Putting the Sroubek puzzle together is challenging – perhaps a key piece is missing

What’s  the  piece  missing from the  public  gaze  on the  Karel Sroubek scandal and what’s behind the  heavy backing  given to  Iain Lees-Galloway  by  both  the  Prime  Minister  and   the Deputy Prime Minister?

The blunder  the Immigration Minister made  over the  convicted criminal Sroubek  is  one of the  most egregious  by  a  minister  in decades.  He  wouldn’t have survived  under Helen Clark – or, for that matter, most other  Prime Ministers.

In protecting Lees-Galloway,  both the  PM and Deputy  PM  stoked the fires of speculation and political tension, culminating in the stoush in Parliament  where the Speaker expelled first the  Leader of  the Opposition, Simon  Bridges,  and then the Shadow  Leader of the  House,  Gerry Brownlee.

The Sroubek scandal is beginning  to overshadow everything else  the  government is  doing,  as    political  antennae  quiver in an effort to sense what’s behind it all.

Something is missing from the information in the public arena on which public opinion is based – but what?

Was there  some  sinister  influence  behind  the Lees-Galloway decision,  rather  than  his making  the sort of error  anyone  might  make  late in  the day, after a  busy week, or while keen to  have a snifter  with  Winston?

Sroubek –  even though  he is  behind  bars –   seems to  have stirred up a  lot of  activity  on the   outside,   perhaps   with the  help  of the funds he has amassed  with his  drug  dealing,

National  MP  Mark  Mitchell,  who has been on  the case,  says he had a meeting with Michael Woodhouse in Lees-Galloway’s office this week and with his officials – and

“… it was very, very clear by the body language and the reaction of those officials from immigration that they felt that all the original information pack  clearly showed that the minister should have made the decision to deport and he didn’t, and I think everyone was shocked by that. 

“Now we want to know why he didn’t make that decision because… and actually as a bit part of that there’s representations made on behalf of Sroubek that have been hidden from us … and I asked the minister and said ‘Will you make those public so that we can see who was actually making representations on his behalf?’ And now we have to wait and see whether he’s going to do that. There’s a lot more gone on, this has got a long way to run”.

Point of Order   turns  now  to Hansard  for  a record of  the  events during   question time   in  the  House   which led to the  expulsion of  Bridges and  Brownlee.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition)to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Bridges: Why did she assert last week that Sroubek’s estranged wife, quote, “changed her tune”, and that she is, quote, “the National Party’s informant”?

PM: I assume the member is referring to responses made on my behalf. To answer the question, the Deputy Prime Minister, at the time, was making reference to information that I believe at that time was already raised in the public domain. Certainly, the first I knew of that information was when it was raised with me by the media.

Bridges: What does she say to the claim by  Sroubek’s estranged wife and family that her Government’s statements have been beyond appalling, and have caused immense stress and feelings of utter hopelessness in the estranged wife?

PM: Again, the first I knew of some of those issues was when they were raised with me by the media, and I have seen some reports since then. My expectation would be that if we had information brought to us that raised concerns around her safety, we act appropriately on that. When that issue was first raised with me, I told the Minister directly about that issue, and I understood he followed that up. My understanding is that is what has happened in each case that concerns have been raised with us directly.

Bridges: Can we be clear that she’s rightly distancing herself from statements made on her behalf that this woman was the National Party’s informant?

PM: What I’m pointing out is that—

Bridges: Oh, so you’re not?

PM: —my first knowledge of some of these issues was when they were already brought into the public domain, and that whenever we’ve had issues—

 Bridges: What’s that got to do with anything? Do you stand by the statements or not?

PM: —of concern raised, we acted appropriately—

SPEAKER: I don’t know how many times I have to tell the Leader of the Opposition: when he interjects, he is not to do it in the second person.

Bridges: Does she think that tarnishing a victim’s reputation by inferring they were politically motivated, and pushing her to feel utterly hopeless, aligns with her kinder, more compassionate style of Government?

PM: The first time I heard any such connection was actually in a media report—I think, my recollection is, on Radio New Zealand. That was the first time I heard that statement. I’d have to say, if there’s genuine concern about protecting that individual’s privacy, we would not be having this question in the House right now.

Bridges: How did Immigration New Zealand get the home address of Sroubek’s estranged wife, given there was a police safety plan in place—facts known only to the police?

PM: I obviously have absolutely no involvement with Immigration NZ’s following up on issues or concerns or, indeed, interviews or questioning. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to have that knowledge or that level of involvement.

Bridges: Does she agree with her Police Minister on this, who did have a view, that, quote, “There are some people who just need to be kept safe, and there is no way that anyone apart from police should know where that is.”?

PM: I think there’s appropriateness to the statements the police Minister was making. In fact, my understanding is that when he’s been informed of issues, he’s dealt with that entirely appropriately.

