Thursday, February 22, 2018

Walking the Talk: Practising What we Preach

Thakur Ranjit Singh

God loves those who love their fellow beings. Hinduism preaches that the most meritorious, virtuous, righteous and saintly deed one can do is “parr hitt”- service to other fellow beings in particular and humanity in general.
Taking this on board, Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust has ventured on a visionary project, a walkathon that is termed, Ram - A –Thon, to help worthy national organisations providing services to communities of New Zealand.  Funds raised last year went to the Starship Hospital in Auckland, while this year’s efforts raised funds for Saint John Ambulance.
This article maps out the event and is intended as a salute to those who literally walked their talk to practice the religious motto of service to humanity.

Indeed, you serve God by loving and serving fellow-beings and humanity. And Shri Ram Mandir devotees literally walked their talk in serving fellow being by raising fund for Saint Johns through a walkathon -Ram- A-Thon on 4th February, 2018.

You may not believe in miracles of God, but the gift of nice fine weather on 4th February, 2018 was nothing short of a miracle. Despite forecast of stormy weather, the day dawned into a beautiful morning. We all assembled at Ram Mandir in Henderson and were transported by Ritchies bus to the starting point, the Winter Gardens at Auckland Domain.

Let the walk begin for a worthy cause. The enthusiastic and energetic walkers commencing the walk at Winter Gardens, Auckland Domain on 4th February, 2018

The Co-Op Taxis had sponsored this point and its executive, Jacob Patel, handed over their donation. Earlier, there was welcome address by the Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar, and appreciation from Saint John Representative, Dennis Dufty. With morning tea, sandwiches and refreshments, we were fuelled for the first stage of 5.3 km walk from Domain to Western Springs. Unbeknown to many, we had amongst us an 84 year old who started the march.

The Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar, giving the welcome small-talk at Auckland Domain (Winter Gardens), before the walk. It was his vision to practise what is preached by Hinduism - serving and loving mankind is one of greatest devotions to God.
This 20km walk served many objectives. We were raising money for a worthy cause-for Saint John. We were getting much needed exercise by walking. This event also brought family, friends and the community together.

One specialty of the walk was health and safety angle. Volunteer Doctors Ajay and Kulvant Singh kept close eyes on the walkers throughout the walk. And Sanit John vehicles accompanied the walkers all the way through. Anybody feeling tired had a choice to terminate the walk and board the accompanying vehicle. And those feeling unwell had more than adequate medical attention.

Pit Stop at Western Springs which was one of the main stops, where Sport Waitakere held activities for Seniors and Families. Pictured here, from left is Ram-A-Thon Executive Committee member, Madhavan Raman, Siona Fernandez, Indian Sports and Wellness Coordinator, Sport Waitakere, and Distinguished Guest, Labour List MP, Priyanca Radhakrishnan.

But the real beauty of this walk was the 20km of contrasting, breath-taking views of Auckland. The first stage, comprising 5.3 km went close to the CBD of Auckland, past Upper Queen Street. Passing by Auckland hospital, in the distance shadows of the Sky-Tower, over Grafton Bridge and through famous (some say infamous) K –Road (Karangahape in full), down Great North Road, through Central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn to the first pit stop-Western Springs.

Western Springs was the main pit stop where Sport Waitakere kept the senior citizens busy with their innovative sports and recreation activities. The kind sponsors, The Cooperative Bank provided abundance of healthy food snacks and drinks. The Bank Executive, Alice Cappleman, and Labour List MP, Priyanca Radhakrishnan addressed the walkers, gave them words of encouragement and spoke about virtues of helping others.

The group photo at Western Springs,with Saint John Ambulance and St John Shuttle van in the background with a third transport car in the middle, dwarfed by the walkers.

After group photos, walkers marched past Western Spring Lake and through a picturesque Western Springs  Park, crossing the motorway overbridge, onto the cycle tract parallel to motorway 16. This is a shared path between walkers and cyclists, and is the longest stretch of the walk, comprising 8.3km. This is a tough one, with a mixture of sea-view, traffic noise and beautiful Waitakere Ranges in the horizon.

