Retiring Member of Parliament Dr Ashraf Choudhary has advised his Labour Party colleagues to be more inclusive with the ethnic communities and encourage young men and women with political aspirations to become lawmakers and guardians of the Party’s future.
He also had a swipe at politicians who did lip service to multiculturalism by attending festivals and meetings organised by associations and ‘leave them as if they might catch bird flu.’
There was unmistakable bitterness in his voice as he spoke at a farewell dinner organised by his supporters and friends at ‘Chandini Chowk,’ Convention Centre in the South Auckland suburb of Papatoetoe on October 16 and at his farewell speech to Parliament on September 29, where he did not hesitate to express his feelings.
“Labour is losing connectivity with the people of minority ethnicities in New Zealand. This great Party has served people well under great leaders over the years. There is a need to introspect and reorient its strategies and approaches,” he said at the dinner.
Dr Choudhary said ethnic population was on the increase in New Zealand and that people from South East Asia will rise in substantial numbers over the next two decades. He said the Party should be prepared to have these communities represented both within its echelons and in Parliament.
“Labour should encourage and promote young people from the South East Asia and South Asia and make them good Parliamentarians,” he said.
Labour Leader Phil Goff, his Parliamentary colleagues David Cunliffe, Ross Robertson, Dr Rajen Prasad, Su’a Williams Sio, Carol Beaumont and others were present at the dinner organised by Botany LEC Chair Neelam Choudary and other supporters and friends.
Dr Choudhary’s speech in Parliament was even more poignant, as he recalled his early days as a new migrant (from his native Pakistan) in New Zealand.
“As an Asian, I felt the prejudice as conveyed by the often used words such as ‘curry munchers,’ ‘wogs’ and ‘niggers.’ Once I understood the meaning of these words, I started working across different communities to change such prevailing racism. Conveying my beliefs of fairness, justice and equality, I aligned with the core principles of the Labour Party,” he said.
He said the country should provide for the emerging demographic changes.
“All political parties need to uptake their responsibilities. It is not good enough to use ethnic MPs and their communities as kind of ATM machines,” he said.
Dr Choudhary has been an avid reader of Indian Newslink and was the first (and the only) MP seven years ago to write a regular column in this newspaper and answer questions raised by readers on immigration, employment, social, cultural, educational and other issues. It is a matter of record that this newspaper reflected its unbiased stand in its relationship with him.
As Dr Choudhary settles down in Auckland to lead a ‘normal life’ with his wife Samina, he would look forward to spending more quality time with their daughter Mehreen, her husband Shahid, elder son Anwar and his wife Rabia and younger son Atif.