Jacinda Ardern tells Parliament Christchurch terrorist 'will be nameless'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has paid respects to the families and victims of the Christchurch massacre in a rousing speech in Parliament. 

March 15, 2019, will be remembered as New Zealand's "darkest of days", Ardern said during a special Parliament gathering where only tributes were paid. 

"For the families, it was more than that. It was the day that the simple act of prayer - of practising their Muslim faith and religion - led to the loss of their loved ones lives," she said. 

"Those loved ones, were brothers, daughters, fathers and children. They were New Zealanders. They are us. And because they are us, we, as a nation, we mourn them."

The Prime Minister reflected on the impact the Friday mosque shooting - where 50 people were killed - has had on her, including taking on a role that she "never anticipated having, and hoped never to have". 

That role has been to "voice the grief of a nation" - a role which Ardern has taken under her stride and been praised for around the globe. 

An article in The Guardian described Ardern as "showing the world what real leadership is", saying she has shown "sympathy, love and integrity" in the wake of the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. 

"In this role, I wanted to speak directly to the families. We cannot know your grief, but we can walk with you at every stage," Ardern said in Parliament. 

"We can, and we will, surround you with aroha, manaakitanga and all that makes us, us. Our hearts are heavy but our spirit is strong."

She went on to acknowledge some of the many acts of bravery from Friday, including the police officers who rammed the alleged gunman's vehicle from which he was still shooting. 

"They pulled open his car door, when there were explosives inside, and pulled him out," the Prime Minister said. 

Jacinda Ardern addressing Parliament.
Jacinda Ardern addressing Parliament. Photo credit: Getty

"I know we all wish to acknowledge that their acts put the safety of New Zealanders above their own, and we thank them."

Ardern credited Naeem Rashid, originally from Pakistan, who died rushing at the terrorist trying to wrestle the gun from him, and also Abdul Aziz, of Afghan descent, who also confronted the gunman with an eftpos machine. 

"There will be countless stories, some of which we may never know, but to each, we acknowledge you in this place, in this House," Ardern said. 

She went on to thank all the first responders, the ambulance staff, and health professionals who assisted and "continue to assist those who have been injured". 

"Please accept the heartfelt thanks of us all. I saw first-hand your care and your professionalism in the face of extraordinary challenges. We are proud of your work, and incredibly grateful for it."

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters also paid respects to the victims in Parliament, saying an "attack on one of us peacefully observing their beliefs is an attack on all of our beliefs".

"Today is a day to pay our respects to the grieving families of Christchurch. We here, in this Parliament, stand with them and the people of Christchurch."

'We remain on high alert'

The Prime Minister also addressed concerns around the safety of Muslim communities looking ahead, saying there had been a "pattern of increased tension". 

"As a nation, we do remain on high alert. While there isn't a specific threat at present, we are maintaining vigilance," she said. 

"There is an additional and ongoing security presence in Christchurch, and as the police have indicated, there will continue to be a police presence at mosques around the country while their doors are open. When they are closed, police will be in the vicinity."

As for the alleged gunman who appeared in court in Christchurch on Monday, the Prime Minster speculated the 28-year-old would have sought notoriety from the attack - something she said she would not allow. 

"That is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless."

Ardern implored New Zealanders to do the same: "Speak the name of those who were lost, rather than of the man who took them."

Similar concerns have been raised by experts who fear the alleged gunman, Australian national Brenton Tarrant, would use his court appearance as a platform, after he fired his lawyer and said he'd represent himself. 

"He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name," the Prime Minister said. 

New Zealand is a country comprising 200 ethnicities and 160 languages, she said, adding that the only thing that must change after the events of Friday, is that the "door must close on all of those who espouse hate and fear". 

"I know that as a nation, we wish to provide every comfort we can to our Muslim community in this darkest of times. And we are."

She concluded her speech by calling for the country to rally behind Muslims on Friday, which will mark one week since the attack took place. 

"Let us acknowledge their grief as they do. Let's support them as they gather again for worship," she said. 

"We are one, they are us."

The full speech can be viewed here