Parliament also marks Pongal as a Festival of good tidings
The first significant step in the process of integrating Tamil-speaking people in New Zealand was taken on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 when Transport and Workplace Relations & Safety Minister Michael Wood launched the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangam (ANTS) Inc at the Banquet Hall of New Zealand Parliament.
Milestone in Parliament
The event also witnessed another milestone- Pongal Day celebrations with Inclusion, Diversity and Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Vanushi Walters, Elected Member of Parliament from Upper Harbour saying that the Festival is an important occurrence in their lives as well.
More than 300 men, women and children representing the Tamil and other communities were present at the event. It was pleasing to see, for the first time in New Zealand history, the Presidents and office-bearers of Muthtamil Sangam, Auckland Indian Association and Tamil Association of New Zealand Inc (all based in Auckland), Wellington Muthtamil Sangam and Tamil Associations based in Hamilton, Tauranga, New Plymouth, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin attending and supporting a national organisation and promoting their Festival.
Credit must be given to the officials of various associations from across the country- in particular those of the Auckland Indian Association- for organising a colourful function, replete with the cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu, with a fusion dance with Maori as a highlight. It was pleasing to witness the wider participation of younger people both as performers and Masters of Ceremonies.
The performers included traditional welcome by the Chenda Melam Group from Palmerstone North, students of Natraj School of Dance (Lower Hutt, an academy run by Prabha Ravi), Saran Dance Academy (a community group led by Saranya Arumugam), and an impressive Mihi Whakatau by teenager Ragavan Ranchan.
Ragavan demonstrated the ability and the willingness of the community to adopt, exemplify and unite two cultures.
Madhusha Paraneetharan (from Lower Hutt) and Kaushalya Devi Vijaykumar (Christchurch), as the Masters of Ceremonies connected the various items well.
Among the speakers at the launch were India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand Muktesh Pardeshi, Mr Wood, Ms Radhakrishnan, Ms Walters, ANTS Founder-President Raveen Annamalai and AIA President Vai Ravindran.
High Commissioner’s patronage
Earlier in the day, Mr Pardeshi hosted a tea-meeting at the High Commission to greet the founding members and officials of various Tamil organisations. The event, attended by Second Secretaries Joy Doss Kumar (who is also Head of the Chancery) and Parmjeet Singh (Political and Commercial) of the Mission, was a mark of solidarity and the importance that the Indian government places in serving the interests of its Diaspora.
Fostering unity and promoting social cohesion was the theme of the meeting, an extension to which was later found at the Pongal Day Festival in Parliament.
New Zealand Police have also assured ANTS of their support as a part of the ethnic strategy to work with communities and promote safety.
At a special meeting hosted by Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha and National Manager Engagement (Maori, Pacific and Ethnic Services) Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, they said that organisations such as ANTS have a major role to play in the efforts of the Police in making New Zealand the safest country in the world.
They also outlined the ethnic strategy of the Police and functioning of various Advisory Boards and the Police Commissioner’s Ethnic Focus Forum towards achieving the objectives.
Pongal and the Federation of Tamil Sangams
The appeal to mark Pongal in Parliament gained ground three years ago when Tamil Association of New Zealand Inc (TANZI) President Sowndra Rajan and Secretary Pradeep Ravi appealed to Mr Wood (then not a Minister) to consider celebrating Pongal Day in Parliament.
Mr Annamalai has been advocating this for more than ten years.
His efforts to establish the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangam Inc is an excellent initiative and it was appropriate that the organisation was officially launched at ‘Pongal Day’ in Parliament.
He established ANTS in 2019 in Wellington with ATA President Vai Ravindran and Tamil Society of Waikato Treasurer Dr Samuel Jebaraj Benjamin as founding members.
“The Federation comes with the pronounced need for building and strengthening the solidarity and connectivity of Tamils in New Zealand,” he said.
It is being registered as a Society under the Incorporated Societies Act and is governed by an elected Executive Committee.
“ANTS is committed to promoting the get-together and connectedness of Tamil Sangams and Associations in New Zealand and people Tamil origin or Tamil-speaking people in New Zealand. The Federation will cultivate, promote, foster and develop the advancement of knowledge in Tamil language, literature and culture and to participate actively in the development of a culturally pluralistic and socially cohesive society,” Mr Annamalai said.
He said that networking with other Sangams offer possibilities of connectivity, stability and increased resources. ANTS meets this need and provides for developing connectivity among the Tamil Communities in New Zealand, he said.
“The primary objective of ANTS is the preservation and growth of Tamil Language, Culture, and Community. We are a growing community where our projects are crucial for the wellbeing of our community. The projects that we undertake would serve as a testimony as New Zealand’s legacy as a culturally pluralistic and socially cohesive country. As the central organisation of a community with growing numbers and importance to New Zealand, ANTS will play an influential role in various aspects,” Mr Annamalai said.
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