Sporadic incidents insidiously disturb cultural plurality

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Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi 

The foundations of Aotearoa, New Zealand were laid by the first people who landed on the shores of the land of the long white cloud approximately 700 years ago.

Since its discovery, New Zealand has been home to people from different parts of the world.

At present over a 100 ethnicities call New Zealand their home and the people of this country have welcomed us with open arms.

Celebrating varied festivals

We celebrate festivals and events from across the globe be it Japan Day, Korea Day, the Chinese New Year, Brazilian festival, a number of festivals from the South Pacific, and of course many of the Indian festivals.

The Festival of Colours Holi and the Festival of lights Diwali are an intrinsic part of the Kiwi cultural calendar.

I moved to New Zealand in 2000, and like most new migrants took a bit of time to find my feet in my adopted land of residence.

Welcoming Kiwis

Hand on heart each and every person whom I met or sought help from came across as friendly, welcoming and eager to assist in whatever manner they can.

Migrants too do their best to participate in their new homeland by learning different ways of life.

Many of my friends who arrived in New Zealand from different parts of the world often share with me their sense of enrichment in how different cultures have made New Zealand unique.

As an Indian I am proud of my heritage and culture and how we have shared it with the wider community in New Zealand as well as the world.

Our food is well appreciated by most. As calls for the world to adapt to a vegetarian and vegan way of life grow, India food which is predominately vegetarian is often considered a healthy option by many.

Positive contributions

Similarly there are a number of different ways that other ethnicities have contributed positively to New Zealand.

Migrants strive to be a part of mainstream New Zealand society.

We seek to contribute with our unique skill sets to Kiwi economy, sport and business.

I believe this is a two way process, where we discard any inhibitions when dealing with new scenarios and people,  get out of our comfort zones and be ready to embrace change in our adopted countries.

The country then also should be welcoming of this change and provide avenues where all its citizens get a fair go –the New Zealand we all know, does that to the optimum.

As a Member of Parliament I have had the honour to be invited to and attended a number of community and business events that truly showcase assimilation of migrants in New Zealand.

Celebrations success

The recently held Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards where people of Indian origin based in New Zealand were recognised for their contributions was a testament to New Zealand’s multicultural acceptance.

Any business can only grow when its customers enjoy its products and services as well as interaction with staff. The fact that many of the businesses awarded at the Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards have been trading for a number of years speaks of their embrace by New Zealanders, where word of mouth can make or mar an enterprise.

Organisations such as Indian Newslink that lead by communications extraordinaire Venkat Raman play a key part in sharing stories of our success and also provide a platform where we can learn best practices as well as  know of any shortcomings that need  to be worked upon.

As we have seen in many situations there are of course a few bad apples everywhere. They have to be reprimanded, but again those stray incidents cannot be used to tar the image of the whole community.

Discrimination in Manurewa

As I sat down to write this column I heard of the discriminatory attitude of Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club who turned away two paying customer because they were wearing turbans. This is not the first time that the Manurewa Cosmopolitan Club has displayed such attitude towards Sikhs.

It is well known that a turban forms an intrinsic part of the dress code of a baptised Sikh. Manurewa is home to diverse communities from all over the world including Sikhs.

Such attitude on display by a club that calls itself cosmopolitan towards law abiding citizens is shameful. It does not represent the New Zealand way of life which is welcoming and warm.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is Member of Parliament based in Manukau East (Papatoetoe) and National Party Spokesperson for Internal Affairs and Associate Spokesperson for Justice.

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