Saturday, March 22, 2014

Waitakere Holi enhances integration and diversity

Waitakere Holi: Yet another success story of a community-held event

Thakur Ranjit Singh

RANG BARSE HOLI MELA -Showering of colours at  Holi Festival at Trusts Arena at Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand. This was organised by WAITAKERE INDIAN ASSOCIATION (WIA).
The mother of all Holi events in Auckland, Waitakere Holi Festival on Saturday, 22 March, 2014 went up to new heights by attracting wider non-Indian Kiwi community. At times and in certain areas of Trusts Arena (Trusts grounds) there appeared to be more Anglo Saxons (Europeans) than Indians at West Auckland’s Waitakere Indian Association (WIA) Holi Mela 2014

The commendable hard-working executives of Waitakere Indian Association with Minister for Social Development, PAULA BENNETT (forth from left)
Congratulations to the award-winning WIA for achieving greater younger Kiwi diversity than any other similar event. This is largely due to the fact that Waitakere Holi is one of the very few community organised events where the focus of the organisers is to achieve social goals of integration and better race-relations  while using the bridge of cultures and ethnic festivals to travel on this road to enhancing greater diversity and understanding.

The face of diversity at Waitakere Holi, having fun and playing colours of Holi.
Even weather Gods showered their blessings on the event - not with showers of rain but with blue skies and sunshine. Multiracial group of youths crowded the “ringside” stage area to jump to the occasion of dancing to traditional faag singing, Bollywood music of the performers or the thrilling DJ live music provided by the Neil Prasad Hdev. Young children filled their water guns and water bottles with coloured water and chased each other in the open grounds while the older ones smeared each other with coloured powers or gulaal, opening up their usual shyness.

The Community Face of Police: Police with revelers at Trusts Arena, during Waitakere Holi. Most are from Westlake Girls High School from North Shore. WIA is thankful to police for their presence during its events, exposing and enhancing  their community role.
The food stalls did brisk business, with Ravi’s Masala Dosa being a favourite and Waitakere Youth’s Westside United Football Club and WIA’s Women’s wing stall being equally popular. One stall provided freshly-crushed sugar cane juice, suitably flavoured to taste, while other food stalls were kept busy by the hungry crowd.

FOOD STALL: One of many food stalls that provided mouth-watering exotic Indian vegetarian food to the hungry crowd. Seen here are executives of Westside United Football Club, the youth wing of WIA.
The groups performing reflected on a fast-integrating Auckland, where make-up of them reflected diversity, as many non-Indians danced joyfully to tunes of Bollywood music. This was indeed a day of colours, with spices provided by Bollywood numbers. But the show was stolen by the little and pretty eight year old Joshlyn Grace, who performed on a powerful ‘Chennai Express’ Bollywood number with her aunt, Jocelyn Singh, both of who have been regular performers at WIA events. Talking about family groups, a team of sisters, Hasmita and Hasnita Singh, also thrilled the crowd with a powerful performance, together with other performers.

Sisters, HASNITA SINGH (left) and HASMITA SINGH, delivering a powerful Bollywood number, during Waitakere Holi Mela.
Politicians and community leaders mingled freely with their supporters and, took photos which are now gracing the pages of Facebook. With their good wishes and messages of inclusiveness on the theme of Holi were the Guests, Councillor Linda Cooper, Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett, Labour List MP Rajen Prasad, National List MPs Kanwal Singh Bakshi and Cam Calder, Catherine Farmer, Chair of Whau Local Board, Ami Chand, founding executive of WIA and first Indian Whau Local Board Member,  Carmel Sepuloni of Labour, Harshadbhai Patel, President of NZ Indian Central Association (NZICA), Jeet Suchdev from Bhatiya Samaj and Bhikhu Bhana, Vice President, NZ Central Indian Association , among others. The President of WIA Naveen Prakash welcomed all, especially the multiracial crowd. ‘I am deeply honoured to have you all - people of different races in this event which has become an icon of Waitakere and Trusts Arena, like our Diwali. We have beautiful weather and hope you all have maximum fun with your families’, “he said.

