ISTANBUL (AA) – Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “stood by us” in delivering empathetic leadership, leaving her successor with “big shoes to fill,” say relatives of the victims of the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack.
“The news of her resignation (last week) came as a shock to many of us and took us a while to process,” Hamimah Ahmat, chair of the Sakinah Community Trust, a group of relatives of those who lost their lives in the horrific attacks, shared.
“Many of us are grateful for her compassion, and empathetic leadership. She was approachable, stood by us, and most importantly showed us how a leader should support people going through tough times – with kindness,” said Ahmat.
On March 15, 2019, using semiautomatic weapons and livestreaming the attack, Brenton Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist, killed 51 people and injured 40 more at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in the city of Christchurch.
Ahmat’s husband Zekeriya Tuyan is one of the worshippers lost in the terror attack, which shook the whole world.
In 2020, Tarrant was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, in the first such ruling ever handed down in the island nation. His appeal of the sentence is currently pending.
“It was unfortunate (for Ardern) that the terrorist attacks happened under her leadership,” Ahmat said hours after Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins was sworn in as Ardern’s successor following her surprise resignation.
Hipkins has “big shoes to fill,” she said.
“I look forward to a prime minister who will lead with similar humility and authenticity, and a Cabinet that will continue the work” addressing the causes and long-term impact of the attack, she said.
“The government is the custodian of our security, so they have a moral obligation to hold agencies to account for the broken systems that allowed the March 15 terrorist attacks to happen,” she added.
Ardern, 42, announced her resignation last week, saying she no longer had “enough in the tank” to continue the nation’s top job.
Though giving up the premier post, Ardern is set to serve as a member of Parliament until April.
Ahmat said Ardern’s government responded to the terror attack in many ways, including changing gun laws, and the introduction of the Christchurch Call, under which governments and tech companies seek to eliminate violent extremist content online, besides forming the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terror attacks.
“After the release of the report, the government swiftly agreed in principle to implement all 44 recommendations contained in the Royal Commission of Inquiry and is in fact currently actioning many of the recommendations,” said Ahmat, but added: “This is still work in progress and we have a long way to go.”
Lauding Ardern for acting quickly to permanently ban a variety of weapons, Ahmat said some 51,000 firearms were handed to the police out of an estimated 170,000 in circulation at the time, yet leaving “a significant proportion of them … still in the hands of gun owners.”
“Still, this is a start and a sharp contrast to attempts by countries like the United States, where their gun legislation has failed,” she added.
Ahmat declined comment on Tarrant’s appeal, saying: “I prefer not to talk about him. He does not deserve to be remembered.”