By Charles Moi
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has joined world leaders in condemning the massacre of people attending Friday prayers at two mosques in New Zealand, calling it despicable and disgusting.
So far, 50 have been reported dead, while more than 30 are being treated in hospital — 12 of them including a four-year-old, in critical condition.
“New Zealand is one of the most peaceful and culturally open countries in the world, which makes this vicious attack even more disgusting,” he said.
“I extend our support to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as she and her Government manage the aftermath of this attack and the trauma that it brings upon the country. The thoughts and prayers of Papua New Guineans are with our brothers and sisters in New Zealand as the nation comes to terms with this despicable act.
“May like-minded countries around the world continue to work together to prevent such attacks in the future.”
Australian-born Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, appeared in court on Saturday. He entered no plea to one count of murder. Officials said he would face additional charges and make another court appearance in April.
Ardern wearing a hijab, met leaders of the Muslim community in Christchurch yesterday and assured them – many refugees and migrants – that everything would be done to ensure their safety in the country which they have called home.
She called the massacre one of her nation’s darkest days, and said her Government would tighten its gun laws following Friday’s attack.
“There will be changes to our guns laws,” Ardern said.
“We will be discussing more detailed policy elements at cabinet tomorrow.”
Ardern said formal identification of the dead was continuing, but a provisional list had been shared, one that would have been “devastating” to the families concerned.
“They were loved ones, and they were New Zealanders,” she said.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said: “As of last night, we were able to take all of the victims from both of those scenes, and in doing so, we have located a further victim.”
Coroners and pathologists are working hard to determine official causes of death and release the bodies to their families, as Muslim burial practices require the last rites and rituals to be done as soon as possible.
Bush said a small number of bodies would be released by the coroner’s office on Sunday evening, but the process was not expected to be completed until Wednesday.
“We are aware of the cultural and religious needs, so we are doing that as quickly and sensitively as possible,” he said.
By Charles Moi