Priyanca Radhakrishnan, the newcomer Kiwi-Indian in the Labour Party’s list for elections has been ranked number 23 on the list. She might be a new hope for Indian communities, for raising their concerns in Parliament but only after the party polls 31.6% or more. 

In an exclusive interview to Indian Weekender, she talks about her family, work and future plans.

Swati Sharma: What is your feeling about this selection?
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: I am honoured to be ranked so highly on the Labour party list, and it is a great responsibility too – one that I take seriously. I feel it also sends a clear message to our ethnic minority communities – that Labour takes us seriously and wants to see our communities well represented in Parliament.

SS: Have you been with the Labour party before?
PR: I joined the Party in 2006 and since then I have worked hard, contributing to our internal policy development process and have been active at the local and regional party organisational levels. I have also campaigned actively, at the last two general elections, to increase our party vote.

SS: Your ranking in the list is quite high and hence there are good chances of you to get into parliament. What do you have to say on that?
PR: I look forward to getting into Parliament and working hard to do my bit to ensure that New Zealand is a better, fairer country for all of us. I also look forward to being able to provide our ethnic communities with a strong voice in Parliament and working with my colleagues to make New Zealand a safer country.

SS: Tell me something about your family. Where are you from, who are there in your family, what made you step into the politics?
PR: I have an extremely supportive family and truly. If this had not been the case, I probably would not be here today. I was born in Chennai, India but my family is from Kerala. I grew up in Singapore, but used to go back to India every year over the school holidays.

My parents moved back to India 15 years ago and currently live in Chennai. My sister and her husband live in Canada. I am married to a wonderful man who has supported me every step of the way and continues to do so. He grew up in Christchurch and we were married in 2010 in Hanmer Springs.

I am grateful to him and my in-laws for their love and support throughout this journey.

I suspect politics runs in my blood. My great grandfather was very active in left wing progressive politics in India and played an instrumental role in the formation of the state of Kerala. My parents taught me to value social justice, and to lead my life with integrity, working to support those who are more vulnerable than I. Soon after I moved to New Zealand as an International student, I was elected the International Students’ Officer on the Massey University Students Association – that was my first experience of running a campaign and being elected to a position.

I chose to enter politics through the Labour party a couple of years ago for a few different reasons. Firstly, I am grateful to have been offered a number of opportunities when I migrated to New Zealand, and I want to give something back to this country that I now call home.

Secondly, I have spent most of my working life advocating for positive change; I see this move as a natural next step. Finally, I believe that I have the skills and experience to be able to contribute effectively to New Zealand’s political decision-making and to serve our ethnic communities in Parliament.

SS: What is your role/work as Ministry of Women's Affairs policy analyst?
PR: Policy analysts identify and define problems, gather evidence to find solutions to these problems and suggest policy solutions to the Government of the day. That is, we looked at policies and legislation that was being developed by other Government agencies, and analysed whether they made life better or worse for women.

SS: How long have you been a part of ‘Shakti’? What do you feel about the current situation of migrant women in New Zealand?
PR: I worked with Shakti Community Council Inc. (Shakti) for close to six years. Working with Shakti gave me an in-depth understanding of the issue of violence against ethnic minority women and the types of support our women and children need to be safe. Violence against women is a significant issue for all New Zealanders, and I feel that a lot more needs to be done to keep all women, including our ethnic women, safe from violence.

SS: If got selected as MP, what would be your main focus? What do you expect to do?

PR: I want to be a strong voice for our ethnic communities in Parliament. To me, this means being a strong advocate for our people so that the issues we face are brought to light and addressed. It also means ensuring that the contributions that our communities make to New Zealand society are valued.

I am passionate about ensuring that everyone is able to live with dignity – that means better-paid jobs, more time with their families, quality education and equitable access to justice and healthcare.

I am also passionate about safety and justice – for migrant workers who are too often made to work long hours for lesser pay, for our small business owners who should be able to go to work without fearing for their lives, and for our women and children.

SS: Party poll of 31.6% is required to get you into parliament. What do you think, how easy or difficult it would be?

PR: Labour has excellent policies, and many more will be made public in the next few months. As a Party, we believe in fairness for everyone, regardless of background – and I am sure that will resonate with voters. If voters realise that they have a choice, and exercise that choice on September 20, I am confident that Labour will poll well.

I have already started getting out and about and meeting with as many people as I can so that they can get to know me. If voters see me as a credible representative and would like me to get into Parliament, then they need to get out there on September 20 and make sure their voices are heard.

There are a number of issues I am passionate about, especially in the areas of social development and justice and I look forward to being part of a team that brings about positive change for New Zealand.