A picturesque walk through International park, between McCormick Reserve and Tui Glen. This is led by the youngest walkers. On left is Sukirti Sharma, who at just over 10, completed the whole 20km walk, being youngest to do this. On the right is the baby of the walk, Rania Roma Chand, who was the youngest, at 5 years 9 months, to complete one leg of the walk.
Minister of Housing and Transport, and the local Te Atatu Electorate MP, Phil Twyford welcomed them at McCormick Greens in Te Atatu South, just beside Motorway 16. This pit stop was kindly sponsored by Kumar Guru, Austar Reality, of LJ Hooker.

The big supporter of Shri Ram Mandir activities, the local electorate, Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford,(with mike and cap) being the guest at McCormick Greens Pit stop, addressing and encouraging the walkers. Phil is also Minister of Housing and Minister for Transport. He is appropriately flanked by his two stalwart supporters, Shane Henderson, Chair of Henderson - Massey Local Board, with MC for the pit stop, Madhavan Raman (extreme right) while Pundit Jagdish Sharma, with hand-held hailer, ensuring that the Minister is heard by all. 

The walk from McCormick Reserve to Tui Glen is perhaps most pleasant. Walking past some residential area, sneaking under Central Park Drive Bridge, and walking thought the international gardens among best greens and path made this a very pleasant experience. It was here that the youngest walker, Rania Roma Chand, just 5 years 9 months, joined the walkers for this leg of the walk, with her mother. She chattered the way through with her group of walkers at easy pace while more energetic ones breezed through the shortest leg of 3.2 km walk.

The much deserving prizes for the oldest and the youngest walkers. The prize to the oldest walker, 84 year old, Gangi Taunk, handed over by Dennis Dufty of Saint Johns (top)  Above, prize for the youngest walker was given to Rania Roma Chand . Prize is being handed over by Mandeep Kaur Sidhu of NZ Police, and also a committee member of Ram-A-Thon committee. Rania is only five years nine months and completed one leg of the walk, while Sukirti Sharma, aged 10 was the youngest to complete the whole 20km walk. 78 years separated the ages of the youngest and the oldest walkers.
Tui Glen pit stop was sponsored by AB International and chair of Henderson –Massey Local Board, Shane Henderson was on hand to address the walkers, while Minster Phil Twyford had joined the walkers from Mc Cormick pit stop.
When walkers arrived at the final stop outside Ram Mandir on Brick Street, we had a welcoming party consisting of students from Waitakere Hindi School and musicians from Mandir with drums and cymbals to lead the walkers to the Mandir, where the formal part of the programme was held.

The first was naming and awarding prizes to various walkers. The following were the winners:
Prize for most generations walking was given to Master Shiu Charan Family. Dennis Dufty of Saint Johns (left) is seen handing over the prize to the family-Shiu Charan, Granddaughter Jayshree Anita Charan and Daughter-in-Law, Lucretia Charan. While the grandfather , Shiu Charan completed one leg of the walk, and also won the prize for the highest individual collector, the mother-daughter team completed the whole 20km walk.

·         Highest individual collector-Master Shiu Charan

·         Highest Corporate collector-Lotus Foreign Exchange

·         Family -Generational –Master Shiu Charan, Daughter-in-Law, Lucretia     Charan and granddaughter Jayshree Anita Charan (3 generations).

·         Family-highest number- Sanjay, Nandini, Vivek and Vishal Kumar (4)

·         Family completing the full walk:  three winners- Falgun and Sangita Shah,     Amrit Bhai and Amba Ben and Suman Sharma and Kajal Kumar.

·         The youngest: Rania Roma Chand- 5 years 9 months.

·         The oldest: Gangi Taunk- 84 years old.


