Shrugging off the rising criticism within the Kiwi-Indian community as “Bollywood overreaction”, Regional and Economic Development Minister Shane Jones claims he represents voices of New Zealanders.
Mr Jones has been under fire after defending Immigration New Zealand’s recent exercise of discretion that treated Kiwi-Indian community unfairly by saying those who disagreed with it could “catch the next flight home”. Anger over this comment has now been labelled as "Bollywood overreaction” by Mr Jones.
On RNZ’s Morning Report on November 6, Mr Jones remained unrepentant for comments about migrants in an interview with Corin Dann.
Mr Jones is clearly enjoying this mini stand-off with the Indian community as it is giving him and his party political oxygen.
Drawing the most common leaf of political strategy – of siding with the public – to legitimise some of the most bizarre political comments or positions, Mr Jones claims he speaks on behalf of New Zealand public.
"I'm giving a voice to the anxieties of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis who, upon learning we're now reaching five million people, substantially grown by immigration, they're actually very happy that they have a voice," Mr Jones told Newshub.
Immigration is a sensitive issue for everyone in New Zealand. Like every New Zealander, it also affects the Kiwi-Indian community - a community invested in a robust system.
However, I doubt New Zealanders are vested in the racist comments made by Mr Jones.
While Mr Jones has every right to exercise his influence as a Member of Parliament and as a Minister in the Government on any policy - including the one on immigration - he does not have a right to issue an insensitive comment and then hide behind the New Zealand public, claiming that he is representing their views.
New Zealanders would not want a Government Minister to tell disgruntled Kiwi-Indians to “catch the next flight home” for a few reasons.
First, it distorts New Zealand's image as an open and tolerant country welcoming all legitimate immigrants.
This comment is also an inaccurate representation of New Zealand as a modern, liberal democracy. One which can cope with any resentment or dissent of a section of a community against a perceived or real unjust government action, in a peaceful manner.
By denying the disgruntled Kiwi-Indian community that democratic right is not an accurate representation of New Zealanders.
It is time that Mr Jones and other opportunistic politicians who want to ride on immigrant-bashing near elections be reminded that New Zealanders expect more meaningful report of their three-year term.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has since then intervened by asking Immigration New Zealand to return to way it was operating on partnership visa bringing much relief to the community.
However, the question of politicians taking an opportunistic plunge of immigration-bashing near every elections, to divert away public attention from their other achievements (or lack) in government is a dangerous trend.