The Herald reports:
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has defended sending two friends on a taxpayer-funded trip to Antarctica, calling it an “appalling, racist attack”.
Peters said Bee Lin Chew and her daughter Su Arn Kwek went on the trip as part of efforts to raise $50 million from donations to redevelop Scott Base.
They have not yet made any donations to the programme.
No one is saying they should not have gone because of their ethnicity. The issue is whether the Minister should arrange for personal friends to fly there at taxpayers expense.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson was initially meant to go on the February 7-10 trip at the start of February but had to pull out due to the timing of Waitangi Day and the first sitting week of Parliament.
Emails released under the Official Information Act, sent to the Herald, show Peters insisted the women go in his place, which left officials scrambling as there was only one spot.
Antarctica New Zealand initially warned that science programmes or essential staff may have to be cut to make room for the women but were able to fulfil the request without disrupting the programme.
The women, who are dual Malaysian-New Zealand citizens, are connected to one of South East Asia’s richest families.
That’s curious. The Constitution of Malaysia says you can lose your citizenship if you become a citizen of another country. The Malaysian Home Minister last year urged people to report anyone with dual citizenship.
So it may be worth checking if they really are dual citizens. There are three possibilities.
- They are citizens of Malaysia only
- They are citizens of New Zealand only
- They are citizens of both countries, and no one has reported them to the Malaysian Government
It would look even worse if the people sent were not even citizens of NZ.