   Cheque of $15,522.40 being presented to Dennis Dufty (4th from right) of Saint John by Ravend Kishore, (second from right) a Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, while flanked by Pravin Kumar, Managing Trustee and Salend Kumar, another Trustee. On the left are the team from St John that accompanied and oversaw the security and wellbeing of the walkers, and a police representative.

The real winners were the walkers who were rewarded with the satisfaction of helping St John, and of course Saint John who were handed $15, 522 collected in the walk.
This whole event was with a message for other similar religious organisations to venture of the real spirituality of engaging with the wider community and helping those who help others.

We will await you next year for a day of fun with your families-in serving humanity. And God.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs the blog, FIJI PUNDIT, took most of the photos and was also Acting Event Director of Ram-A-Thon project 2018.]

Friday, January 5, 2018

RAM - A - THON: Shri Ram Mandir sets a trend for religious organisations

Thakur Ranjit Singh

What started three years ago as a prop to raise funds for completing Shri Ram Mandir in Henderson, Auckland, has turned into annual fundraiser for needy organisations. 

A Flashback of the last Ram-A -Thon on 11 December, 2016. The team of walkers assembled in from of Shri Ram Mandir early in the morning before being bussed to Auckland Domani for commencement of the walk.
The next walkathon, which has been named as Ram-A –Thon to reflect its initiative from Shri Ram Mandir, will be held in early 2018. The walkathon is on Sunday 4 February, 2018, starting from Winter Gardens in Auckland Domain to Shri Ram Mandir, Brick Street, Henderson.

The 2018 Ram-A -Thon flyer with all relevant details. Please feel free to call us for further details.
This is a whole day, 19 km walk to raise funds for Saint John Ambulance. There will be entertaining and helpful stops on the way at Western Springs, Te Atatu South and Tui Glen Park in Henderson, culminating in presentations and dinner at Ram Mandir in the evening. There would be dignitaries, food, refreshments and special guests at each location, addressing and encouraging the walkers.
Waitakere Sports, the Police, Saint Johns, elders, youths and other organisations have come on board to give a helping hand. Corporate sponsors such as Coop Taxis, The Cooperative Bank, Harcourt’s and Mitre 10 Henderson, among other, have come on board with an open heart. Greater details will be on our Facebook page, and will be spread through this medium.

Welcoming speech by Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi before the last walkathon at Winter Gardens at Auckland Domain
Indeed, the idea that commenced to complete the Temple has now escalated into an activity that has been used to assist deserving charities. Last year, Ram-A Thon charity walk contributed some $10, 000 to Star Ship Hospital. This year, it has grown bigger with a walk for Saint John Ambulance.
Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust’s (SRMCT) trend-setting charity walk comes with a difference. The difference is that it is not merely to raise funds, but to amplify well-being of community, importance of keeping fit, networking, service to community and enhancing diversity and multiculturalism. 

The most important message is to religious organisations to extend their radar of focus from religious to spiritual activities. Thus, Shri Ram Mandir has endeavoured to widen its focus from religious activities to the wellbeing of the wider community.
The person leading the organisation that came with this benevolent thought, stressed that this type of walkathon has multi-pronged objectives. Pravin Kumar, the Managing Trustee of SRMCT said, “We have advised from the outset that the priority of this charity walk was not fundraising. While that is one of the aims, it is one on low priority.”

The man behind this philanthropic initiative, the Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust, Pravin Kumar (right), with his good wife, Kasmin Kumar.
He advised that the multi-objectives of this walk are: 

To engage with the wider community, including children, youths, elders, women and people from all walks to life – enhancing diversity, teamwork, networking and multiculturalism. In fact it enhances and brings together the whole family and the community.

To create awareness of well-being, healthy living, walking, exercising and keeping fit.

To help raise funds for the Community Wellbeing. Last year we raised money for Starship Hospital. This year we are walking for equally deserving Saint John Ambulance.