Bridges: Is it OK that two police detectives and Immigration New Zealand turned up at the estranged wife’s home address, unannounced, to obtain a changed statement from her, leaving her feeling “extremely vulnerable, exposed, and under threat.”?

PM: Obviously, I wouldn’t have knowledge of some of the level of detail that the Leader of the Opposition is raising. My advice would be that if these are issues that have indeed occurred, it would be appropriate, I think, for the Minister of Police to put them to the police and have them follow up independently of him. It is an operational issue; it is appropriate for them to respond. There’s also an independent police complaints process if there has been anything that’s occurred that has been questionable or should be followed up on.

Bridges: Will she answer whether it’s OK that two police detectives and Immigration New Zealand turned up at the estranged woman’s home address, unannounced, to obtain a changed statement from her, leaving her feeling “extremely vulnerable, exposed, and under threat.”?

PM: As I’ve said, I simply cannot know exactly what’s happened in this scenario. What I am laying out are all of the appropriate channels that are available for the member to ensure that this is looked into appropriately, because that is not something I will have detail on. I also want to point out that if this individual is feeling vulnerable, they should be supported, and canvassing these issues openly, here in this House, I don’t think is one way of doing that.

Bridges: Has the system let down the estranged wife of Sroubek?

PM: I would have to be intimately involved in every level of detail in order to know that. What we do need to make sure is that if there are complaints there that need to be made, they are followed up on appropriately, and I’m sure Ministers will ensure that that is the case if the member brings those complaints directly to them.

Bridges: When will the Opposition get the representations made to the Government on Sroubek’s behalf?

PM: Obviously, this is a case that is still potentially subject to legal challenge. The Minister of Immigration has put out the information that is available at this point, but at the same time there is a process still to be gone through.

 Bridges: Does she know personally any of the people who have made these representations?

PM: I am not privy to the representations in the case that have been made, and nor would it be appropriate for me to be privy to the representations or the process that immigration independently conducts in these situations.

Bridges: When will career criminal Karel Sroubek leave this country?

PM: When this process is complete. Obviously, the Minister of Immigration has made public his decision.

 Bridges: Does she anticipate it will now take years, given the court case that will ensue?

PM: I am not going to answer a hypothetical on this case. The Minister has issued his decision; now there’s a process to be run.

Bridges: Has she entirely washed her hands of anything to do with the Sroubek fiasco, and is she ducking and diving to get out of its way? [Speaker stands] Oh, here comes the protection.

SPEAKER: No—the Leader of the Opposition will leave the House.

Hon Simon Bridges withdrew from the Chamber.

 Brownlee: Struck a raw nerve.

SPEAKER: He will be followed by the shadow Leader of the House.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

This was followed by a  walkout  of  National  MPs.

Bridges  outside the  chamber   told reporters:  “I was trying to ask the Prime Minister serious questions about the Sroubek fiasco. She wouldn’t answer and the speaker leaped to protect her – I called him on it. I said ‘here comes the protection,’ ”

Bridges said it was in the public interest to break the rules in this instance.

“What I’ve seen is a Prime Minister who hasn’t answered serious questions. Here, we’re talking about a victim, we’re talking about very serious matters there should be answers to that she knows about or should know about as Prime Minister.”

Bridges said the walkout was not planned or co-ordinated.

“No, certainly none of this was my intention. My intention today has been to ask serious questions about Sroubek, about the estranged wife who feels like she has been targeted, that she is a victim of being called by Winston Peters effectively a National Party informant.”

Mallard was quoted as saying he had been reflecting on the supplementary question when he rose and it was out of order on at least two counts.

“As I rose, he questioned my impartiality.

Indeed he did, although whether a red card was an appropriate penalty can be questioned.

Here’s hoping Bridges sticks with his probing and the missing piece – or pieces – are found.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Putting the Sroubek puzzle together is challenging – perhaps a key piece is missing

  1. There is more to this story. I believe the minister was following directions from someone higher in the chain. I think National and Bridges know who that person is. I think they would be advised to wait until the New Year before revealing any further information. If they do it now it will get lost in the parliamentary, Christmas and New Year excitement. If the PM had sacked Lees-Galloway most of this attention would have died down by now. She is the author of her own misfortune.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The public have the right to know who intervened on the Czech criminal’s behalf. And who is his estranged wife so frightened of? This seems far more than a simple blunder on an incompetent Minister’s part. “Reading between the lines” leads to some potentially very disturbing conclusions. National must keep up the interrogation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Read between the lines” implied to the country a knowledge of the affair greater then available to Joe Public. Yet in this season she appears to disavow any knowledge of the matter.

      Was the PM lying then, or is she lying now?

      Also disturbing is that it is the fact that the PM apparently doesn’t bother to review statements made on her behalf in parliament, preferring to learn about it in the media.

      Lazy or stupid?

      Like

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