Intercepted ship – people smuggling operation ‘had New Zealand contacts’

Last week Malaysian authorities intercepted a ship trying to smuggle 131 Sri Lankans, and have said the operation ‘had New Zealand contacts’, but an Australian refugees’ rights activist said the ship would never have reached New Zealand.

RNZ: Tanker smuggling migrants ‘never would have made it to NZ’

Malaysian authorities halted the modified tanker with 131 people on board on Tuesday and a group of Indonesains and Malaysians were arrested.

Malaysia’s national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the large-scale and cunning human smuggling syndicate had been operating for a year and had connections in New Zealand, as well as in Sri Lanka, Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

However a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul, said he doubted the ship could have gone far.

“It’s got a long way to come, even from Malaysia… and certainly the accommodation… it’s not equipped for any long distance thing.

So I think, on the face of it, there’s no possibility that it could be thinking of attempting to go to New Zealand.”

“It’s a fairly ambitious kind of operation and it’s unlikely, given the level of survellence between Indonesia and Australia, that a boat that size would make it.

He said the authorities were likely overplaying the level of complexity and contacts.

So this sounds like a long way from being a near miss.

Eventually a ship load of illegal immigrants may end up reaching New Zealand – ships travel great distances all the time, and a lot of New Zealand immigrants came here from the other side of the worlds in sailing ships.

Vigilance is needed, but it doesn’t seem to be a big concern here in New Zealand. And if some time a ship load of illegal immigrants end up making it here we just have to deal with it, as many other countries have to do.

MFAT immunity muck up – are there more?

The MFAT muck up over the Malaysian immunity case raises enough questions of it’s own, up through the ranks of the Ministry to Murray McCully.

Vernon Small touches on possible wider problems in Buck needs to stop for Mfat’s botch-ups.

There are some other questions that go beyond the official level too which the Government needs to address.

Would the public ever have been informed of the “immunity waiver” without media inquiries in this and other cases?

The signals coming out of the Beehive are “probably not”.

These cases should routinely be disclosed because the public have a right to know when the judicial system has been thwarted by the Vienna Convention and which countries invoke immunity, and in what circumstances.

There is no reason to shield any country from the New Zealand public’s right to judge their actions in such instances, particularly where alleged criminality has occurred against a member of the public.

Some things are simply beyond any “diplomatic” instinct to repair and smooth relations.

How was the Herald informed about the case and why? It seems to have been leaked information which is a very poor way to deal with this out of a diplomatic organisation where following protocols are supposed to be paramount.

And there’s a big question that needs to be asked.

Have other criminal cases been swept under the diplomatic carpet?

This was probably an unusually serious case, but the public and possibly our politicians simply don’t know. We should.

There needs to be full and open disclosure from MFAT on what if any other cases involving immunity there have been. We need to know if there have been more muck ups and if there have been more cases kept secret from the public.