Some prominent supporters of the last Ram-A-Thon at pit stop at McCormick Reserve, Te Atatu South, Auckland. From left, your truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh (Acting Event Director), Hon Phil Twyford, (then MP for Te Atatu, and now also Minister for Housing and Transport.) Mahendra Sharma (Event Director, but now away overseas), Shane Henderson (Chairperson of Henderson-Massey Local Board) and Pravin Kumar (Managing Trustee of Shri Ram Mandir Charitable Trust)
“We are pleased that we are able to pass the wider message to the community for its well-being through the temple project,” Kumar said.

It is also stressing the message of change to other religious organisations to widen their focus from religious to spiritual wellbeing of the community where we use our morals, ethics and teaching for helping others.

The fun-team of walkers in the last event on 11.12.2016, having a well-earned short-break under Rosebank Road underpass
We are urging general public to reserve Sunday, 4 February, 2018 in your calendar for walking the talk on helping the community and widening the objectives and aims of religious teaching in supporting   vulnerable and needy in our communities.

A flashback to the first Ram-A -Thon over 3 years ago on 30 November, 2014. Please note the incomplete work, and exposed timber (on left), still being finalised for completion of the Mandir. The dignitaries who graced the occasion- from left, Managing Trustee, Pravin Kumar, Kanwaljit  Singh Bakshi, (National List MP), Phil Twyford (MP, Te Atatu), Alfred Ngaro  and Parmjeet Parmar (both National List MPs and Linda Cooper(Auckland City Councillor).

Further information can be obtained from Acting Event Director Thakur Ranjit Singh on 021 235 4559 or e-mail – For further details please visit Shri Ram Mandir Facebook page or can be obtained by contacting Pundit Jagdish Sharma on 09-836 4647.

About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs the blog FIJI PUNDIT, and is also a media commentator, and promotes community and other events beneficial to the society and enhances community wellbeing.. He is also Acting Project Director of Ram-A Thon, sitting in for Pundit Mahendra Sharma who is away overseas in India.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Thirsty at Auckland Transport stations?: No problem - drink from Council toilets

The Kiwi culture of drinking water from public toilets in the Super City

Thakur Ranjit Singh

While the mainstream New Zealand media is oblivion to this fact, FIJI PUNDIT is again raising an issue that escaped their radar. Perhaps they are too busy muckraking over who mistakes our PM as somebody else’s wife. So, we tackle something important and relevant to all of us.

Auckland Council appears to be promoting a new culture of drinking water from toilets. This is because planning of Council facilities are bereft of any human, health, hygienic or public-need considerations.

Auckland Transport  Bus and Train Stations do not have the essential amenity of drinking fountains and it reflects on lack of compassion and planning skills of those who needs to care. They need to learn from a Third World Fiji bus stations.

We do not have free drinking water at all its railway and bus station network, except two. There are no separate taps or drinking fountains-you drink in toilets.

The bigger irony is that the Western Springs Lakeside Park which is built on the site of former Auckland Reservoir, which provided water to early settlers, is as dry as Sahara Desert. None of its fountains in the park walkways have running water. 

Another irony is that the $28 million dollar Otahuhu bus and rail station which opened in October, 2016 and which has won an award, also has no drinking fountains. People are forced to drink from toilets, as no separate hygienic free water is available at any of Auckland’s bus and train stations (except two).

I wonder who were the judges who granted this $28m Otahuhu station an award? Like Auckland Council planners, these judges are too rich and never use these facilities for the poor to realise we need drinking fountains. This award-winning Bus/Train station is also "dry", unless you drink from its toilets.
This article was written seven months ago, in April, 2017, and sent to all councillors, Mayor Phil Goff and CEO of Auckland Council. But as usual, it seems to have ended in the Council trash bin. That is why I am rekindling this water issue as the summer heat makes us thirty, and we have a new Government which can whip a dead horse - Auckland Council. This is especially because the Super City’s lead jockey, riding and Uncontrolled Auckland Council is Labour’s former leader.

