Dear Mr Peters, let Friday be the day that changed your politics
- an open letter to our Deputy Prime Minister
Sir, as a journalist, I am trained to be a soft cynic. But in times like these, I cannot be anything but hopeful. That’s why I write to you.
I know I have failed – with the first word itself - the “New Zealand values test”, which you proposed last year at New Zealand First’s 25th party convention.
Since you never provided a clear-cut definition of such values, I assume when you say egalitarianism, it means calling everyone by their first name. But my problem is, in-spite of living outside India for over 10 years now, I am still not comfortable calling my elders by their first names. So Jacinda and Simon is fine, as we are of the same age, but Winston is not.
Thus I will stick with Sir, at the risk of failing the values test proposed by my Deputy Prime Minister!
Also, by egalitarianism you certainly can’t mean the conventionally accepted definition – the doctrine that all people are, and treated as equals.
How can it be when UNICEF says 27 percent of our children are living in income poverty? Or when OXFAM reports a huge wealth gap in New Zealand where richest 1 percent own 28 percent of wealth? Or when Sir Mark Solomon while talking about the institutional bias against Maori in the criminal justice system notes, “things are bad for my people”.
I hope you see the problem here. If not, let me give another example.
When I saw you talking to Corin Dann in TVNZ’s Q and A last year, about New Zealand values of treating women as equals, I was reminded of few oft-repeated statements and statistics. (Q+A with NZ First leader Winston Peters between 2.10 to 4.20 seconds)
“Police family violence investigations reached a record high in 2016, statistics released today show. Police investigated 118,910 incidents of family violence last year, an increase of more than 8000 on the year before. This is up from 110,126 in 2015 and 101,955 in 2014, according to the new statistics from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, based at the University of Auckland…..Responding to family violence accounts for 41 percent of a frontline police officer’s time.”
For more details, you can look at A look into NZ's homegrown family violence epidemic. (please note the word “epidemic” here)
But I surely don’t need to remind you of all this. You probably know these more than anyone else, and must have sat on numerous committees, ministries, in your long political career trying to find ways to tackle this huge problem that all of us face.
So, Sir, what are New Zealand values? As above, we clearly can’t call “egalitarianism”, and “equality for women” as ones, because we still have to go a long way in both these regards, much like the rest of the world.
You know, when you were talking about this “test” for all migrants and refugees, like me, last year, what were you actually saying?
You were saying “They Are Not Us”, even without meaning to say that, in my opinion.
As I see it, you were just doing politics.
I can say that because while I haven’t met you properly till now, many things you say makes sense to me. In fact, last year I wrote in support of your take on multiculturalism. (Our take: In response (defence) to the Deputy PM’s stand on multiculturalism)
And in all fairness, I don’t blame you for doing politics. After all, you are a seasoned politician, who has single-handedly secured over 7 percent average vote for his party in the last six general elections. (7.2% in 2017, 9% in 2014, 7% in 2011, 4% in 2008, 5.72% in 2005, and 10.38% in 2002)
That’s why ever since Friday, whenever I see anyone in the already-established media saying that it’s “time to recall MPs’ anti-migrant rhetoric” [with majority of the article devoted to what you said and when you said it], I believe they are ignoring a simple fact.
That whatever you do, say and believe in, at least 7 percent of our population has supported it over the course of last two decades. There is a reason why the same already-established media called you the king-maker after the 2017 elections.
You have your substantial support in the New Zealand public, and in a democratic society that must be respected.
So I will not insult your political wisdom, and seven percent of our population’s political support, by calling your politics wrong.
Instead I want to appeal to your conscience to change it.
New Zealand and New Zealanders should and must always come first. But please broaden the definition of whom you consider a New Zealander, and how you define New Zealand values.
Because you might believe that I don’t adhere to New Zealand values, and that I don’t belong here. But believe you me, I, like you, only have the best intentions for New Zealand.
Today, you said in the Parliament that Friday was the "day everything changed in our country".
Please let Friday be the day that changed your politics, Sir.