asked Malaysian authorities to waive the personal
immunity granted to diplomats under the Vienna Convention.
In its response on May 21, the High Commission said it would
not waive immunity and had "decided that [Ismail] should be
repatriated to Malaysia as soon as possible".
It also asked MFAT and New Zealand police to "kindly consider
sealing all documentations pertaining to the above mentioned
matter and [withdraw] all charges against Mr Muhammed
Rizalman bin Ismail".
The High Commission said it would ensure Ismail did not
return to New Zealand. He left New Zealand for Kuala Lumpur
with his family the day after this notice was sent.
Before the documents were released, Malaysian Foreign
Minister Anifah Aman said Malaysia had planned to waive
immunity before New Zealand intervened.
He said Malaysia was willing to send Ismail back to New
Zealand to face the charges "if absolutely necessary". Asked
to elaborate, he said Ismail would be extradited if NZ
requested it or if its Government thought the Malaysian
investigation was not being conducted properly.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said it was still
possible to seek extradition.
Mr Anifah revealed Ismail was being investigated by a Defence
Ministry panel and "stern action will be taken" if he was
Last night, Mr McCully spoke with his Malaysian counterpart
to clarify any misunderstanding on the issue and later said
the Malaysian authorities had acted in good faith.
Mr McCully said the miscommunication seemed to have occurred
during "informal communications over what is a complex case,
in a manner that would have been ambiguous to the Malaysian
Any evidence gathered by the NZ police would be placed before
the military board of inquiry, he said.
Ismail is reported to be under psychiatric evaluation to
assess his mental and emotional condition.
His social media pages show he is a family man and a military
warrant officer. Many photos of his young family and wife in
Wellington feature on his Facebook page.
Some of the photos include Ismail dressed in military uniform
at a local restaurant with a member of the New Zealand
A Malaysian human rights group has condemned its government's
move to assert diplomatic immunity over Ismail and has called
for his extradition.
Lawyers for Liberty told The Rakyat Post that failing to
waive immunity was an abuse of the diplomatic privileges.
Executive chairman Eric Paulsen said Ismail was facing
serious charges, which were acts unconnected with his
The case could also jeopardise the inter-governmental
relations between Malaysia and New Zealand and also possibly
with other states, he said.
"We remind the Malaysian government that diplomatic immunity
is essential for diplomats to work without harassment in a
foreign state, but it is not a licence to commit crimes and
certainly not to be used in the present case."
The idea that Ismail should only be court-martialled for the
alleged crime was "preposterous" as it was a serious criminal
offence against a woman and not a disciplinary issue, Mr
He called for Ismail's diplomatic immunity to be waived and
the officer should also be extradited to New Zealand so that
he could be investigated and tried in their court of law.
AFP's Malaysia correspondent Julia Zappei told Radio New
Zealand the Malaysian Government would consider Ismail's
extradition back to New Zealand to face charges if the
government was not happy with the Malaysian investigation.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told media they would
conduct their own inquiry first and if that was not
satisfactory to the New Zealand Government, he would consider
returning him here.
The Malaysian Ministry of Defence had established a Board of
Inquiry for the investigation, Ms Zappei said.
"We don't have futher details as to how long this
investigation will take, what penalties he can face, what
crimes he can be charged with."
The board was investigating Ismail under the Armed Forces
It was unclear if Ismail had been stood down from his post,
Mr Aman said Ismail could face jail, "or worse".
The board would rely on evidence provided by New Zealand
authorities, Ms Zappei said.
Labour leader David Cunliffe told Firstline this morning that
Ismail must be extradited.
"The way out of this now is an extradition and for the
diplomat to be returned to New Zealand for a trial."
He said documents showed New Zealand government was initially
prepared to accept immunity for the diplomat.
"It appears as far as we can tell that early communication
between our Government and Malaysia indicated that New
Zealand was prepared for Malaysia to exercise immunity."
- By Isaac Davison of NZ Herald