Doubts on MFAT and Malaysia

Have we been told what really happened between MFAT and Malaysia? Unless an employee has screwed up badly and their Malaysian counterparts went along with it without questioning it, or there’s more to this story than we have been told.

An ex-MFAT employee commenting on Kiwiblog defends staff at MFAT but goes on to doubt the veracity of the stories we’ve been told.

CryHavoc  says:

I’m not sure why I’m going to do this, but here goes…

To the extent anyone gives a shit you will see from my comments made on kiwiblog that I am far from left-wing – a Government consisting of the current opposition is genuinely scary to me. I am also ex-MFAT and, take it from someone who looked out for such things, MFAT is not a hive of left-wing activity. Without question there are well-meaning, cardigan-wearing Otago polsci grads who believe fervently in climate change and the efficacy of the UN, but there are plenty of neoliberals too.

In this case the old saying of never attributing to conspiracy what can be put down to cock-up I think rings true. Not that that excuses at all what has happened here (though I will be very interested in what exactly has happened, and if McCully hasn’t been more involved than he is claiming I will be flabbergasted), but some of the rhetoric here and on yesterday’s thread is OTT.

It’s relevant that of the seven MFAT alumni in parliament now, four are Nats (Groser, Hayes, Parata, Foster-Bell), two are Labour (Cunliffe, Robertson) and one Green (Graham) – yeah we weren’t proud of all of them (where do you think the nickname “silent T” was thought up?). And on policy, the agency that brought you the China FTA, the closest relationship we’ve had with the US in 30 years, and now the TPP, is hardly working towards a socialist paradise.

Forgive this rant – despite historical loyalty I am well gone from MFAT and very happily in the private sector earning more money for less work – but some of the abuse is warranted; much of it isn’t. The vast majority of MFAT staff are working bloody hard for little recognition and yes, not that much money.

CharlieBrown says:

CryHavoc – you seem to be quite balanced and know a lot about MFAT so you might be able to answer my question. Is it possible or likely that NZ is just going along with the Malaysians version of events to avoid embarrassing that government and souring relations with them? I know its a gross generalization but South East Asian countries don’t have a great reputation when it comes to corruption and the fact that we produced a very clear and definitive written statement of what the Malaysians insisted on and the best that they come up with is a description of informal talks and emails. If it meant bringing a man to justice I would quite happily go along with that.

Can journalists request to see these emails or transcripts of talks with all involved using the official information act?

CryHavoc (42 comments) says:

Hi CharlieBrown – thanks for your comment, I’ve been pretty angry about this all week so I’m glad I seem balanced! In truth I read it exactly as you have said above. It’s absolutely par for the course for countries like Malaysia to latch on to any excuse to save face.

Here’s how I break it down. The Malaysians have had the option since day one to waive the guy’s immunity. MFAT made a formal request via Third Person Note (so called in the trade because it is highly formal and represents the “official view of the Government”) that asked the Malaysians to waive immunity. The Malaysians responded ten days later saying that they would not… oh and please cover up all the evidence. It seems clear to me that they had no intention of letting the guy face trial here.

Subsequent to that, just as the thing is blowing up (like this week I.e. A month or so later) in Malaysia and there’s a heap of domestic political pressure on the Government of Malaysia (because their young, westernized, savvy population has the same view of sex-pests that we do and they’re all saying he should be tried here) they say “Oh, we had been led to believe that it would be ok if he came home.”

I call bullshit on this. In the diplomatic game it is all formal and you don’t assume a country’s view until it is on paper. If they thought there was ambiguity, and they genuinely gave a crap about whether the guy stayed or not, they would have sought clarification from NZ before sending him home. There is just simply no way that a mid-level official in MFAT saying “um, well, it might be ok if he faces a court martial in Malaysia” would trump the formal exchange above.

[Now I have no idea what the nature of those informal conversations was, so I could be completely wrong – but I still can’t believe they wouldn’t seek formal clarification.]

So… What has happened this week, as far as I can see, is that the Malaysians have found themselves in the shit. They’ve sent a shitbag to NZ and he’s caused a major embarrassment to them. They’ve therefore reached for the only remaining excuse they have – some flimsy bollocks about informal conversations – and said oh no it’s ok, we’ll send the guy back, we’re the good guys here (ignoring all the time that they could have played this card at any stage… and of course knowing that the guy is some low ranking bloke who’s expendable), and hence regained the moral high ground. McCully, much to my disdain, has allowed them to do it – aided and abetted by the singularly stupid and insular NZ media for whom finding a scapegoat is the key objective, rather than doing any analysis.

So that’s just my take. And to answer your other question, yes, absolutely everything on the MFAT record is OIAable on this. It will no doubt be heavily redacted to prevent the Minister taking any flak, but there should be a record of every conversation that has taken place on this issue. Not transcripts per se but file notes of everything.

Something abnormal certainly seems to have happened here, we just can’t be sure what.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the input CryHavoc . I can’t believe this issue is still really loud


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