The New Zealand opposition party has impeached MP Sam Uffindell and launched an investigation after supporting him for two days over new allegations of bullying during his college years, which he denies.
The move comes after a woman who lived with Uffindell and three other roommates at the University of Otago in 2003 claimed in an interview with broadcaster RNZ released Tuesday that Uffindell was an aggressive “verbal bully” who could become physically intimidating and would destroy the house afterwards. “excessive” alcohol and drug use.
“He banged on my door and yelled obscenities and basically told me to get out – ‘go out, fat bastard,'” said the woman, who kept her identity a secret. “Finally I climbed out my bedroom window and ran to a friend’s house to stay overnight. I feared for my safety. I was scared.”
National Party Leader Chris Luxon said in a statement: “Tonight my office was made aware of very worrying allegations against RNZ about conduct Mr Uffindell exhibited at university in 2003 towards a female roommate.
“Mr Uffindell disputes the charges and in the interest of natural justice an independent inquiry will now be launched to establish the facts. While this process is underway, Mr. Uffindell will be withdrawn from the caucus.
The investigation, led by a QC, is expected to last two weeks and the job description is yet to be confirmed.
Uffindell denied the charges, saying in a statement that “roommates argued” and that the incident “just didn’t happen”. “When I was a student at Otago, I enjoyed a student lifestyle, which included drinking and sometimes smoking marijuana. While in the second year, some housemates dropped out — and two of the housemates left halfway through the year,” he said.
“I reject any allegation that I have engaged in harassing or bullying behaviour. This just didn’t happen.”
Uffindell is the National Party’s newest MP, winning a June by-election for Tauranga’s safe seat.
The new allegations come in the wake of reports by Stuff on Monday alleging that Uffindell – then 16 – beat up a 13-year-old in 1999 as part of a gang attack on Auckland’s prestigious Kings College that left the victim bruised and severely injured. suffered trauma. He was asked to leave the school after the attack.
After 22 years, Uffindell apologized to his victim last year after a sojourn abroad, telling Stuff that his regrets were unrelated to his political ambitions. The victim told Stuff that he accepted the apology at the time, but was shocked to see Uffindell standing up for politics months later.
Uffindell told media on Tuesday morning that he had apologized to other people for his behavior at school. “I’m not proud at all,” he said. “I was basically a bully. I was a mean person. There will be other people in high school that I hurt.”
He informed party bosses about the incident in 1999 in the run-up to the pre-selection, but it was not made public.
The saga is a major problem for Luxon and his party, who are beset by a dubious track record in the selection of candidates.
On Tuesday, Luxon said that Uffindell was “a good candidate, a person of integrity and a good character”.
By Wednesday, his tone had changed. Speaking to RNZ, Luxon called the new allegations “extremely concerning and very serious”, but defended his earlier assessment. “The determination was see, a 38-year-old man is different from a 16-year-old bully. He really felt… that he had reformed and changed,” he said.
Luxon noted that Uffindell had previously explained the King’s College bullying incident “but that doesn’t preclude us from being a party of law and order”.
Uffindell is also accused of hypocrisy. He campaigned on issues of law and order, saying in his maiden speech that Tauranga was fighting a “growing culture of lawlessness, lack of responsibility, a sense of impunity and significant underlying social problems of generations”.