Showering of colours, reflecting integration and diversity
The beauty of the event, the soul of West Auckland and a very youthful-looking Social Welfare Minister, Paula Bennett, really came out as an ardent supporter, and admirer of WIA ‘Waitakere Indian Association is the best managed organisation, very transparent, run by credible people with credible leadership. This event signifying victory of good over evil and equality for mankind is the message we should all emulate, ‘she said, praising the commendable and exemplary events organised by WIA. It was pleasant and somewhat cheeky for yours truly (Thakur) to put red colours (Labour colour) on the Minister, instead of National’s blue colour. Whatever the political colours, Waitakere festival of colours made all forget their divisions and have fun together in a grand style, with Holi in the Park.

A youthful new-look Minister for Social Development, Westie Minister PAULA BENNETT, coloured in red: "Waitakere Indian Association is best-Happy Holi to all." Sitting in background is Councillor LINDA COOPER
Popularity and fame of WIA Holi has gone global, thanks to Facebook, and pictures that tell a thousand words. A couple, Malaysian born, Siva Prakash and his Indian wife Mona Vashistha from Dunedin spent some 20 hours on the road and three hours on Cook Strait ferry to arrive and partake in WIA Holi. They travelled by road from Dunedin to Picton, ferry to Wellington, Wellington to Napier and thence to Auckland in Waitakere Holi Mela. My relatives in Wellington, Ajay and Kashmir Kaur, with their children, wish to come and feel the atmosphere of WIA Holi some time, while my nephew from Modesto, USA, Aklesh Prasad also expressed his desire to attend our Holi. Prominent community worker and radio personality from Sydney, Tej Ram Prem, congratulated WIA for taking Holi of West Auckland to international level. That is the impact of WIA Holi that began with a humble beginning in 2005.

The visitors from Dunedin who spent a total of 23 hours to drive about 1,500 km to attend Waitakere Holi festival in  Auckland. Seen with the author, your truly, THAKUR RANJIT SINGH ( left) are: MONA VASHISTHA (center) and hubby SIVA PRAKASH
Many are already looking forward to the function next year, so powerful was the addiction and transmission of fun at Trusts Arena. Waitakere Indian Association hopes to see you all in greater numbers next year.

RANG BARSE: Showering of colours- Different races of people, playing with colours and dancing in the park, celebrating Holi at Waitakere Trusts Stadium

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former executive of Waitakere Indian Association. He is a media commentator and runs his blog sites FIJI PUNDIT ( and KIWI PUNDIT (

Is it fog? Is it smog? Is it mist? Is it smoke? Is it tear gas? None of these - IT IS SHOWERING OF COLOURS AT WAITAKERE HOLI. at Trusts Arena, Auckland on Saturday, 22 March, 2014


Saturday, March 15, 2014

John Tamihere and Roast Busters Case: When cheque books of big business determine our moral standards and editorial policy

Tamihere and Roast Busters: Disturbing emergence of “Financial Clout” Journalism –Cheque books seem to determine our moral standards

Thakur Ranjit Singh

John Tamihere - Roast Busters controversy shows a worrying trend where powerful corporate and organisations tend to use their financial clout as a bargaining power in determining journalistic standards. Do they use their cheque books to shape out editorial policy of media organisations and moral breadth and scope of New Zealand?

JOHN TAMIHERE: Is he the fall-guy in Roast busters saga?
In August 2012, while sitting in Sacramento, the capital of California in the most powerful democracy of the world, I posted some home truths on my Facebook about the largest democracy in the world - India. These, among others, included rampant corruption, rapes and mistreatment of women.

These facts upset some Indian leaders, budding politicians and Indian media in Auckland. It appears they wished to take a political and business opportunity to win community support by forming a lynch mob and shooting the messenger who was merely echoing India’s national motto: Satyamev Jayate - truth shall prevail.

As I was the Vice President of Waitakere Indian Association (WIA), the vested leaders pressured WIA that if I remained its executive, the Association would be ostracized by the Indian community. Some corporate sponsors of WIA and some sections of Indian media threatened that all funding would cease unless yours truly (Thakur) was removed. Succumbing to such pressures, I was suspended

The so-called villains behind the Roast Busters scandal who allegedly exploited young girls

Therefore I can very well appreciate the predicament of John Tamihere when he was abandoned by his employers Media Works following the Roast Busters saga and threat by its advertisers to pull up Radio Live’s lifeblood - the lucrative advertisements.

