New Zealand needs more youngsters of Asian origin in politics to enhance representation in Parliament and serve their communities more effectively, a former lawmaker has said.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary , who retired from politics in November last year after serving three terms as Member of Parliament on Labour List, said that the changing demography of the country warranted additional numbers in the debating chamber from the Sub-Continent.
“The substantial increase in the number of people from the Indian Sub-Continent (especially from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) that we have been experiencing in recent years has given rise to a number of cultural, social and community issues. In order that these issues are effectively addressed, there is a need for added strength in our Parliament. I believe that youngsters should undertake such a responsibility,” he said.
Dr Choudhary was speaking at a dinner reception organised in his honour by the Pakistan Association of New Zealand and Pakistan Business Association of New Zealand at Sudima Airport Hotel in Auckland on April 28, 2012. It was the tenth such function held since he his retirement from Parliament over the past four months, at each of which, he has advocated more active participation of the younger members of the communities in politics.
“Political parties realise and come to grip with issues only when they are well connected with various ethnic communities and groups. Such was the case with the Labour Party until (former Prime Minister) Helen Clark and her cabinet colleagues attended functions and events organised by Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and other communities. Their visits to Gurdwaras, Mosques and Temples enabled them to understand the cultural, social and traditional values of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. While we all work and live together with peace, goodwill and understanding, the need to have our voices raised in Parliament more effectively cannot be over-emphasised,” he said.
Dr Choudhary said New Zealand was lucky to currently have two persons of Indian (Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi) and Indo-Fijian origin (Dr Rajen Prasad).
“It would not tire me to reiterate the need for our young people to actively engage themselves in the country’s politics. You must be committed, prepared to sacrifice your time and serve the people. I have never considered myself as just a person of Pakistani origin. In fact, I have engaged more with people of the Indian community than people of Pakistani origin,” he said.
Pakistan High Commissioner Syed Ibne Abbas described the function as ‘a special event for Dr Choudhary, his family and the Pakistani community.’
“Dr Choudhary has distinguished himself as a ‘true gentleman.’ He was the first Member of Parliament representing the South Asian, Muslim and Pakistani communities. He has a passion for public service. We are indeed proud of him,” he said.
As reported in our May 1, 2012 issue, the Pakistan Government would honour Dr Choudhary with a high civilian award in recognition of his services to Pakistan, people of Pakistani origin and for his efforts in boosting bilateral relations.
“An official announcement would be made soon,” Mr Abbas said, without giving details of where and when the Awards ceremony would be held.
Mercury Printz Director and New Zealand Hindu Temple Society Secretary Ilango Krishnamoorthy and Botany Labour Party Local Electorate Committee Chairperson Neelam Choudary presented a shawl to Dr Choudhary on behalf of the Indian community.
Mrs Choudary described the retired politician as a ‘friend in need’ and as ‘a politician who truly represented the people.’
Among the other speakers who paid tribute to Dr Choudhary were Labour MPs George Hawkins, Ross Robertson, Su’a William Sio, Pakistan Association of New Zealand President Naveed Hameed, Pakistan Business Association of New Zealand President Nadeem Ashraf, Sudima Hotels Chief Executive Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala, Pearl of Islands Foundation Director and Intercultural Dialogue Platform Coordinator Kerem Caliskan and Mrs Nadeem Ashraf and the editor of this newspaper.