Thursday, March 17, 2016

Waitakere Ethnic Board AGM hears of Multiculturalism, and praised for promoting it

Thakur Ranjit Singh

On a very pleasant morning of Saturday, 5 March, 2016, I found myself at Kelston Community Centre in West Auckland. It was the occasion of 12th Annual General Meeting of Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB). We were to get an update on achievements of WEB. It was notable for another reason, as the present and future of Auckland Council were the keynote speakers. Council’s Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse and Mayor-in-Waiting, Phil Goff graced the occasion with their presence. At this Kelston Community Centre, I got a bout of nostalgia. Some ten years ago I had a dose of multiculturalism at the same venue by an ethnic person in a seminar organised by WEB on concerns of ethnic communities.

Faces of diversity at Waitakere Ethnic Board AGM
In an Ethnic Board workshop in 2006 at the same venue, I had the opportunity to listen to an interesting anecdote from an Asian speaker. This migrant had an uncanny ability to laugh at his own predicament, which is a great human virtue lacking in many today.

He said that if a pregnant woman had to give birth while in an Auckland taxi, she would be safe. And that you would be luckier to have a heart attack in one of Auckland's public buses. This is because the chances are that the Indian taxi driver is doctor, or the Chinese, Malaysian or Singaporean bus driver is a cardiologist.

Both these classes of people and similar professionals are forced to give up their profession which they had practised for most of their lives in their home country. Their qualifications allow them to migrate to New Zealand in the general skills category but when they get here the reality of job market in Auckland hits them. This was covered in a New Zealand Herald opinion piece by this writer.

Patron of WEB and Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse: She says that DNA of diversity promoted by former Waitakere City Council is being emulated at the Super City.
Therefore it was nice to hear Councillor Penny Hulse speak about multiculturalism, and it appears that much needs to be done, while much has also been done in the last decade. As an export of former Waitakere City Council to the Super (Auckland) City, she spoke about the practices of the Westy Council which always tended to celebrate diversity. “We are proud that the DNA that our former Waitakere City Council possess has been taken on board by the Super City. And we are proud of Waitakere Ethnic Board to have always lighted the flame of diversity,” she said. She spoke about many instance and forums WEB held to promote understanding and goodwill.

The next speaker, MP for Mt Roskill, Phil Goff, also spoke about diversity in Auckland, and so many diverse community festivals, notably Lantern festival and Diwali, and how the cultural landscape of New Zealand was made more colourful by resourceful migrants. 

Mayor-in-Waiting, Phil Goff: Ethnic communities can have some comfort with somebody who represents Mt Albert Electorate with some 40% of people being non Anglo Saxons (Non-Europeans). They can be assured of an Ethnic -Community -friendly Mayor in him. This especially is good news for WEB, who are good friends with Phil Goff.
“Auckland has changed by us embracing diversity and respect for other cultures where we happily celebrate Chinese New year and Indian festival Diwali and other ethnic festivals. The city today is richer for the migrants we have,” the future Mayor said (Phil Goff has thrown his name in the mayoral election to be held next year, and FIJI PUNDIT him to win.) For an MP who comes from Mt Albert electorate which boasts a large percentage of ethnic and non-Anglo Saxon (Non-European) voters, Phil Goff is well placed to silence the critics (including your truly) who claim Auckland Council to be too White. Phil Goff’s ability to work with various communities, and his acceptance by National Party movers and shakers is a plus Auckland Council needs. Especially its ability to work in partnership with government to address crucial issues such as housing and transport. (So much for campaigning for the next Mayor)

Now, coming back to reality of WEB AGM. The current president of Waitakere Ethnic Board has gone through apprenticeship in this job, as he tagged along with his father, Reverend Amail Habib, when he used to be the president. So Habib Junior (Boaz) is well-placed to have a vision for WEB.

Face of diversity and Ladies Power at WEB AGM
“Going forward we will continue to build on our strong relationships with the Council and the Local Boards and representing our ethnic communities. Our message to the Council and Local Boards is 'Trust, Engage and Communicate' with your ethnic communities. The Waitakere Ethnic Board is committed to doing this by championing the causes of ethnic diversity, inclusion, fairness and equality,' he said

He further stated that he believed the Waitakere Ethnic Board has tremendous potential to do good for the community as it has demonstrated till now. “We continue to stand in the gap for our ethnic communities. The future of the Waitakere Ethnic Board is its ethnic communities and our future direction is intimately linked with them” the president, Boaz said.

The following nine executives were confirmed as elected: Boaz Habib, Shirley Freeman, Malvindar Pal Singh, Andy Cawston, Derek Lim, Mehzabeen Aziz, Cristina Pitas, Melissa Inouye and Francisco Hernandez. At the same time, Rajeev Vasudeva, Kwan Lim and yours truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh retired as executives.

Current Executives of WEB present at AGM. From Left:Cristina Pitas (Romania), Andy Cawston (Canadian),  Dr. Melissa Inouye (Chinese/Japanese), Francisco Hernandez (Philippines), Malvinder Pal Singh (Acting Treasurer-India), Shirley Freeman (Acting Vice President WEB-Guyana), and Dr Boaz Habib, (President, WEB (Missing- Derek Lim and Mehzabeen Aziz)
On the future direction of WEB, Boaz outlined the following major strategies for the coming year. These, among others included:

--   Building WEB presence in the Whau region especially New Lynn area

-    Building on our existing relationship base with Local boards and Auckland Council 
      and getting greater involvement in ethnic issues so they remain well informed 
      on the currency and importance of ethnic-centric issues, and

-     Continue to have more ethnic community relevant forums to raise awareness 
       and continue to be the voice for the marginalised.

With firm and strong leadership at WEB, there is no doubt they will achieve their goals. We wish all the best to the new executives. But very importantly, we pray that the leadership of the next Auckland Council can walk its talk on inculcating real multiculturalism in the Super City – there has been much lip service-now is the time for some genuine action. Thanks to Waitakere Ethnic Board in being our Marshalls in hoisting the flag of diversity. 

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former executive of WEB and served in the position of Media and Community Liaison Officer. He runs his blog site FIJI PUNDIT and still aims to fill the vacuum of media eclipse on ethnic issues by the mainstream and side stream media. He strives to cover ethnic issues, especially the controversial ones, swept under the carpet by a predominantly White media]

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