New Zealand immigrants call for ouster of foreign minister

April 15th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by admin  

Wellington, April 15 (DPA) An umbrella group of ethnic immigrants and refugees in New Zealand Tuesday called for sacking of the foreign minister because of a recent “racist outburst” by the deputy leader of his nationalist New Zealand First party. Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ deputy, Peter Brown, said earlier this month that official projections the Asian population would rise from about 400,000 to 790,000 by 2026 - when they would account for 16 percent of the population - were “horrible.”

“This is a great country, a fantastic country, why do we want to stuff it up by having the wrong mix of people?” said Brown, who is himself an immigrant from Britain.

Brown claimed that many Asian immigrants did not speak English, did not integrate and formed “mini-societies that will lead to division, friction and resentment.”

Noting that Peters had also made similar comments in the past, Pancha Narayanan, president of the New Zealand Federation of Ethnic Councils, said, “We conclude from Peters’ track record and his silence that he endorses these comments.”

“It is certainly a discredit to the country and its people to have the leader of New Zealand First, Winston Peters, as our minister of foreign affairs,” he said in a letter to Prime Minister Helen Clark, which he released publicly.

Writing on behalf of 20 regional ethnic councils, which represent nearly 600,000 immigrants and refugees living from Auckland to Invercargill, at the foot of New Zealand’s South Island, Narayanan urged Clark to reassign the foreign affairs’ portfolio “to a more appropriate person in government”.

Analysts regarded Brown’s comments as a signal that the New Zealand First party, which is well behind in opinion polls, intends to try to make Asian immigration a campaign issue in the election that must be held by mid-November.

“Comments of this nature used to traditionally be made by Winston Peters as the leader of New Zealand First when he was just the leader of a small party and particularly during election year,” Narayanan said.

“It is quite obvious to us that Peters has delegated the responsibility of making such unsubstantiated comments to his team members like Brown, now that he is the minister of foreign affairs,” he said.

“As New Zealanders, we know that New Zealand is one of the least racist countries in the world.

“We recognize that our country works hard at resolving social issues that arise from discrimination and hate as we continue to be a fair, inclusive and just society.”

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