Opinion: Czech residency mess not a good look for Government

Opinion 03/11/2018
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo: Getty.

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.

OPINION: Sometimes it would be better if Fred down the road was running the country. Or anyone down the road actually.

Fred would not grant Karel Sroubek residency. That's because Sroubek is in prison serving five years and nine months for importing nearly 5kg of MDMA into the country.

Fred says we have enough crooks of our own without importing them.  Kick him out quick smart, he says.

But Fred’s not the Minister of Immigration. Iain Lees-Galloway is. And Galloway granted Sroubek residency while he’s still in jail. And Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters backed his decision.

It’s impossible to see why. 

Sroubek hung out with criminals in his home country the Czech Republic.  He arrived in New Zealand on a false passport.  He associated here with the Hells Angels.  He kept in touch with his criminal mates back home.  He was caught and convicted for serious drug smuggling offences.

Czech authorities are seeking Sroubek’s extradition for assaulting a police officer. Our own Parole Board found him “manifestly untruthful”.

Ordinarily Sroubek would be kicked out on being let out of prison. Once for the fake passport. Twice for the prison conviction for five plus years.  But Iain Lees-Galloway used his power to grant him residency.

But why? Well, Lees-Galloway says he has good reasons. But he can’t tell us. That’s because of privacy and legal reasons.  He can’t even tell us the privacy and legal reasons.

Karel Sroubek. Photo: Supplied.

The Prime Minister says not to worry and to read between the lines. I have no idea what she means or why we should be reassured.  What on earth is between those lines?

Winston Peters says he has reviewed the case. And is comfortable with it. He says we would be too if only we had the facts. But then we can’t have the facts because of privacy.

Then all of the sudden the Minister had some contradictory facts.  We don’t know what they are because of legal and privacy reasons. But now the Minister is investigating. We just can’t know what he is investigating.

Fred thinks he should have been investigating before granting residency, rather than after-the-fact. 

Now the Prime Minister is not happy. She wants the investigation sped up. I don’t know why.  Sroubek isn’t going anywhere soon.

She now says the process has not been good enough. It seems it’s no one’s fault. She says it’s a “systemic issue at play”.

Fred says the problem is Wellington. Something funny happens to them there. He says what more did the Minister need? Gangs, drugs, jail. That was enough. Kick him out. That’s what the law says.

It would be good to know why the Minister granted residency. And why he has second thoughts.  But I doubt we are ever going to know. The Minister and government are hiding behind legal and privacy reasons without even explaining them. 

They say we should trust them - but they are making that hard. 

Fred says his five-year-old grandson would do a better job.  It’s hard to disagree with him.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.