Willy Jacson and John Tamihere: The partnership that became a casualty of Roast busters talk-back saga on Radio Live that apparently did not breach any broadcasting standards. The matter had now been taken to court by Tamihere (Right)
If Tamihere had studied media and communications instead of Law, he may have better appreciated his predicament. Therefore, I as a postgraduate media and communications scholar from AUT was better able to understand mine. He would have read about A.J Liebling (1904-1963), who was a celebrated American journalist from New York, working for an American magazine, The New Yorker. He stated a bitter truth that applies to situations of print media that extends to overall media: He said: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one”  Sorry, John, you do not own Media Works, so you had to be the fall guy and perhaps the scapegoat, and the one who was seen as dispensable. So you got the marching orders.

Media is there to spread the propaganda for those who finance them-their advertisers. Public and social responsibility are something that remain myth.
Media scholars would have also read Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media (2008). They would have read about their Propaganda Model which sees  the private media as businesses interested in the sale of a product - sale of readers and audience to other businesses who are advertisers. Quality of news to the public is least of their interest.  Media is not a free agent that the public has been made to believe. The media operates within restricted assumptions.  While being dependent on the elite, it also remains uncritical on elite information sources and participates in propaganda campaigns helpful to elite interests. Through this propaganda, media defends the economic, social and political agendas of the privileged elite groups that dominate domestic society, the government and the corporate sector. Effectively what they say, through Propaganda Model, is that the media serves and propagandizes on behalf of those who control and finance them. What Herman says is that the dominant media is firmly grounded in the market system which is profit-seeking businesses, owned by very wealthy people (or other companies); and they are funded largely by advertisers who are also profit –seeking entities, and who want their ads to appear in a supportive selling environment. (Herman, 1998).

Herman and Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent: Media is business owned by wealthy people and are only interested in looking after the interest of its advertisers and those who get them business. 
In this equation, Media Works is the dominant media and profit seeking advertisers are ANZ, Vodafone, Countdown, Briscoe Group and Telecom, among others who pulled their advertisement, protesting at Tamihere interview with one Amy, which has subsequently being ruled not to have breached any broadcasting standard. Neither could any of these corporate produce any company policy which substantiated or supported their interference in being arbiters of morals and media standards of Aotearoa. Media Woks is hence sued by Tamihere who is seeking damages for $620,000 for failing to publish findings of internal complaints review that absolved him and Willy Jackson from any wrongdoing, among others.

Big corporate advertisers: Do big and powerful corporate tend to use their financial clout as a bargaining power in determining journalistic standards and moral breadth of New Zealand?
According to NZ Herald reports, Tamihere claims that in absence of reports clearing him, people would think he was fired for misconduct. The dismissal, if it could be said so, was prompted by display of financial clout of large advertisers who pulled their advertisements. This supports Herman’s claims above that such advertisers wanted their ads to appear in supportive selling environment, and were swayed by pressure exerted by certain people who jumped the bandwagon to shoot the messenger. Media Works is poorer now with departure of celebrated Tamihere who was seen as the brains behind their joint talkback show. I now see no juice and have moved over to Newstalk ZB and Danny Watson is the winner. I wonder if an audience poll has been done subsequent to unceremonious dumping of Tamihere.

John Tamihere and Willy Jacson in their former famous talk back show in Media Works's Radio Live. Since the removal of John Tamihere from Radio Live's talk back program, it appears to have lost much glamour after departure of the brains behind the show. I personally have switched stations. What Tamihere's removal also did is to further 'Whiten' an already very White mainstream New Zealand media whose newsrooms do not reflect the demographic makeup of the country.
Another casualty of Tamihere’s departure is that while the mainstream media has been dubbed as a White one in a fast browning Aotearoa, Tamihere’s exit further whitens the already white media. New Zealand is a loser in losing Tamihere, who I feel did nothing wrong, but was a victim of Propaganda Model played out by media and their financiers -the advertisers.

