Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Justice System: A casualty at Crime Forum in Auckland

The murder of Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar and subsequent court case raises many questions that need answers, but there are no takers. Nobody appears to be interested or prepared to take responsibility. The family feels as that they have been made the victims twice over, with the loss of the loved one, plus a questioning and wanting justice system.

When NZ’s questionable Justice System becomes a casualty at Crime Forum in Henderson, Auckland

Waitakere in general and Henderson in particular is a casualty of the utopia, Auckland Super-City, where we got ignored by the system. You would not read anything about this in any NZ media. An ethnic reporter from NZ Herald was given the script of a speech, but none ethnic events of the past forums saw the light of day. Thankfully, Hindi Freeview 36 channel, Apna TV covered this, while the other Indian cum Hindi media do not seem to be interested.

Anyway, why should they? It was only an ethnic Indian dairy owner who got killed. If it was a celebrated White Man or relative of some politician or Councillor, then there would have been a media frenzy to cover the aftermath of the event. But, sadly, for most media, it is a no-story. That is why, thank God for social media for filling in the vacuum. So here we go - how FIJI PUNDIT fills this news-emptiness in this neglected part of former Waitakere City - the wild - west that we call HENDERSON.

Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) Forum heard that justice indeed appears to be blind where the victims have to pay for the crimes they did not commit -twice, while the criminals go free.
Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) initially held a crime forum in Henderson on 3 July, 2014, subsequent to murder of dairy-owner, Arun Kumar, and a spate of other deaths and serious crime in Henderson. We heard major stakeholders, including Waipareira Trust, Minister of Social Development, politicians, community and the police. They promised that things would be done to address the issues. To gauge progress, WEB decided to revisit the crime issue a year after the event and this was held on 8 July, 2015 at Auckland Council Chambers in Henderson.

Some of the speakers at the WEB Forum, from left, front: Penny Hulse, Auckland Council Deputy Mayor and Patron of WEB, and representatives of Police: Superintendent Bill Searle, Inspector Scott Webb and Inspector Rob Cochrane

Speakers, among others included representatives of Auckland Council, the police, the business and the victim. Unfortunately nobody from Waipareira Trust, the Government, Ministry of Social Development, or politicians were in this forum. It was the victim, late Arun Kumar’s son, Shivneel and representative of Indian community, Naveen Prakash of Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) who were the ones who stole the stage. This was with some frank questions and issues that normally get sacrificed in our over-indulgence in political correctness, which buries truth in favour of “look good” rhetoric.

Part of the audience at WEB Crime Revisit Forum
This revisit forum was that much more significant because it was just after  
a questionable sentencing for the alleged murderers of Arun Kumar, where one was convicted with a reduced charge of manslaughter, while the other younger one, who was named as the ringleader of this crime, walked a free person. None of them or their families showed any sign of remorse in the courts, and this was more hurting for the victim family. Mitigating factors ignored the severity of their crime. The prosecution appears to have been caught napping, and that resulted in the acquittal. [More on this in the next FIJI PUNDIT article on this issue, which covers what others ignore.]

Shivneel Kumar, son of dairy-owner, Arun Kumar, who was killed by young thugs. Shivneel raises many questions that may never get  answers and feel saddened at the justice system which short-changed him and his family.

The forum to a great extent was parked in the victim’s corner. We heard how they got short-changed by the New Zealand’s wanting justice system which appears to be skewed towards protection and welfare of criminals. Many questions were raised, but the answers, my friend, are blown with the wind. Shivneel Kumar, a son, pleaded for answers:

- Why was nothing done to take these troubled boys out of their drug –infested environment and put into safer homes BEFORE they killed someone (Perhaps the question that follows is, who is supposed to do this?)

- Why were they looking for money at the early hours of a school day with weapons at the ready? Should they be going to school? (Question that follows is: Who is responsible for policing truancy and paid for this? Is there dereliction of duties from any agencies? )

 - How come, what we call a fair trial, allows a person’s head injury from 5 years ago, drug use from birth and family violence feature instead of the criminal actions of the recent days? (Issue: How many other such “mental cases” and loose cannons are roaming the streets to kill somebody else before their sickness is taken as a defence for their criminal action?)

- Why do we have so many educated people, silently supporting this injustice, and why have we accepted a system favouring the offenders?

These, among others were the cries of a son who lost his father to a system of dysfunction happening under the nose of those who are supposed to care.

Representatives of the victim: from left, Naveen Prakasd, President of Waitakere Indian Association (WIA), looks on while Shivneel Kumar raises questions about our questionable, skewed and wanting justice system which may never deliver the family justice for the loss of the head of the family. Naveen raised the issue of compensation for Kumar family and other concerns on behalf of the family and safety, or lack of it in Henderson.
President of Waitakere Indian Association (WIA), Naveen Prakash echoed the sentiments of the community, and wished to know - who is the victim?  “No matter what your age if you are a party to a crime you should wear the wrath of the law and every crime MUST have an element of punishment,” he said.

