The Wellington based New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils (NZFMC) has reacted strongly to a Sunday Star Times report saying that it was not interested in ‘entrenching constitutional provisions for ethnic communities in New Zealand.’
The Federation however would fight for the removal of discrimination against any of the more than 100 ethnic groups it represents.
The Sunday Star Times Report, published on February 12, 2012, has enlisted reaction from a number of organisations and individuals, almost all of them stating that the Indian community was not interested in seeking any special status within the New Zealand Constitution.
At the centre of the controversy is a briefing paper presented to ethnic affairs minister Judith Collins, which had reportedly stated that ethnic communities in New Zealand were asking for a multicultural policy to be enshrined in the Constitutional review.
The briefing paper told the incoming minister that ethnic communities were keen to discuss the development of a multicultural policy to entrench the civil, political, social and language rights of ethnic people in New Zealand.
“The political and multicultural policy, including legislation, is gaining voice within ethnic communities and is likely to be raised with you. If you are asked for a definite position, we will provide further advice on this matter,” the briefing paper had reportedly told Mrs Collins.
But she dismissed the advice, saying, “The briefing does not reflect government policy and it is not a policy document.”
NZFMC president Tayo Agunlejika said his organisation has been promoting the ‘Multicultural Legislation’ as a benchmark to provide access (opportunity to participate in socio-economic areas) and acceptability for more than 100 Ethnic Groups that do not have the voice or enjoy the social privilege.
“Our proposed Multicultural Legislation is not about ethnic communities wanting to entrench constitutional provisions for particular or special rights as being promulgated,” he said.
According to him, the Multicultural Bill aimed to ensure the equality of all New Zealanders, nurturing the history and heritage of all ethnicities.
“The legislation would enable New Zealand to position itself as an innovative, peaceful nation and as a good global citizen, as is Canada and New South Wales, Australia where multiculturalism has been successfully implemented.
“Therefore, NZFMC welcomes the Ethnic Affairs Office briefing Mrs Collins. It is pleasing to see that the Office is listening and is in touch with the needs of the minority ethnic communities,” Mr Agunlejika said.
He cited the 2012 annual review of the Human Rights Commission, which said that 75% of Asian respondents were the most discriminated against group in New Zealand.
“This figure has remained relatively unchanged in the past five years and does not portray New Zealand well in the world,” it said.
Mr Agunlejika said that it was imperative to focus on inclusion of all ethnic communities in all aspects of life to eliminate discrimination, especially among Asian New Zealanders who are the fastest grouping community and the fourth major ethnic groups after European, Maori, and Pacific Islanders.
“The government would take a major step by adopting the legislation and address the issue of discrimination,” he said.
Read, Multicultural Policy would make us unique under Communitylink
Photo : NZ Federation of Multicultural Councils President Tayo Agunlejika