MOFA ‘regrets’ but denies envoy’s Maori king insult

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A Foreign Ministry report into accusations a diplomat called the leader of New Zealand’s Maori community “useless” has said that while the ministry “regrets” the alleged incident, no evidence has been found to support the charges. Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) last Wednesday accused Kay Lin (林恩真), deputy head of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, of saying Maori King Te Arikinui Kiingi Tuheitia was “useless” and “not supported by Maori people” while within earshot of the king’s chief of staff Rangihiroa Whakaruru. The put-down allegedly took place during a banquet in Taipei last December. Lin is scheduled to be posted to Australia to serve as Taiwan’s deputy representative there. Chen has called for her to be stripped of the position due to the “inappropriate remarks.” The Legislature ultimately passed a resolution asking the ministry to probe the allegations and punish Lin should it be confirmed that she made the remarks. In its report sent to Chen Wednesday, the ministry said it was unable to “restore actual conversations” between the 12 guests who attended the Dec. 12 banquet hosted by legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全). But according the ministry’s probe, the banquet was conducted in cordial fashion. Even though the ministry could not find evidence to support Chen’s claim, it expressed regret over the alleged incident given it could harm the cordial relations between Taiwan and the Maori community in New Zealand. The report also said that the ministry would be establishing contact with the Maori king to explain the incident and invite him to visit Taiwan soon.

Chen’s accusation was later refuted by Kolas Yotaka, a fellow DPP legislator, who said Friday that she was present during the Dec. 12 banquet and was seated close to both Lin and Whakaruru. Kolas said she did not hear Lin make the alleged remarks.

Chen herself said she did not hear the comments but rather was informed of them by Whakaruru. Muddying the waters further, Whakaruru originally said he heard the remarks himself but changed his story Thursday, when he said he had heard about the insults from a member of his staff who was also present at the event. Kolas said she had contacted Lin, who swore that she had not made the comments.