Naveen also mentioned the irony of a justice system where the people who lost a loved one would continue to contribute their hard earned tax dollars for the upkeep of the offenders and so called rehabilitation costs. “What do they get as victims? There has to be some compensation either from ACC or another Fund set up specifically for victims of these heinous crimes” he said.

Penny Hulse, Deputy Mayor of Auckland, was visibly very concerned about the pain and suffering of Kumar family. She promised to initiate a "think tank" type of meeting with all relevant stakeholders, including Ministry of Justice and the community,  to look at various issues discussed at the forum, including relevant compensation for somebody who was killed on the job.
Penny Hulse Deputy Mayor of Auckland Council, was very sympathetic to the plight of Kumar family and concurred that a casualty of the Super City was that the Council lost touch with Waitakere, where even government has been called on to invest more on safety of people. She agreed to facilitate a think-tank discussion with inclusion of other relevant stakeholders like Ministry of Justice, to look at the issue of compensation for the family and justice as it should be seen to be done.

Representatives of police agreed that they are only a small part of the solution. On the issue of truancy they said police were not the lead agency in administering this. The main agencies are CYFS (Child, Youth and Family) Waipareira Trust and schools. But unfortunately, none were there to answer the questions raised, and it appeared the organisers were reluctant to ask some pressing questions, lest they upset some people.

While all echoed that things have improved, feedback was evident in increasing number of shops becoming vacant in CBD Henderson. Perhaps the community representative, Naveen Prakash summed it well.” So how is security and safety in Henderson today, a year after the incident? The feedback from our community is that a lot more needs to be done. Despite all the measures taken there are pockets of kids still roaming the streets and there are plenty more at night time. There are drunken kids in groups marauding in and around the Kindergarten area down the Road and also in and around the Falls and West Wave Center. I have personally seen them in these places and sometimes well after midnight,” he said.

The murder scene-Railside Dairy, which the widow of Arun Kumar was forced to sell at a loss. The sales-assistant with the new management says he is equipped with martial arts skills to protect himself from the type of thugs who freely loiter the streets in Henderson at all hours of the day and night-unhindered and fearless. 

While the authorities agreed in unison that things have improved, the feedback from the community and my own personal observation reveals that much still needs to be done. Just last week, early July 2015, near the first anniversary of Arun Kumar’s murder, I decided to visit the murder scene at the shop. As I was proceeding on Great North Road in Henderson, outside the Railside Dairy Shop, I was confronted by a youth who was asking for money. This was around midday on a weekday. I went into the shop, which the widow was forced to sell at a loss, hence it was under new management. I inquired from a stocky build young Indian behind the counter if he was bothered by youths. He said some still visit the shop asking for money, but otherwise do not cause any trouble. I asked him how he would defend himself if he was attacked like the previous owner. He said he was a martial arts expert, hence capable of defending himself. I thanked him and went out, shaking my head in disbelief, that situation in Henderson has degenerated now to an extent where CV of a salesperson has to show that they were Karate experts for their own safety.

Part of Arun Kumar family with other participants at the WEB Crime Forum-one year on. From left, Baljit Singh, Coordinator of Waitakere Ethnic Board,  Shivneel Kumar, victim's son, Nanette Nathoo, Executive Member of Manukau Indian Association and NZ Indian Central Association's head of  Law and Order Committee, Anita Kumar, widow of Arun Kumar and Roshni Prakash
The other experience is  where some WEB executives would bear witness to, as it happened on 6 May 2015 when we were having our monthly meeting in Manukau Room at Auckland Central (old Waitakere Council Chambers), and our coordinator had gone to get supper for us after 5.30pm. As she was approaching the lift to the ground floor (where the Crime forum was held) she was confronted by a young girl with some three younger boys in the tow, similar to the ones who killed Arun. They were demanding that pizza she was carrying be handed to them. Little did they know that the Indian – looking lady is Kiwi born Punjabi Indian from Waikato farms, quite capable of looking after herself. She refused and told them off, and was assisted by the security of Auckland Council who witnessed this on CCTV monitor. We later saw this recorded incident on Auckland Council CCTV. I feared, had those young thugs, like Arun’s killers, carried knives, it could have been another ethnic statistics, and the court would have ruled that the young girl and the other derelict kids were from abusive families with metal issues, hence they were not responsible for their crimes.

That ladies and gentleman, sums up the progress that has taken place in Henderson. You be the judge. Would you venture alone on a cold wet night on Henderson Streets? Are we any safer now? Go ahead, make my day…oops, or … night!

(About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh coordinated the first crime forum and asked some real questions that were not palatable to the establishment, and were considered too politically incorrect. He is media and community liaison officer of WEB, and runs his blog site which tells what the main stream and side stream and Indian media fails to say)

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