New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has commented on the controversy which broke out after New Zealand High Commission in India took to Twitter on Sunday and appealed to the Youth Congress leader Srinivas BV for an oxygen cylinder.
Ardern confirmed that a local staffer inside the Commission's compound had been "very unwell", however, she said that they should have followed "normal channels and protocols".
“Yes, we did see that there was a message that was put out. Our High Commission has apologized for the message. There are channels they can and should be going through for such matters," she said. "But, I should recognize that we do have a local staff member who is within the compound who has been very unwell. That was the basis on which the call was made,” she added.
When asked whether it looks good for the Commission to ask a member of the Opposition party for help, Ardern said that the High Commission themselves have removed the tweet and acknowledged that that wasn’t the process that should have been used. "There are other means and channels in the High Commission that have found themselves very well supported by the Indian government and also acknowledged that they should have been using those normal channels and protocols," she added.
What was the controversy?
In a now-deleted tweet, the New Zealand High Commission had on Sunday sought help from Youth Congress leader Srinivas BV. "Could you please help with oxygen cylinder urgently at New Zealand High Commission? Thank you," read the tweet. However, the Commission quickly deleted the tweet. "We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry," it said in a follow-up tweet.
Srinivas BV, meanwhile, delivered the oxygen cylinders, adding that the patient inside was "critically ill". "New Zealand high commission opened gates of the embassy and accepted cylinders. Also, they thanked the #SOSIYC team for this quick relief as patient inside embassy was critically ill," the Youth Congress leader tweeted.
Stung by the episode, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement and advised foreign missions "not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen". "The Chief of Protocol and Heads of Divisions are in continuous touch with all High Commissions, Embassies and MEA is responding to their medical demands, especially those related to Covid. This includes facilitating their hospital treatment. Given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen," the Ministry said.