Challenged this week over Shane Jones’s comments about Indian students, NZ First Party leader and deputy prime minister Winston Peters insisted that he had been ‘expressing the views of some in the local Indian community’. This week the Indian Weekender newspaper editor Sandeep Singh sought the views of the community directly. Here’s what they said.
Republished from the Indian Weekender with permission. See also: Jacinda Ardern, interviewed by the Indian Weekender.
Narendra Bhana, President, Auckland Indian Association Inc
Shane Jones’ comments on the Indian student are racist. Period. New Zealand prides itself for being an inclusive culture and comments on one particular ethnic group is nothing other than a very severe form of racism. I simply do not understand, why Shane Jones, backed by NZ First, target the Indian community, again and again.
Indian students come here to study and contribute immensely to New Zealand not just to the social fabric of the country but economically too. Look at the hospitality industry, the Indian students are the real contributors and are a real asset for the industry.
Jeet Suchdev, Chairperson, Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust
If this is not racism, then what is? The Indian students are the contributors to this economy, too; they are the youth workforce who study and work hard here to make their career legitimately. Such negative connotations about the Indian students here and by extension, the Indian community living in New Zealand is upsetting. New Zealand is facing dangers of two viruses, Coronavirus and Shane Jones virus. Shane Jones’ comments are ridiculous and simply not acceptable.
Paul Patel, President, New Zealand Indian Central Association
I am not surprised that NZ First has against stooped down to such a level targeting the Indian community only to further their cause of political mileage riding on one ethnic group. A few years ago, they targeted the Chinese community, and in the last few months, well, the Indian community is their punching bag. Where does Shane Jones or Winston Peters get such information that the Indian community is not happy with the students coming here? Has he backed his claims with sufficient evidence and information? No, he does not. This is what happens when we have a coalition government that does not help.
Yes, the prime minister has condemned her cabinet’s minister’s comments, but that is not enough. If you direct a tirade against one ethnic group, that demotes them, it is racism, that is the definition. I am glad that our human rights commissioner, Meng Foon, has condemned Shane Jones’ comments and released a statement stating how such comments for political ambitions hurt the sentiments of any ethnic group and affects them largely.
Just because we didn’t respond to his [Shane Jones] comments much earlier, that does not mean we stand in agreement. We just don’t want you to ride on the Indian community once again and further your cause.
Look at the way Shane Jones gives interviews – so full of arrogance the way he talks, and know-it-all attitude as if he knows all the ins and outs of the Indian community. You cannot have a one-on-one conversation with an arrogant person who is so full of himself.
Sunny Kaushal, Spokesperson, South Asian Leaders Group NZ
None of us wants to give any importance to Shane Jones, neither we sympathise with his “politics of desperation for existence”, but the way some of these politicians in the Labour-led Coalition government have targeted and created rhetoric against the migrants accusing them for every public issue for gaining the vote is unacceptable. It is dangerous for New Zealand’s international image, bilateral trade and foreign policy. On one side the prime minister is busy showing off in front of international media proclaimed herself as a champion to stop the hate speech but on the home ground her own ministers are out of control and fueling the hate.
Vai Ravindran, President, Auckland Tamil Association
I strongly condemn Shane Jones’ comments on the Indian students here. People are upset, just because we did not speak on this earlier and out loud, it does not make Mr Jones’ comments not racist. I work with the Indian students very closely, and I can understand what they feel when they hear such downtrodden views about them. Mr Jones’ comments, of course, come once again close to the elections. He needs oxygen and publicity to survive and what better for him to target the Indian community once again. For him, the Indian community is the lowest hanging fruit that he can use anytime for his political gain and mileage. No, sir, we are not a stepping-stone in your political ambitions, and the community certainly does not appreciate being used as a tool for his publicity.
Nilima Venkat, General Manager, Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust
It’s election time and Shane Jones wants publicity. His comments are nefarious, and we do not appreciate being the subject of his rant. His comments are racist, and we should ignore it, so he does not gain for this publicity.