NZ announces inquiry into Christchurch attacks

WELLINGTON • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday a royal commission, a powerful form of public inquiry, into the events leading up to an attack on two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 that killed 50 people.

Ms Ardern told reporters at Parliament House in the capital, Wellington: "It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to the bottom of how this act of terrorism occurred and what, if any, opportunities we had to stop it."

A suspected white supremacist has been charged with one count of murder over the shootings, and will next appear in court on April 5.

Ms Ardern has said the man had not been on any terror watchlists in New Zealand or Australia.

She said a major focus of the inquiry would be whether security agencies focused their attention on the right issues and whether there were any clues that were missed.

It would include the role of social media and the suspect's ability to obtain a weapon, Ms Ardern said.

The precise terms of reference for the royal commission have yet to be announced but Ms Ardern's decision to call such an inquiry was welcomed by members of New Zealand's Muslim community.

A MAJOR FOCUS

It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to the bottom of how this act of terrorism occurred and what, if any, opportunities we had to stop it.

NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN

Muslim community advocate Guled Mire said: "The announcement of an inquiry is a great call and the right thing to do. I hope that it will be an inclusive inquiry and that an opportunity will be provided to the Muslim community to feed into the terms of reference."

Royal commissions are independent inquiries and are usually reserved for matters of the greatest public importance.

Massey University security and defence analyst Rhys Ball, who formerly worked for New Zealand's intelligence service, said the inquiry should include agencies such as Customs, police and immigration.

Separately, Ms Ardern yesterday also said she would travel to China on Sunday for a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping amid concerns of strained relations between the countries.

She first announced her plans to visit China last year but no final dates had been announced.

Ties with China have been tense under Ms Ardern's government, which has openly raised concerns about Beijing's growing influence in the South Pacific, and also rejected Chinese telecoms giant Huawei's first local bid to build a 5G mobile network.

Ms Ardern has acknowledged there were complexities in the relationship with China, but dismissed concerns of a rift with New Zealand's largest trading partner.

She said the trip had been trimmed down to a one-day visit in the wake of the mass shooting.

Ms Ardern will also meet Premier Li Keqiang during the trip. Talks would include discussions on an upgrade to the free trade agreement between the two countries.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2019, with the headline 'NZ announces inquiry into Christchurch attacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe