Dr Rajen Prasad, one of the rare ethnic Members of Parliament, delivered his valedictory speech in Debating Chamber on July 24, 2014.
His speech was very powerful and of a kind that the walls of Parliament would not have heard before.
He took us through his journey of 49 years, which started as an international student and ended as a departing MP. He was not immune to problems related to immigration. He was assisted by a Kiwi schoolteacher (now 90 years old), who was present at the event.
This got me thinking, as my first days in New Zealand was also as an international student and the same was the position of many friends around me.
When we got our Permanent Residence, we needed to show that we were in New Zealand before a certain time and were still here to be eligible for this category, which really was an amnesty.
There was no need for anything: no job offer, no assessment of qualification and relationship with someone living here. It was very easy and to those of us that qualified, it was ‘Mana’ from heaven.
Many of my fellow students that took up this offer, converted to Residence in New Zealand, while many others chose otherwise.
Yet, when they went back to their home countries, they became New Zealand’s best advocates, often getting jobs in Government or private enterprises with good prospects.
Many of them have reached high offices, such as Chairman, Chief Executive, Director, or even as Prime Minister, they strengthened their links with New Zealand. They would seldom fail to give credit to New Zealand as the country that helped them to undertake leadership roles and that they would be happy to return the compliment.
Such people became our best allies in foreign trade negotiations, exercising their influence in the decision-making process. Many of them also engage with New Zealand, promoting it as a destination for business, their children’s education, and tourism.
Such engagement solidifies emotional connections into everlasting engagement, creating a unique relationship.
Dr Prasad shared his memories of beautiful New Zealand and its friendly people in his valedictory address. It was clear that those were days that allowed true merit to flourish, and were free of greed. Migrants were respected for the wealth of knowledge and skills that they possessed, and not the size of their bank balance.
There was inexplicable innocence, yet wisdom existed. It was a society that tolerated and understood human investment and the long-term gain from it.
Students who stayed back in New Zealand have come a long way from modest beginnings to become true partners in progress and prosperity of the country and its economy. Among them are ministers, lawmakers, corporate leaders, community leaders and prominent professionals.
They carry with them gratitude and appreciation and work hard to make our communities grow from strength to strength. They are always keen to give back to the country that shaped their future. Most important of all, they are great citizens.
With this background, when I look at our current framework, I despair.
The assumptions and predictions are somewhat flawed because what is not factored in to the policy framework is the intangible benefits and the power of time.
This is obvious to those of us exposed to it. The power of hindsight cannot be dismissed, yet we do not access it. Therefore, our predictions sit in the context of history.
The power of hindsight is under-utilised and flawed predictions continue unsubstantiated by the power of time. We are undervaluing an existing category, not appreciating its intangible benefits.
The language of entitlement as opposed to privilege and gratefulness exist.
Our design is instrumental in such sentiments being manifest and expressed.
This is our future!
This will be the New Zealand they will know, not the New Zealand that I have learnt and experienced and that Dr Rajen Prasad spoke about in Parliament.
What stories will the victims tell their children, I dread to think!
Kamil Lakshman is a Lawyer & Principal of Wellington based law firm Idesi Legal Limited. She can be contacted on (04) 4616018 or 021-1598803. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; The opinions expressed in her article above are her own and not that of Idesi Legal Limited or the New Zealand Law Society, or its Wellington Branch, or its affiliated bodies and committees or Indian Newslink. Readers can send their comments (names can be withheld from publication on request) also to email@example.com