You travel on a train or a bus network from Waitakere Station in West Auckland to Pukekohe via Papakura (including Sylvia Park network) in South. If you have an empty water bottle, you will find no place to fill, except in Auckland toilets. Same thing applies if you travel on Northern Busway, from Albany Station to all stations (Constellation, Sunnynook, Smales Farm and Akoranga) to the city. 
In Britomart, you now have a sole fountain for hundreds of thousands of commuters and visitors. New Lynn has a low-pressured lone drinking fountain. That is the sum total in Auckland- JUST TWO. As mentioned earlier, the most recent multi-million dollar showpieces at Otahuhu and Panmure stations are also ‘dry”. 

"Water Water everywhere, not a single drop to drink". This Western Springs Lakeside Park which is built on the site of former Auckland Reservoir, which provided water to early settlers, is as dry as Sahara Desert. None of its fountains in the park walkways have running water. It appears many at Auckland Council are sleeping on the job.
Auckland, as a supposedly most liveable city needs to live up to that name. Health and well-being of its citizens is it prime priorities. Free water contributes to healthy bodies. Tens of thousands of school children use these facilities, and are encouraged to buy frizzy and sugary drinks instead of free water supply in a country overflowing with so much water. 

Ironically NZ does not blink an eye-lid to give free water to overseas companies who profit on our natural resources. Yet our city is unable to provide it to us. Some stations, apart from pricy water, also sell Coke products and supposedly healthy glutton and fat free products, but fail to provide water fountains. Does Auckland Council have shares in Coke or water bottling companies, selling water at twice the price of petrol?

I suggest Mayor Phil Goff to take a ride on his motorbike, thirsty and with an empty water bottle, and verify where you can have clean free fill or drink of water, away from a toilet. The Mayor can have the new Minister of Health, Hon Dr David Parker, and Minister for Local Government Hon Nanaia Mahuta in tow to give them a first-hand look at wanting Super City and its heartless and blinkered planners.

It seems the Mayor, Phil Goff and his planners are so high up the salary scale , and up the ivory tower that they have no consideration for the common people on earth. They are too busy in activities that have little to do with immediate objectives of a City Council. They cannot even provide us basic drinking amenities in the City - a very blinkered planning.
I suggest Phil Goff also send some highly paid Auckland City planners on a junket to Fiji, a Third World Country on first class tickets to see how we do it there. All Fiji municipality markets and bus stations throughout Fiji have separate pipes and free water for its thirsty citizens -not in toilets. Fiji may be poor, but its decision-makers have a heart and compassion for the people who pay their salaries.

Cash-strapped municipalities in Fiji can teach Auckland Council how to manage people facilities. We can teach them a lot, if they listen. 
Public transport network in Fiji municipalities do NOT make our people to drink from toilets. 

Auckland Council does.

Cry, a beloved, most liveable, Super City

[About the Author-Thakur Ranjit Singh manages blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also manages the Facebook Page- “”Auckland Council WATCH”, where he raises pertinent issues relating to Auckland Council, hoping somebody, some day, will take notice. This article was posted there, and also sent to Auckland Mayor, its CEO and all Councillors in April, 2017. Nobody seems to have taken any notice.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mike Hosking: When media ethics get assaulted from within

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Unquestionably, a casualty of 2017 election in New Zealand has been its media ethics.

FIJI PUNDIT has previously written about an issue that no mainstream media or their journalists wished to raise.

This unfortunately, is largely due to professional courtesy where those in the same profession do not wish to taint their fellow journalists. And it is also largely because of the duopoly of media in NZ, with only two major players.

However, the advent of Social Media has brought a big change. Now, some celebrated journalists in powerful media organisations, with Halo-Effect, cannot dream of being Little Gods, while assaulting the ethics of a profession that provides their bread and butter. It appears that in New Zealand such ethics and code of conducts are only confined to lecture halls of Media Schools.

However, an insignificant David took courage to challenge an award-winning Goliath on an issue about which the mass –media has adopted a stance of deafening silence.

FIJI PUNDIT wishes to raise this issue, hoping it will prick conscience of some media professors and media commentators who can gain nerve to point a rot in their own profession.

Please read on……..

