Long before the recent grilling of Green Party MP Ricardo Menendez March before the select committee in parliament, the Indian Weekender had sought information from Immigration New Zealand about any special treatment meted out to his partner, which was then deflected under the guise of "privacy-issue."
Luckily this will not be the case now, as INZ head Greg Patchell, fresh from the grilling by the select committee of parliament, had come out and told reporters that he will "ask his staff to make sure they made the right decision."
This is a welcome relief, especially when an earlier media scrutiny sought by this publication, was deflected on the premises of privacy issue, especially when Ricardo Menendez had himself not revealed much about his partner's supposedly chance visa in December to luckily coincide with his return from Mexico where he said he was travelling to meet his ailing parents – and not to bring his partner into the country.
In a story published on February 12, the Indian Weekender had called out the freshly minted Green Party MP to come out clean on the conditions around his partner's visa, when the public attention was largely on his overseas travel amidst border closure and request for a special place in MIQ facility owing to his privilege of being an MP.
The Indian Weekender had then sought more information from INZ around Ricardo's partner's visa when thousands of ordinary New Zealanders and temporary visa holders continue to live a life of forced separation because of obnoxious requirements placed by Immigration NZ.
Responding to Indian Weekender's query then, a spokesperson of the INZ said, "Border restrictions do not apply to partners of New Zealand citizens and residents who hold a relationship-based visa. They are able to travel to New Zealand unaccompanied by their partner on an appropriate visa. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is unable to comment on individual cases without a privacy waiver."
Clearly, this was not enough – although not legally incorrect – on behalf of Immigration NZ as the privacy of any individual is an extremely important issue.
However, given the matter is of immense public interest and involves a much bigger issue of possible "abuse of privileges" for personal gain – more was expected from INZ to reveal information in a responsible manner.
This is exactly what INZ head Greg Patchell has now agreed to do – revisit the visa application of Ricardo Menendez's partner and ensure that no special treatment was given.
For the record, Ricardo Menendez continues to remain firm that there had been no special treatment for his partner.
Surprisingly, Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw is already diluting the responsibility of their Party's MP and the party by shrugging off any responsibility of any possible wrong-doing and shifting the blame on immigration officials even before any information is revealed yet.
Shaw told NZ Herald that the party was confident Menendez March hadn't broken the rules and said allegations of officials doing something wrong was a separate issue.
"Whether they did their job or not isn't a question for us or for Ricardo - it's a question for officials. If they think they didn't do their job, that's on them."
Although it is too soon yet, this comment is a curious case where the officials who succumbed to those in a privileged position and used their discretionary powers in a manner to provide any undue favour - are held more responsible – than the person who actually sought to use their privileged position for special treatment.
We, anyway, know that the Green party MP sought privileged treatment – at least twice – to get a special place in MIQ for one pretext or the other.
It's another matter that he was denied that privileged treatment – important is - that he sought that special treatment based on his privileged position.
In this instance, it will be interesting to see if the MP had also demanded any special privilage like for special place in MIQ
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