In a media interview last week, senior minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones used divisive language in his descriptions of people who migrate here from India.
"I would just say to the activists from the Indian community, tame (tone) down your rhetoric, you have no legitimate expectations in my view to bring your whole village to New Zealand ...and if you don’t like it and you’re threatening to go home, catch the next flight home.”
As a cabinet member of a coalition government, that is now identified the world over as "inclusive and compassionate" Mr. Jones clearly showed little to no inclusiveness or compassion for people from India coming to New Zealand.
Indian Workers’ Association spokesperson Mandeep Singh Bela says Jones showed zero respect for inclusivity or diversity.
"Comments like his are dangerous. His racist and discriminatory comments are the kinds of words that divide groups of people when now, more than ever, we need people to be coming together. If Christchurch showed us anything, it's that there is no place for this language."
Ragini Gautam, chairperson of Auckland Chapter Bihar Foundation says the minister's comments have shocked the over 200,000 strong Kiwi Indian diaspora in New Zealand.
"He has shocked and hurt Kiwi Indian diaspora who live here and call New Zealand home, many of whom are as proud, if not more, of belonging to New Zealand than Mr Jones."
Mr Bela says the association is considering making a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
"We consider that such harmful statements are in breach of human rights standards in New Zealand and as such, we are considering laying a complaint against Mr Jones."
“In a world where we are seeing the rise of hate and racism, we, as responsible members of a democratic, secular and liberal society, shall strongly counter and condemn such biased and discriminatory public statements made by our political leaders."
Bela says the association is also very concerned that the government seems willing to dismiss Jones' comments.
"Silence is akin to acceptance and silence allows hate to flourish. Post Christchurch New Zealanders have become better at calling out racist rhetoric, and all MPs have a responsibility to call out Mr Jones on his attempts to divide communities with his words. It's disgusting, no politician should do this."
Associate Minister Poto William’s told parliament on behalf of Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway that she had 'no ministerial responsibility' for Shane Jones.
"No one in parliament, no party, should be distancing themselves from this, now is the time to boldly call out language that seeks to divide, it is harmful language" says Bela.
"We call on the government to take responsibility to uphold human rights and hold Mr Jones accountable for his racist remarks which may fuel racist and xenophobic reactions from his party’s followers.
We also urge Indian authorities including the High Commission of India and the Consulate of India in New Zealand to take this matter seriously and raise it with New Zealand Government."
Today we pledge to support the voices of millions everywhere who are forced into silence in the face of discrimination, hate or xenophobia. In an effort to raise awareness on this matter we urge the community to use the hashtag #TheyAreUs to share their support and concerns.