Big corporate advertisers: Do big and powerful corporate tend to use their financial clout as a bargaining power in determining journalistic standards and moral breadth of New Zealand?

The tragedy of a free press in New Zealand is that cheque books of large corporate appear to determine our moral standards and editorial policy.

Do cheque books of large and powerful corporate determine our moral standards and editorial policy? Does not removal of John Tamihere from Media Works on pressure from powerful advertisers appear to prove this hypothesis?

(Thakur Ranjit Singh is an ethnic media personnel who feels that the mainstream media in New Zealand is still too white in a browning country. He is Masters Scholar in communications (with honours) from AUT and runs his blog sites KIWI PUNDIT, FIJI PUNDIT.

This article was initially given to New Zealand Herald, which did not show much interest in it)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Marking Tenth Anniversary of Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB)

Waitakere Ethnic Board: Marks a decade’s milestone, serves as a blueprint for ethnic organisations, but loses funding source

Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the Chief Guest, Dame Susan Devoy took the stand to give her keynote address, she used some terms that bear close resemblance and coherence with Waitakere Ethnic Board (WEB) situation, and perhaps predicament. It has to, because the occasion was AGM and 10th Anniversary celebrations of WEB at New Lynn Community Centre in West Auckland where some ten years ago, the originating meeting of WEB was held.  

Chief Guest,  Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner. She used terms that were pertinent to WEB: Fostering relations among divers communities,  amplify the voices of diversity and smell of an oily rag.
In the then Waitakere City Council (WCC) in late 90s and early 2000, community organisation such as Waitakere Multiracial Society and Waitakere Indian Association, with others, pushed WCC to form an organisation which looked after the category of people who felt neglected and unrepresented – the ethnic communities. With a broad-based discussion groups, a working group was formed to formulate a constitution and establish Waitakere Ethnic Board. WEB was formally launched on 20th September, 2003 by the then Labour Minister for Ethnic Affairs, Hon Chris Carter. The then Mayor of WCC, Bob Harvey and WCC were key supporters of WEB, with establishment of the Board, returning officers for inauguration AGM, secretariat and venue of meeting. It was the vision of West (Waitakere) that bore fruit some 10 years on when it congregated together for its 10th AGM at the same site where it took birth a decade ago. Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner, graced the occasion with her presence, among others.

Part of the multi-ethnic audience during the AGM and 10th Anniversary celebrations of WEB
Ten years on, as Dame Susan Devoy delivered her keynote address, she spoke about fostering harmonious relations among diverse communities, amplifying voices of diversity and the smell of an oily rag. As her organisation, Race Relations Commission is vested with the responsibility of fostering harmonious relations among diverse communities in New Zealand, so has WEB been in forefront of doing that in its 10 years of existence. As Race Relations office does, WEB has also been a vehicle to amplify the voices of diversity. It has gone a step further by being a training ground for many ethnic people who have excelled in fostering such relations and representing ethnic communities in various forums. Dame Devoy also mentioned how organisations, in tough economic times have been operating on” smell of an oily rag’ in the climate of constrained resources. After withdrawal of funding from Auckland Council, WEB has been operating that way for sometime now.

One noticeable item that the Commissioner observed related to the Annual General Meeting which she found somewhat unusual “I have been to other AGMs where maybe five people turn up, but here we have a roomful. And we do not go to AGM where we have dancing,” she joked about the dance all had and the moves she did with WEB President, Tuwe on the vibrant tunes of Southern Steel Band, which was on hand to add colour, variety, liveliness and an appropriate celebrating atmosphere for the milestone of perhaps a very effective Ethnic Board in Auckland area.

Dancing to the tunes of  Southern Steel Band: WEB President, TUWE with Whau Local Board Chair, CATHERINE FARMER
As the meeting was in Whau Local Board area, the Chairperson of Whau Local Board, Catherine Farmer was on hand with her most diverse board in the whole of New Zealand, representing Asians, Indians, Pacific Islanders and of course Kiwis. Board members Susan Zhu, Ami Chand, Ruby Manukia-Schaumkel and Simon Matafai were also present to grace the occasion.

