Monday, April 2, 2018

Chris Carter steals the show at 15th Anniversary of WEB

Thakur Ranjit Singh

As Bollywood number below floated against the acoustic walls, and resonated and echoed in the chamber, one could be mistaken this was a Bollywood show.

“Hum tere bin ab reh nahi sakte..tere bina kya jina mera…” 

Translated, this Hindi Bollywood song says…….I cannot live without you, this life is nothing without you…This was in Waitakere City Council’s former chambers at Waitakere Central in Henderson on 8 March, 2018.

It was the 15th Anniversary Celebration of Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB). This occasion was very appropriately graced by a person who was the “ribbon-cutter” who inaugurated WEB two and a half decades ago.

Chief Guest , Former Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter who stole the event with his emotionally –charged presentations at 15th Anniversary celebrations in Auckland. He launched WEB fifteen years ago in 2003.

Yes, it was none other than Chris Carter, Te Atatu Labour MP between 1999 and 2011. In his capacity as Minister of Ethnic Affairs, he launched this first multicultural body by way of community partnership with the then visionary Waitakere City Council (WCC) and its charismatic Mayor Sir Bob Harvey. Unfortunately this partnership has been a casualty of the Super City - but that is another story.

Looking back in history, in early 2000, former WCC liaised with community organisation such as Waitakere Multiracial Society and Waitakere Indian Association, among others, and strived to form an organisation which looked after the category of people who felt neglected and unrepresented – the ethnic communities. With broad-based discussion groups, a working group was formed to formulate a constitution and establish WEB. It was formally launched on 20th September, 2003 by the then Labour Minister for Ethnic Affairs, Hon Chris Carter. 

From left, Former WEB President, Reverend Amail Habib, former WEB Executive and AUT Lecturer, Dr Camille Nakhid and Auckland Councillor and Patron of WEB, Penny Hulse.
Therefore, it was very befitting to have Carter as the Chief Guest for this celebration. And for this, he flew all the way from Myanmar (former Burma) to be with us. After he retired from politics, he was appointed Manager of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kabul, Afghanistan. Not only did he do a commendable job, but also survived a suicide bomber. During his tenure, he won the hearts of the locals, who obviously are heavily influenced by Bollywood, hence that emotional departing song at the beginning of this article.

The people embroiled in every-day danger were fortunate to be showered with that Kiwi love, understanding, empathy and respect. Hence they were sad to see him leave. The emotions flowing from the farewell video was contagious as there were many misty eyes, with some traces of tears.

Yours Truly, the author of this article and principal of this blog FIJI PUNDIT, Thakur Ranjit Singh,(left) with Former WEB President Reverend Amail Habib and the Chief Guest, Chris Carter.
If the first video was an emotional roller-coaster from people who were sad to see him go, the next one was a contrasting shock treatment jolting us into reality. This was the treatment or rather mistreatment of Rohingya refugees in Myanmar, former Burma. Carter has now moved from Afghanistan to Myanmar as United Nations Senior Advisor for the Rakhine State there. There has been conflict there between majority ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims. Carter is again in the middle of this, trying to bring hope to a hopeless situation. He concluded….” diversity is not a threat and need to be promoted for world peace.” 
Diversity at Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) 15th Anniversary celebrations. The show of women's power -the pretty ladies, wielding great power. 
WEB Patron, Councillor Penny Hulse was the next speaker and extolled the services WEB has rendered to ethnic communities and how fortunate she was associated with them. Michael Wood, Under Secretary to the Minister of Ethnic Communities spoke about Safer Community Initiative, and enlightened us on the new projects the government was undertaking to ensure safety. He promoted inclusiveness and fixing problems before they happen. His advice…” the best way to archive this is through empathy for all the people, especially vulnerable ethnic communities.”

Dr Camille Nakhid, Associate Professor in Social Science at AUT, and a former Executive of WEB, addressed us without fear or favour-again. In the past she had spoken about Auckland Council short-changing ethnic communities. And she has not changed her stance. “What is Auckland Council’s response to diversity, when WEB, one of the oldest and effective ethnic organisation is begging for funds?” Her critique was also directed at lackadaisical attitude of ethnic communities to problems within their ethnic communities. She questioned the reasons for divisions within their respective communities, where they tend to fail to stand for other ethnicities.

As we parted, I was reminded of what our Chief Guest said in the tenth year celebrations in New Lynn in 2013. Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy gave some key phrases that spelt WEB: fostering harmonious relations among diverse communities, amplify the voices of diversity and smell of an oily rag.  

THE MAIN EVENT: Cake cutting to mark 15th anniversary of WEB. Former Labour Minister, Chris Carter (centre) who launched WEB 15 years ago was on hand to cut the 15th Anniversary cake, assisted by WEB Patron, Councillor Penny Hulse, WEB executives and guests. They say, one picture is worth a thousand words, and it shows the United Nations of WEB –multiculturalism at its best.

We hope that the success of WEB would be honored and emulated by other like-minded organizations. It was hoped that the Super City would embrace WEB like former WCC and at least reward it for its success and restore the Community Partnership Agreement of the past.

When this happens only then can WEB throw away that oily rag. 
Congratulations, WEB for your achievements with the smell of an oily rag.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs blog FIJI PUNDIT and is former Media and Communications Director of WEB] 

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