The decision by Prime Minister John Key to stay on as part of an overseas trade mission, rather than attend the funerals of three Air Force servicemen, has been criticised as “callous and insensitive”.
The comments were made by Air Vice Marshal Sir Hugo Pomfrey-Brown, who was one of many servicemen to attend the funerals.
Pomfrey-Brown said Mr Key’s decision to stay overseas was pandering to public and media opinion.
The “photo opportunities” of Mr Key meeting various senior trade officials and politicians “added insult to injury”.
Having Mr Key attend the funerals would have been of great importance to the grieving families, and would also have demonstrated that the accident was regarded as a national tragedy, especially as the accident had occurred on Anzac Day.
Instead, said Pomfrey-Brown, Mr Key trivialised the whole incident by choosing to remain overseas.
“He blew it,” Pomfrey-Brown says in a Herald opinion article published today.
Pomfrey-Brown described the helicopter crash on Anzac Day as a terrible tragedy.
“The Prime Minister ought to have abandoned these commitments and rushed back to New Zealand. Those he was due to meet would have done the same thing in a similar position.”
Labour leader Phil Goff said the decision by Mr Key showed the Prime Minister was “out of touch” and “arrogant”.
“Our Prime Minister chose to stay on this jaunt around the world with his mates, while the entire nation was in mourning.
“This was a total failure of moral leadership.”