Auckland, July 4, 2020
Three prominent community leaders have taken exceptions to the comments of National MP Hamish Walker over this comments on Indians, Pakistanis and Koreans.
The Clutha-Southland MP issued a press release yesterday (Friday, July 3, 2020), in which he had mentioned about people arriving from India, Pakistan and Korea going into quarantine facilities.
He said,” 11,000 people… these people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea. It is absolutely disgraceful that the community has not been consulted on this,” he said.
The press release was later deleted from the National Party website but the damage was done. It was picked up by other media including social media platforms and discussed around the world.
Mr Walker refused to apologise but in fact insisted that his comments were not racist.
He claimed that he had a ‘source tell him that 11,000 people were arriving from Pakistan, India and Korea’ but refused to reveal that source.
“The world is reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic, the threat of its recurrence in New Zealand looms large and hence, Mr Walker should not be playing dirty politics. He should be working with the government and not spread scary rumours,” community leaders said.
Former Race Relations Commissioner Gregory Fortuin called out Mr Walker for his racist comments towards people of colour.
“This is a disgraceful dog whistle akin to the racist views of (US President) Donald Trump who banned people (from entering USA) based on country of origin. Even worse is the inability of his Leader (National Party boss Todd) Muller to call out racist comments. But then, I do not expect anything better from a MAGA cap trophy man,” he said.
Mr Fortuin said that on the day the white-supremist-murderer of 51 Muslims in their sacred place of worship (on March 15, 2019 in Christchurch) is given a date for sentencing, we do not need MPs gas-lighting racists fires.
“It is time that we strongly called out this bigoted behaviour when we have Kiwis returning from all quarters of the world but we single out the people not represented on his Party’s frontbench. Mr Walker would fit in well in the racist deep South of America but the good people in the South of Aotearoa is far better than that. I am hoping to hear from the ‘All Lives Matter’ hypocrites, but I am not holding my breath,” Mr Fortuin said.
New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) President Paul Patel said that Mr Walker’s comments were despicable and do not portray the true feelings of Indians, Pakistanis, Koreans and those of New Zealanders in general.
“It appears that another politician, this time National Party MP Hamish Walker, decides to make comments which he said are not racist. With what is happening around the world, comments of this nature only add fuel to what is eventuating to what I consider to be racist innuendos,” he said.
Mr Patel said that New Zealanders must realise that such comments from a politician show that he is an inconsiderate and uninformed person.
“Such people are trying to score political points. As the President of NZICA, which represents the Indian community in New Zealand, I also join with other ethnic groups in demanding a personal apology from Mr Walker to the New Zealand citizens and permanent residents arriving from India, Pakistan and Korea,” Mr Patel said.
Narendra Bhana, President of Auckland Indian Association, which is marking its centenary year in 2020-2021, said that the remarks of Mr Walker were not only unacceptable but utterly irresponsible.
“Kiwis are arriving from all over the world, not just India, Pakistan, and Korea. It is our collective responsibility to treat them with the respect that they deserve while they are in isolation. It is totally unacceptable for a Member of Parliament to use Indians or any other race as guinea pigs to promote their own political agenda,” he said.
Mr Bhana said that Indians have been in New Zealand for more than 100 years, and hence are as much an integral part of the mainstream communities.
He said that he had received many phone calls and emails from Kiwi Indians (both Citizens and permanent citizens stranded in various parts of India.
“They have been distanced from their families since end of March. They have been apprehensive and eagerly waiting to re-unite with their families. Mr Walker has failed to understand the situation of these people. His comments are disgraceful and totally unacceptable. Kiwis are proud of our multicultural society and there is no room for these kinds of sentiments in modern New Zealand. Mr Walker must be held accountable for his inappropriate remarks,” Mr Bhana said.