Board members of the host  suburb, Whau Local Board, which happens to be one of the most racially diverse Local Boards in New Zealand.: from left- SIMON MATAFAI, AMI CHAND, SUSAN ZHU (Deputy Chair) RUBY MANUKIA-SCHAUMKEL and CATHERINE FARMER. (Chair)
Local Councillor, Linda Cooper, Ethnic Affairs spokesperson in Labour Party, Phil Goff and National List MP, Kanwaljeet Bakshi respectively addressed the celebrations and wished the organisation well and commended its efforts in being the voice and sight of ethnic representation in a fast browning Auckland City. Local Board members from Western Cluster, Waitakere and Massey-Henderson Local Boards also graced the occasion.

The occasion was graced by presence of two MPs, KANWALJEET BAKSHI from National Party (third from left), and PHIL GOFF, ethnic shadow spokesperson from Labour Party (fifth from right), with. Councillor LINDA COOPER (second from left). Seen with other WEB Board members are (from left) RAJEEV VASUDEVA, THAKUR RANJIT SINGH and TUWE with WEB Coordinator Baljit Singh and other guests.
In his annual report, the incumbent president Tuwe reported that apart from their monthly meetings, WEB hosted successful community forums on Immigration, Refugees & Asylum Seekers, Exploitation of Migrant Workers and Pre-elections for Mayor and Local Boards elections. On advocacy work, he reported that “WEB’s main focus is to advocate for our communities, in particular the Ethnic communities, who in the majority of cases face challenges of exclusion and marginalization.” he said.

President of WEB, KUDAKWASHE TUWE, delivering Presidential report during AGM of WEB: He also implied the idiom of 'smell of oily rag' for WEB who had its funding agreement with Waitakere City Council  cancelled by the Super City because, presumably, other areas did not have an effective functioning ethnic board like WEB.
The smell of oily rag sent some stench to the Presidential report as well.”Since the birth of the greater Auckland Council, thus, amalgamation, we have continued to experience critical funding-problems as Waitakere City ceases to exist. We now have to queue like any other community organization, which is not easy given the current prevailing harsh economic environment, “Tuwe said. This has also been observed by others as well.

Past Presidents recognized , remembered, acknowledged and awarded with Certificates of Appreciation: From Left: KUDAKWASHE TUWE (Current President), AMAIL HABIB, LUSI SCHWENKE, ANN-DEGIA PALA, ABDUL RAFIK and PRAVEEN CHANDRA, with Auckland Councillor LINDA COOPER. (Extreme Right)
Special recognition certificates were awarded to the past Presidents of WEB who left a strong and vibrant legacy for new executives to build the organisation on. Praveen Chandra was the first president, followed by Abdul Rafik, Ann-Degia Pala, Lusi Schwenke and Amail Habib.

The first and second past presidents respectively: PRAVEEN CHANDRA (Right) and ABDUL RAFIK: Both are proud to have laid the foundation for a vibrant and effective ethnic organisation. Both made calls to Auckland Council to restore and re-establish funding relation with WEB
The inaugurating president, Praveen Chandra wished the incumbent President Tuwe Kudakwashe very best for the next year, but left some words of advice. He felt that WEB needed to have a place, should be a recognised group - a group that was increasingly important in the progress of this nation with a changing demographic landscape of Auckland City.

He was concerned about withdrawal of funding by the Supercity. “We need to ask ourselves as to why funding has been stopped and active and vigorous campaigning needs to be undertaken to bring it to life”, he said. He suggested that a short-to long term plan should be drawn up, covering five years.

The second President, Abdul Rafik informed that “during my term as President, WEB signed a formal Community Partnership Agreement with the Waitakere City Council on 17 December 2005. This was a historic moment for the Board which has been only in existence for a year.” Like former president Praveen, Rafik also felt a need for WEB to re-establish that funding relation with the Super City. “My vision would be for WEB to achieve a similar Community Partnership Agreement with the Auckland City Council to continue working together to achieve social cohesion and strong integrated communities in our Waitakere City,” he said.

Past President, ANNE-DEGIA PALA: WEB was instrumental in push for formation of  Ethnic Peoples Advisory panel (EPAP) in amalgamated Auckland City.
The third president, Ann-Degia Pala brought the first touch of a lady President to WEB, where Waitakere City Council Diwali was held in partnership at Trusts Stadium in 2005 and a very vibrant and successful Race Relations Day was held in Te Pai Park in 2006 to bring cultures together.

