Lloyd Burr: Is Winston Peters asleep at the wheel?

OPINION: New Zealand had a seat at the top table in a huge room of leaders, officials, and diplomats from 57 Muslim-majority nations. 

It was an emergency conference of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the Christchurch terror attack, and Winston Peters had been invited to represent New Zealand. 

And he was asleep, for all the world to see. 

Peters is always telling reporters to wake up, or questioning if they're half asleep - so the hypocrisy of the moment wasn't lost on me. 

But mainly, I was embarrassed. 

Lloyd Burr: Is Winston Peters asleep at the wheel?
Photo credit: Newshub

Yes, he's pushing 74 and it had been an extraordinary week - but out of all the places to fall asleep, this was not one of them. 

If that wasn't bad enough, Peters didn't even go into bat for Kiwis during his meeting with Turkish President Erdogan. He may as well have been asleep then too. 

Erdogan had spent the previous week politicising the terror attack during his local election rallies. He played footage from the gunman's camera, he disrespected our ANZAC soldiers, and threatened to send anyone who attacked Turkey back to New Zealand in coffins like their grandfathers. 

His actions were poorly judged, poorly timed, and targeted a sacred bond forged on the battlefield that defined both our countries. 

Lloyd Burr: Is Winston Peters asleep at the wheel?
Photo credit: Newshub

Taxi drivers and other locals who we talked to in Turkey apologised for Erdogan's comments, and were embarrassed by them.

And even though Jacinda Ardern said Peters would confront this issue when he was in Turkey, he didn't. 

He didn't even raise it. He didn't let the Turkish President know we were brassed off, and hurt, and disappointed. It was the elephant in the room, and he was the ostrich - he ran away from it.

Lloyd Burr: Is Winston Peters asleep at the wheel?
Photo credit: Newshub

When asked why, Peters either said he was invited by Turkey to be there, or that there was nothing to be gained from raising it, or that Erdogan's comments were made in the heat of the moment after a tragic event. 

He even said Cabinet had instructed him not to raise it. That doesn't fit with Ardern's comment that he would "confront" the issue. 

It was embarrassing as a Kiwi sitting in that press conference with the world's media watching, listening to Peters brush it off like it wasn't a big deal. 

It was an incredible contrast to the performance and leadership Jacinda Ardern has shown since the tragedy. 

While she united the nation, swiftly changed gun laws, oozed empathy, and went global - her deputy was dozing off on a convention centre stage next to the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey. 

Lloyd Burr is Newshub's Europe Correspondent.

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