Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni has called for Winston Peters to apologise over an inaccurate tweet about the Christchurch mosque terror attacks in 2019, while Muslim leaders have accused the NZ First leader of “political posturing” and spreading misinformation.
As outlined yesterday during the coronial inquest into the terror attack, the terrorist sent his manifesto to the Prime Minister’s Office in an email just minutes before beginning his attack, which killed 51 people. A parliamentary staffer called police shortly after reading the email.
But Peters, who was deputy prime minister at the time, claimed it was only yesterday that “we found out for the first time” about that email and the phone call. That’s despite it being widely reported by news media and addressed in a press conference the day after the attacks.
Posting to Twitter/X on Wednesday night, Peters accused former prime minister Dame Jacinda Ardern of a “lack of transparency to the New Zealand public” and called for her to give evidence at the inquest.
In a second, late-night tweet Peters acknowledged the information had been discussed in a press conference the next day but doubled down on his criticism of the Prime Minister’s Office.
He said in his phone call with Ardern immediately after the massacre “not once were we transparently informed of this information – such as the phone call her office made to the police – despite the obvious expectation and clear opportunity”.
Speaking to RNZ this morning, Sepuloni called for Peters to apologise, calling the tweets “a bit bizarre” and saying Ardern had been transparent about what happened at the time.
“I would hope that Winston Peters would apologise for those tweets because they are pushing misinformation,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday said Peters’ post was “completely inaccurate”.
“Peters should remove the tweet and post a correction,” the spokesperson said.
The Herald has requested comment from Peters.
A Muslim leader has criticised Peters for politicising the mosque attacks, saying he was spreading misinformation and now was not the time for “political posturing”.
Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) chairman Abdur Razzaq Khan told TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning the phone call to police from Ardern’s office was detailed in the report of the Royal Commission, so Peters’ comments suggested he had not read the report.
”This is an age where tweets and social media can divert genuine public discourse – you can actually bring in misinformation and make it the fact.”
Asked if he expected Peters to apologise, Khan pointed out that even after the mosque attacks Peters had refused to apologise for previous offensive comments he had made about Muslims which had contributed to “Islamophobia”.
”Whether he apologises or not, we still respect him – he’s a political leader. We expect a lot more from him.”