The Imam of a mosque targeted during the March 15 massacre has spoken out in response to a claim from Winston Peters alleging former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern concealed that her office received an email from the shooter before the attack.
That information hasn’t been concealed. Dame Jacinda spoke two days after the shooting about her office receiving the shooter’s manifesto minutes before the attack and it was widely reported. The Prime Minister’s Office has called Peters’ claim “completely inaccurate”.
Gamal Fouda, the Imam of the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, one of the sites of the 2019 shootings, has now shared a comment on Peters’ tweet.
“It’s been a difficult time for all of us, especially the victims, and I don’t believe anyone can make a political game out of this terrible time for our fellow New Zealanders,” Fouda told Newshub.
In his Wednesday night tweet, Peters said: “We waited until today to find out, for the first time, that the Prime Minister’s Office received information about the March 15 terrorist attack before the massacre took place”.
“Jacinda Ardern should be called to the hearing and asked to explain this appalling lack of transparency to the New Zealand public – let alone to the Deputy Prime Minister and government coalition partner.
“This was a crisis event. To keep this basic information hidden is not only unacceptable it is now clearly indicative of how that office worked. The next question is who else inside Cabinet knew and said nothing?”
Peters’ tweet appears to have been prompted by the release on Wednesday of the transcript of the 111 call made from Parliament on March 15, 2019 after the Prime Minister’s Office received an email containing the manifesto.
The transcript was released amid a coronial inquiry into the attack, which saw 51 people die and many others injured.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Peters should remove the tweet and issue a correction, while Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni on Thursday morning called it “bizarre” and said Peters should apologise.
Peters also fired out a second statement on Wednesday night as he came under fire.
“For those political apologists and feckless media, there is an existing transcript of a phone call made by the Prime Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister at the vital time of a crisis when a terrorist had just massacred innocent people.
“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.
“To excuse it because it was known at a ‘public press conference’ the next day, instead of information that should’ve been shared with the Deputy Prime Minister and coalition partner the day before, is as bizarre as it is biased.”
New Zealand First was kicked out of Parliament in 2020 but has secured enough support in the preliminary 2023 election results to return.
While the party isn’t currently needed by National and ACT to form a Government, it is likely to be once the special votes have been counted and released on November 3.
National leader Christopher Luxon is currently holding coalition negotiations and has confirmed he has spoken with Peters.
Luxon is yet to comment on Peters’ tweet, but National MP Simeon Brown appeared on TVNZ’s Breakfast on Thursday morning.
Brown said it was up to Peters to decide whether to remove the tweet and said the focus should be on the coronial inquiry.
Labour MP Tangi Utikere told the show that National should be answering questions on the matter given New Zealand First is likely to be needed by the party to form a Government.