Indeed, this is a David versus Goliath story. This David had earlier shot his sling at some Goliath mainstream journalists who have been shaming the Fourth Estate in the aftermath of 2017 election, unable to digest the results of MMP.

David versus Goliath: When an insignificant journalist, FIJI PUNDIT takes on the Award-Winner celebrated journalist of NZME, the great Mike Hosking, who can never be wrong.
My scepticism with media ethics was further heightened by actions of one particular award-winning journalist of New Zealand Media and Entertainment. NZME is huge media duopoly, owning NZ Herald, Newstalk ZB, among others.

NZME was launched in 2014 as the formal merger of the New Zealand division of APN News & Media and The Radio Network, part of the Australian Radio Network. It operates 32 newspapers, 8 radio networks and several websites in twenty-five markets across the country, and reaches over 3 million people. They are huge and behaviour of some of their celebrated journalists is contrary to what I learnt in media school at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

The only confidence I get is from Commerce Commission, which is opposing a merger of NZME with Fairfax (Stuff) as this would produce a virtual monopoly in news, and cut quality. We already seem to be experiencing this deterioration from NZME. And that brings me to NZME’s hero, Mike Hosking.

The great Mike Hosking, who circulated a video (see link in article, below), where some of his erroneous claims are challenged. And I accuse him of tarnishing the image of journalists by being a spin-doctor.
He has been circulating a video under the banner of Newstalk ZB titled: “Does Labour want to sink the housing market?” It goes with his comments: “This so called ban on foreign ownership is xenophobic bollocks. It's the work of inexperienced amateurs.”

Is this an advertisement from National Party?

Or is it supposed to be a critique of an award-winning journalist who is expected to apply media ethics when publicly talking about a government which has been in power for merely a week.

He has gone on a tangent, blaming Labour for doing what National has not done in the last nine years. Therefore what has been untested should be allowed time. As a celebrated journalist of almost monopolistic media organisation, he owes a duty of care to be probing, balanced and telling the truth - and the whole truth. It appears he did not allow truth to spoil a good story.

I will only pick two issues from his very partisan video. The first was his undying reliance on government statistics which showed only 3% of buyers were from overseas. We know that National government had failed to keep any credible records, and only did so half-heartedly when forced to do so.

Phil Twyford, now Minister for Housing had warned about the 3% figures from government record as being  useless. Despite this warning and caution from Government officials, Hoskings completely relied on this questionable figure to discredit Labour and its policies. He was miser with facts, which he did not allow to spoil a good spin.
There was a warning from Officials that there were some limitations to the data and it was not an authoritative guide to the level of foreign investment in New Zealand's residential property. (NZ Herald, 10 May, 2016). The then Labour spokesman on Housing (and current Housing Minister) Phil Twyford stressed that these figures were effectively useless because of its limitations.

It also excludes trusts and businesses. A further 45 per cent of the Auckland sales were also excluded because of exemptions for those buying family homes and those who signed contracts before the law came in.

Hence the 3% was a window-dressing and nothing to rely upon. One would have expected greater degree of journalistic acumen from Hosking. In a recent Radio talkback, a director of a leading real estate cited a case where an Asian resident student owned 41 houses. So, you can guess what methods are employed to hide the true picture of foreign ownership.

The other issue in his video was about breach of free trade agreements. If Hosking had cared to read comments of a more credible journalist from NZME’s sister organisation, Fran O’Sullivan of NZ Herald, (02.11.17), he would have been enlightened:

Labour now says it was incorrect to claim the house ban could not be done without breaching other free trade agreements.
Ardern has announced the Government's chosen mechanism is to introduce an amendment to the Overseas Investment Act to classify residential housing as "sensitive".

While the previous government has been sleeping on the job, Labour has found an escape clause within 5 days of coming to power, to bring necessary changes without breaching overseas trade agreements.

