‘Police Diwali’ celebrates inclusiveness and cultural values

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster: Such events improve the cultural competence of the Police (Photo by Vanisa Dhiru)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, October 14, 2022

Just as Diwali signifies the triumph of good over evil, the New Zealand Police work in leading ethnic responsiveness Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has said.

“Addressing the wrongs with righteous interventions, fostering goodwill and celebrating the togetherness of people are all the themes of Diwali and these themes resonate with the work that we do in New Zealand Police,” he said.

Commissioner Coster was the Chief Guest at the Diwali celebrations organised by Police Superintendent Rakesh Naidoo (National Partnership Manager- Ethnic) and his team at the Indian High Commission Cultural Centre in Wellington on Thursday, October 13, 2022.

Among those present were Deputy Commissioner of Police (Iwi and Communities) Wallace Haumaha, senior police officers, Indian High Commission Charge de Affaires Mukesh Ghiya, Second Secretary (Political and Commercial) Manoj Kumar, Second Secretary (Press, Information and Culture) Durga Dass, Assistant Section Officer (Culture and Yoga) Ankita Sood, diplomats from other Missions and members of the Indian community.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Wallace Haumaha: Evolving Ethnic Strategy for better engagement (Photo by Vanisa Dhiru)

Celebrating inclusiveness

Mr Coster said that New Zealand society has rapidly changed with approximately 20% of the population identifying as ethnic communities, reinforcing the importance of occasions such as Diwali where people come together to celebrate inclusiveness and diversity.

“Police participation in such events helps build the cultural competence, confidence, and awareness of our people to be successful in everyday policing with ethnic communities. It also demonstrates that we value diversity by means of recognition, inclusion, and practice. Diwali is also more than a festival as it is also an opportunity to reflect on the important contribution of our Indian community to New Zealand and specifically within the Police,” he said.

He said that over the past five years, groups that were hitherto not represented have grown by 137% and that ethnic people currently make up about 9% of the New Zealand Police with about 400 persons of Indian origin.

Mr Coster said that in the past year the New Zealand Police welcomed Rakesh Naidoo as the first Person of Indian Origin in the rank of Superintendent of Police and in the past month the appointment of Seema Kotecha as the first PIO as the female Commissioned Officer.

“Celebrations such as these reinforce how we are always on a pathway of learning about the life views and experiences of other people and cultures.

Charge de Affaires, Indian High Commission Mukesh Ghiya: Diwali signifies the victory of good over evil (Photo by Vanisa Dhiru

The changing demographics

Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha said that about 20 years ago, the New Zealand Police recognised the importance of preparing the Organisation for the changing demographics.

“We were the first government agency to put in place an Ethnic Strategy. We welcomed people of different ethnicities and faiths and were world-leading in changing our Police uniform guidelines to incorporate the wearing of Turbans and Hijabs. We established multifaith prayer rooms and signed key partnership agreements with various organisations,” he said.

Mr Haumaha said that such engagements highlighted that Police should be integrated and visible in the communities that they serve.

“Our Ethnic Strategy has enabled and empowered Police staff to further engage with our communities and tackle challenges that are unique to ethnic communities. Through such engagement and by listening to the feedback from our staff, we are at the final stages of refreshing our Ethnic Strategy, which is now more important than ever,” he said.

Anchors of a successful event: Prabha Ravi and Acting Sergeant Rajwinder Bhullar (Photo by Vanisa Dhiru)

Mr Haumaha paid tributes to the Ms Sood who conducts Yoga classes for the Police twice a week, and to his Ethnic Partnership team led by Superintendent Naidoo.

“Working with our ethnic communities has been at the forefront of our business and there is no other way to interact with our communities than at these events of celebration which are so significant to our people,” he said.

Significance explained

Mr Ghiya explained the significance of Diwali, saying that it is an auspicious occasion for a majority of people in India and the Hindu community all over the world.

Natraj extols Bharata Natyam: Performing students of Prabha Ravi (from left) Sowjanya Vinitha Rajaraman, Sai Nithya Chatla and Samhitha Lakkeneni (Photo by Vanisa Dhiru)

“Diwali is celebrated as a festival to mark the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya. Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth is welcomed into homes and to many, it is the beginning of a New Year. We welcome the New Zealand  Police celebrating Diwali at our High Commission premises,” he said.

Acting Senior Sergeant Rajwinder Bhullar and Natraj School of Dance Director and Principal Prabha Ravi were the Masters of the Ceremonies at the event which included a display of various types of sarees, henna designs on hands, classical dance performances by the students of Natraj School of Dance and Hindi songs.

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