If anyone can say with certainty that he or she is a New Zealander, then that person has to think again. Going back in history to prove who is indeed a New Zealander will invoke bad memories and create a rift in the country.
United we stand, divided we fall. New Zealand is too small and economically fragile to afford divisions in the community. Therefore, it will be good to look at the broader picture and view the comments of Paul Henry as those of a breakfast show host.
It seems that Paul was hungry of attention but incompetent. He was a failure as a dramatist (he studied drama but unsuccessfully tried his luck to become an actor in England) and as a politician, (he tried, again without success, to become an MP in New Zealand). Therefore, he was apparently trying to become a comedian by making mockery of people in highly respectable positions. Perhaps frustration took the better of him. He forgot dignity and respect for others, which are the fundamental pillars of humanity.
Governors-General, Greenpeace Workers, Chief Ministers and Singers are all humans first and then people of position or repute. It needs some calibre and talent to achieve high positions or success, which certainly this commentator lacked.
It would have been more befitting if he had been appropriately snubbed and put in his place each time he made highly insulting remarks.
Another factor that fuelled this commentator to utter those derogatory remarks was his lack of knowledge about these people and places, in particular about India.
In fact, Media in general should share the blame.
India is a diverse country with wide disparity between the very rich and the very poor. It is a pity that the media has been showing only the images of “Poor India” on its screens (excluding the vibrant and ‘Rich India’), leaving a negative impression on the minds of viewers. Therefore, to many viewers, India is just a country of slums.
While New Zealand’s GDP is about $187 billion, just 100 top rich people of India are worth approximately $300 billion (Forbes List).
The point here is not raving about India’s richness but about the ignorance of people around the world due to the media-fed images and impressions.
Paul’s remarks have done immense damage, which could not only impact trade relations but also peace and harmony. Here again, many would be ignorant that actually it will be New Zealand’s loss if the trade relations are scuttled.
TVNZ has taken the belated step to accept Paul’s resignation. It had to finally front up to the fact that the importance of human dignity, economic gains to New Zealand through trade, respect for the high office of Governor- General, and above all the unity of this country were more important than its own ratings.
The debate was further ignited by the inappropriate remarks made by Radio Live host Michael Laws.
Such trends can be stopped only by Prime Minister John Key. He is in fact the best position to silence the unwanted debate.
The best action he can take to right a wrong, will be to find another suitable person who fits in the description of a “New Zealander,” opposite to what Paul implied in his unfortunate remark.
Gurbrinder Aulakh, formerly a High Court Lawyer in India is now the Chair of an ethnic organisation working with Migrants and Refugees based in Auckland.