Perhaps if that was not understandable to Hosking, he needs to read article by another colleague from sister organisation at NZ Herald (05.11.17). Heather du Plessis-Allan, under the heading “Labour's new broom lightweight, but sweeping clean”, had relevant revelation for Hosking:

The first to go was the notion New Zealand should be for sale to the world. National refused to ban foreign house buyers, claiming it would breach our free trade deals.
        Except, it turns out it won't, which is why Labour did it              within five days of taking office.
 Foreign buyers should have been banned years ago. Ignore the data that suggests it wasn't a problem. It was.
      The data goes nowhere near capturing what was really               happening in the housing market, especially Auckland's,            where some foreign buyers were snapping up houses sight         unseen.  
       The fact is, if we put this country on sale to the world, our          citizens will end up being outbid by foreigners every time          because we don't have their kind of cash.

What is evident to other journalist is missed by Hosking. He was very emphatic on questioning government’s objective on banning foreign buyers. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know the reason why.

The new prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern achieved in halting house-sales to foreign speculators in 5 days in government which National could not achieve in 9 years. Where there is a will, there is way.
Whose interest is he safeguarding? The foreign buyers?

Or is he more worried about National's rich cronies being able to sell their overpriced properties at extremely high prices and untaxed profits to foreign buyers? Like Sir John selling his Parnell mansion for $20m to a Chinese buyer?
As a responsible, credible and conscientious journalist, it is one thing to be ignorant about issues.

It is quite another to use your position in an influential media to degenerate journalism to spin-doctoring.

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Labour Government:The first week of a Government with a heart

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Numerous histories were made when Jacinda Ardern’s Coalition Labour/Greens/NZ First coalition government was sworn in in Wellington, New Zealand on Thursday 26 October, 2017.

She was the first millennial PM– which is children of Baby Boomers, generally born between 1980 and 2000. A very young one at 37. The other was the carnival atmosphere at the beehive that was unprecedented for a swearing-in ceremony.

And most important history of all - a very formidable, strong and, heavy opposition in form of the National Party, which have more members than Labour. The past government was rejoicing its economic performance, its surplus and bestowing benefits to its elite supporters. However, many of their policies were bereft of compassion, generosity and heart for the vulnerable. 

The new Labour -led coalition, comprising Labour/Greens and NZ First. The government made heart-felt ripples and compassionate decisions within a week of coming to power.
No sooner had the Labour coalition government come on board, than they made ripples which reached the suffering and vulnerable public within the first week. They heralded a big culture-change in government - listening to people, being sensitive to their feeling and being a caring government. 

Among others, these are some actions of the government with a heart within a week of taking office:

Sagar Narayan- temporary stay of deportation

Sagar Narayan is an intellectually disabled son of a New Zealand citizen, who has no relatives to take care of him in Fiji. He was supposed be deported a day after the new government was sworn in. However, newly-sworn Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi confirmed he will complete an in-depth review of Narayan's case. Until then, the 20-year-old will not be deported.

Sanil Kumar, a Fijian who was "sentenced to death' by a heartless National Government which deported him to Fiji, where he died because of inadequate facilities. In contrast, Sagar Narayan's "death sentence" was averted by a Government with a heart.
This case is in contrast to Sanil Kumar tragedy in 2014 under a National Government which lacked compassion. This issue has already been covered by FIJI PUNDIT. National’s Associate Minister for Immigration, Nikki Kaye refused to budge. Sanil’s plea to NZ authorities that Fiji did not have proper facilities, and he was being sent to certain death, fell on deaf years. His prediction came true and he passed away in Fiji. National has blood on its hand.

Fortunately, we now have a government with a heart, that will not sentence sick people to death.

Teina Pora

Teina was wrongfully jailed for murder and rape of Susan Burdett in 1992. He had been behind bars for 22 years of his life. His conviction was quashed by Privy Council in March, 2015. National government approved a compensation of $2.52 million dollars. This was challenged by his team which rightfully sought the interest element for the gross injustice. This was denied by National Government.

