New Zealand parliament gets first Sikh MPNovember 10th, 2008 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS
Sydney, Nov 10 (IANS) Former New Delhi businessman Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is delighted to have become the first Sikh Member of Parliament in the newly-elected conservative National Party government of New Zealand. “Indian immigrants will now have a voice in New Zealand parliament,” he says. “It is a great honour to be a representative of Indians in the New Zealand parliament. Indians have been in New Zealand for the past 120 years, but there was nobody of Indian origin in parliament. Now Indian immigrants will have their voice heard in parliament,” Bakshi told IANS from Auckland, the country’s largest immigrant metropolis with about 40,000 Sikhs and ethnic Indians.
Bakshi defeated Labour Party veteran Ross Robertson, who has held the traditionally comfortable seat of Manukau East, an Auckland suburb where immigrants comprise 40 percent of voters, for the past two decades.
Bakshi, with his wife Irvinder Kaur and two sons, moved to Auckland in 2001 from Delhi. “I have been in business, which include property and wholesale business, before switching to politics,” Bakshi told IANS.
Prior to moving to New Zealand, Bakshi who holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Delhi and has 23 years of business experience, had business links with New Zealand via family friends. He has been an active member of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand.
New Zealand has a total population of 4.2 million. In the 2006 census, more than 350,000 people recorded Asian ethnicity, just over nine percent of the population. Nearly 150,000 of them were Chinese followed by 104,580 Sikhs and Indians.
Elected in the opposition Labour Party are former race relations commissioner Rajen Prasad, 62, who was born in Suva of Indian parents, and Pakistan-born Ashraf Choudhary, who became New Zealand’s first Muslim member when he was elected to parliament in 2002.
New Zealand has a unicameral parliament with 120 members. Unlike other Commonwealth countries using the Westminster system, New Zealand has no written constitution per se, but for two important documents - The Treaty of Waitangi and The Bill of Rights. It follows a German-modelled Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electorate system.