PM Arden on NZ High Commission’s oxygen request: ‘There are channels that they should be going through’

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has said that the New Zealand High Commission in India should have used other channels to seek medical assistance than requesting the Indian Youth Congress on Twitter to help in providing an oxygen cylinder.

“Our High Commission has apologised for [the tweet] and that’s for the fact that there are channels that they can and should be going through for such matters,” Ardern told TVNZ’s Breakfast.

She further added, “But I should recognise that we do have a local staff member who is within the compound who’s been very unwell. The New Zealand High Commission has a compound area that has been essentially in a form of lockdown for the better part of a year.”

Pointing out that the High Commission had acknowledged it should have been using “normal channels and protocols”, she further said, “They’ve had strict protocols in place where they’ve had bubble arrangements trying to make sure they are looking after the wellbeing of both seconded and local staff. They employ local people who live within the compound. But of course, a very difficult environment to try and ensure that there’s no infections.”

The New Zealand High Commission in Delhi had later deleted the tweet saying it was issued in error, and it was sorry for the misunderstanding it may have caused. It further said that the safety, health and welfare of its staff in India remains its priority. New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also apologised to the Indian government for the tweet.

National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said tweeting a request for oxygen was embarrassing and insensitive.

“When people are dying in the streets, as it would appear is the case, people being brought to treatment centres and then dying in cars on the way … [the tweet is] just a very bad look if nothing else. It’s incredibly insensitive. The apology is good but we do need to know why it happened,” he was quoted as saying by Radio New Zealand.

On Sunday, a war of words had erupted between the Centre and the Congress involving two foreign missions in Delhi over the supply of oxygen cylinders by the Youth Congress to these embassies for Covid patients.

After Srinivas tweeted visuals of Youth Congress workers at the Philippines Embassy with cylinders, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “While I thank @IYC for its stellar efforts, as an Indian citizen I’m stunned that the youth wing of the opposition party is attending to SOS calls from foreign embassies. Is the MEA sleeping @DrSJaishankar?”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s retorted, “MEA checked with the Philippines Embassy. This was an unsolicited supply as they had no Covid cases. Clearly for cheap publicity by you know who. Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling. Jairamji, MEA never sleeps; our people know across the world. MEA also never fakes; we know who does.”

The Youth Congress said it was disappointing that the External Affairs Minister put out such a tweet saying it had indulged in unsolicited supply of cylinders.

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