Teina Pora, an innocent person who was wrongly convicted, and served some 20 years behind bars. National Government denied him inflation-adjusted compensation. Andrew Little, as the new Justice Minister, approved some $1m dollars for inflation.
New Justice Minister Andrew Little has revealed in his first day on the job that Teina Pora's $2.5m compensation for wrongful imprisonment will be increased to match inflation.

A government with a heart.

Pike River

The Pike River Mine disaster happened on the afternoon of 19 November 2010, in the Pike River Mine, 46 kilometres northeast of Greymouth, in the West Coast  of South Island of New Zealand. This disaster killed 29 men. Their bodies have not been recovered, and remain in the mine. The past National government refused re-entry and would have poured cold concrete at mine entrance to permanently seal it. It was saved through gallants actions of some concerned people.

Most of those who perished in Pike River disaster (27 out of 29). Their remains are still in the mine. The entry, announced and approved by Andrew Little, to be made in April will attempt to retrieve their remains and present closure to the family.
The new Government has announced entry, which among others will collect evidence as to what went wrong and retrieve any bodily remains of the miners that may be up there. The family wants closure, truth and accountability, and able to perform the last rites with the remains that would be retrieved.

The minister responsible for re-entry into Pike River, Andrew Little, hopes to get people in to the mine by April next year.

Pike River mine entrance which the past Government wanted permanently sealed

A government with a heart.

Ban of House sale to overseas buyers

What National government could not do in 9 years, Labour Coalition achieved in 5 days in government by seeking to amend laws that would stop overseas buyers speculating on our housing market without breaching trade agreements?

Where there is a will, there is a way.

Living wage

Minimum wages to gradually go up for the lowest paid workers to meet the living wage rate.

New Dunedin Hospital, Ignored Christchurch and mental health

Labour has announced new Dunedin hospital where Government will take full control and costs, and thrown out National’s public private partnership (PPP). It has announced construction in its first term.
In the aftermath of Christchurch earthquake, the city felt ignored and mental health issue was also ignored. The new Government has taken immediate new initiates to address the ignored issues. 

Satellite towns

The new Minister for Housing Phil Twyford immediately went into action and announced three satellite towns in outskirts of Auckland to decentralise the and spread out Auckland’s population. 

There was not much talk-just actions
Phil Twyford, new Minister for Housing and Transport - a minister with very heavy portfolios. The Action-man from Te Atatu (like yours truly), has immediately gone into action to tackle housing crisis which the past government denied even existed.
Finance with a heart and conscience

The new Minister of Finance Grant Robertson emphatically mapped out finance and economic policies of the new government by announcing that it will not be about statistics that put feather in government’s caps, but action on the ground that affects the life of common citizens. 

Economic cake shared by all.

Other events after a week

- A very rewarding and successful whirlwind visit to Australia.

- Paid parental leave to gradually increase from its 18 weeks to 26 weeks by the term of this parliament.

- Teina Pora’s interest element determined to be near a million dollars additional.

Rock star Economy?

Subsequent to some of the actions above, especially extension of paid parental leave, a Newstalk ZB talkback host quipped that Labour was moving towards a socialist regime.

Whatever you call it - benefits to common people and ruling with a heart is miles better than a rock star economy which means little to poor suffering down the economic ladder.

Star of this economy had been overseas housing speculators, multi-house owners and the elite -while the rock burdened and stifled the cries of vulnerable poorer people, suffering from a government showing surplus, but under-funding basic needs like education, health and housing, among others.

The flanker and Queen-maker, Andrew Little (left) who gave the Hail Mary Pass to Jacinda Ardern who did a winning touchdown. A selfless leader, Andrew passed the baton to the lass from Morrinsville, who has done miracles in just a week of coming to power. Jacinda has established her position as Leader of a Government with heart and compassion.
This government will not take pride in economic statistics but social responsibility statistics that has been shaming our country as a developed nation.

Indeed, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity delivered to us on Diwali Night will shine light and give economic equality and social justice to all its citizens.

If the first week is a guide, then this nation is blessed with a government with a heart.

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