She spoke about struggles and efforts that went into formulation of Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel (EPAP) at Auckland Council. ” WEB marched along Queen Street and later submitted to the Royal Commission on the formation of the Auckland Council’s Ethnic Panel in the one Auckland Council.   At least five board members have been foundation members of EPAP,” she said. The success of WEB is amplified by this fact alone that one organization gave five members who played instrumental role in the founding EPAP. To add to the feather in WEB’s cap, not only that but the Chairperson, Camille Nakhid and Deputy Chair, Amail Habib are the products of WEB.   No other organization single-handedly had so much input in the representation of ethnic communities in Auckland Council.

Past President, LUSI SHCWENKE: She has called for a well-resourced separate Ministry of Ethnic Affairs.
Lusi Schwenke, who was president in 2007, said that WEB needed to engage in a campaign for reviving a well - resourced Ministry of Ethnic Affairs in Parliament and Ethnic warriors as MPs.

Immediate Past President, AMAIL HABIB: Expressed concern at Auckland Council's rejection of funding support for WEB
The last President, Amail Habib, who also happened to be Deputy Chair of EPAP, also served WEB in 2013/14 as Immediate Past President. This position was introduced to allow continuity, consistency and help realise ideas and visions on the drawing board. Tuwe was really thankful for guidance provided by Amail during his first term as President.

According to Amail, WEB had to undergo a huge transition when Auckland Council decided to stop providing grants. “We vigorously fought the case with the Council and raised the matter at the Governing Body level. Presentations were made to three Local Boards with the support of Tony Rae and Monica Sharma but we did not succeed to secure the funding”, he said. However WEB had been operating on its savings on the smell of an oily rag, as Dame Susan Devoy had alluded to.

The support of Auckland Council staff for WEB.: Monica Sharma  (above)  and Tony Rae (below left) with President Tuwe, have been guide, mentors and big support for WEB ..
The program rounded off with a beautiful lunch, but before that WEB paid a special tribute and appreciation to former Waitakere City Council and the current Auckland Council for lending Monica Sharma and Tony Rae as mentors and guides in proper functioning of WEB. While moving vote of thanks, yours truly (Thakur) echoed sentiments expressed by other former presidents in loss of funding from Auckland Council. The audience was reminded that  WEB appear to have been a victim  tall poppy syndrome, where Auckland Council was seen to have cut funding for WEB because other areas (North Shore, CBD and Manukau) could not match the achievements of WEB which was able to develop and foster a working Community Partnership Agreement with Waitakere City Council. It appears other similar organizations in other former Council boundaries failed to meet this achievement, hence WEB was resented and cut down because it was seen to be elevated above the achievement of other such Boards. Hence WEB appears to have been punished for its success.
However, Chairpersons and members of local boards present promised to look into the plight of WEB.  Councillor Linda Cooper promised to take our predicament to the Council.

Part of the audience
As we parted after the first decade celebrations, it was done with the 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 WEB held with the former visionary Waitakere City Council.

THE 2014 BOARD OF WEB: SITTING from Left: MAZHAR MEMON (Asst . Treasurer), SHIRLEY FREEMAN (Asst Secretary), ZAHRA ATAI (Secretary), KUDAKWASHE TUWE (President), RAJEEV VASUDEVA (Treasurer), BOAZ HABIB (Vice President) and BALJIT SINGH (WEB Coordinator)
STANDING from Left: PETER CHAN (Member, Henderson-Massey Local Board), ROSEMINE MULTAMULIZA (Events Officer), KYU DENG KIM ( Danny), THAKUR RANJIT SINGH (Media and Community Liaison Officer), JUN LI (Membership Officer) and AMI CHAND (Member, Whau Local Board)

[Thakur Ranjit Singh is the Media and Community Liaison Officer of WEB. He is a media commentator, and operates two blog sites, FIJI PUNDIT and KIWI PUNDIT, and considers himself a voice of ethnic people in a New Zealand media environment, which is still too white despite browning of New Zealand, especially, Auckland]