KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Putrajaya is in talks with Sweden to secure diplomatic status for Malaysian tourism officials working in the Scandinavian country, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin.
The talks come after a Tourism Malaysia official and his wife were charged for child abuse in Sweden. If successful, Tourism Malaysia officials would get immunity from prosecution in Sweden.
Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin said the lack of diplomatic immunity had caused Tourism Malaysia employee Azizul Raheem Awaluddin and his wife, Shalwati Nor Shal , “problems” in Sweden.
“When Azizul was in South Africa, they gave him diplomatic status but in Sweden, his status changed because they don't give diplomatic status to tourism officials,” he said during question time in Parliament.
“So he did not have immunity as he had in South Africa. This caused a bit of problems, but we are working to get Sweden to consider giving tourism officials diplomatic status,” he said.
Azizul and Shalwati are currently being detained by Swedish authorities as they wait for the verdict of their trial which ended last week.
The couple, who are charged with abusing their four children since 2010, were detained since December last year.
Their children have since been brought back to Malaysia and are staying with family in Kelantan.
Hamzah explained that diplomatic status is conferred on officials from foreign missions at the pleasure of the host country.
“I must clarify that in any mission we form in all countries, not all our officials get diplomatic status because it is up to the host country.
“In Malaysia, any embassy that wants to set up a mission here will present the names of their officials and we will look through the list and their positions and we will determine who can be accorded diplomatic status,” he said.
The deputy minister said Malaysia is looking at Azizul and Shalwati's case “at arm's length” because the charges fall well within the scope of Sweden’s laws.
Malaysia will continue to assist the couple in any way possible, he added..
He added that Malaysia is planning to expand its dialogue on cultural understanding with Sweden and other European countries to find a better solution if similar cases arise.