People discuss good concept frustrated by flawed process

Public scrutiny of Honorary Consulate of India in Auckland

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Auckland, November 9, 2017

News media or press is referred to as the Fourth Estate.

This is because it has been elevated to that high level where it is the fourth segment of society that wields an indirect but significant influence on society.

The other three segments are Legislature (Political), Judiciary (Courts) and Executive (Civil Servants).

Character and Ethics

Is media just another business? Is it a vehicle to fulfil your political or self-actualisation dreams? Is it a tool to use it to lure and gain support of others? Is it easy tool for somebody with money to degrade this respected institution?

Indeed, media ownership requires several attributes.

It came as a surprise many community leaders and others when the Publisher and owner of an Indian newspaper was appointed Honorary Consul of India in Auckland.

A news item carried this information:

“The Government of India as a part of its initiative to expand its outreach in New Zealand has appointed a businessman of repute as the new Honorary Consul in Auckland.”

Editor’s Note: Indian Newslink has not received the Press Release.

What intrigues me is how and based on what criteria was the decision made? Was the community consulted? Was due diligence done? Was a proper check independently undertaken?

Community upset

I raise this because this appointment does not seem to have gone down well in some sections of Indian Community in Auckland. A leading advocate for Indians, who is a community leader and Immediate Past President of Manukau Indian Association (now called ‘Indian Association of New Zealand’), and a former General Secretary of The New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) has expressed his surprise and disappointment at such a crucial appointment without proper consultation and process.

He welcomed the appointment which has been a request of Indians crying out for services of Indian High Commission in Auckland. However, he felt that such positions should be reserved for those who are above board.

A position of Honorary Consul is bestowed “to a person of high integrity, a role model, an achiever with a clean image,” Mr Khar said.

He however, hoped that the Indian Government made the decision after due diligence. This is especially in the light of past embarrassing and diplomatically humiliating incidents at Indian High Commission in Wellington because of questionable choices of past Mission heads.

Choice of venue questioned

Mr Khar questioned the choice of the Consulate Office as the Office of Indian Weekender in Onehunga. It is in a location which is removed from the main Indian population of South Auckland. This was despite offers to the effect that there were established central public facilities where such an office with ample parking and other amenities were available.

This decision “does not pass the test of staying clear of conflicts of interest – even though a perceived one,” Khar added.

However, the information that we have is that the conflict of interest is not merely perceived, but appears to have signs of reality.

Staff Memo

A memo originating from the Indian High Commission, signed by one staffer, to people in the community, solicits support for supposedly an academic research.

As a postgraduate scholar with honours in media, I appreciate that any credible and reliable research on ethnic media should be directed to numerous such organisations which make up ethnic media. Since when did Indian Weekender become sole “ethnic media?” The request urges correspondents to visit their website and Facebook page.

Below, I reproduce excerpts of the said Memo verbatim:

Subject: Questionnaire

From: Mamtha Bhat (com.wellington)

Date: Mon, September 4, 2017.

Dear………………………..

The High Commissioner’s daughter Richa is doing her Masters and as a part of that she has to collect data on effectiveness of ethnic media. In particular, on website and social media content and reach of Indian Weekender. This has to be both from ethnic and non-ethnic readers. Among those responding will have to look at Indian Weekender website and FB etc.

I would be grateful if you could kindly contribute towards this effort. The link to the questionnaire is available below. This is a time bound project with a deadline. Kindly requesting those completing the questionnaire to submit it by 10 September, 2017 (Sunday)

Questionnaire link:

Warm Regards

Mamtha Bhat

Marketing Assistant

High Commission of India

[With address and contact of Indian High Commission in Wellington]

The information is self-explanatory, and I feel that the community needs some answers on a very important issue affecting them.

Indian High Commission or higher authorities in India owe a duty of care to clarify the issues raised above.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Political Observer, Indian Newslink columnist and Media Commentator and runs his Blog, ‘Fiji Pundit.’ He lives in Auckland. Email: thakurji

Editor’s Note: We understand that many people have lodged complaints to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi about this collection of data on one particular ethnic newspaper, when there are many others throughout New Zealand. Indian Newslink appears to be under boycott by the Indian High Commission since it has not received any press release over the past four months. We have neither received the statement regarding the appointment of the Honorary Consul in Auckland nor about the location of the office of the Consul. However, the unfair advantage that the other publication has been gaining is becoming apparent. Inevitably, there is now reminiscence of the dark days of 2005 and 2006.

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