Run up to New Zealand election marred by racism

Published:  18 Aug at 6 PM
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As New Zealand’s election campaign hots up, a disturbing new theme is emerging as at least two political parties are being accused of racist comments.

In this peace-loving island country, racial tolerance has always been regarded as a cause for pride. Remarks made by the leader of the New Zealand First party’s campaign launch last Sunday have caused dismay amongst the South Pacific nation’s 4.5 million citizens.

In the initial speech of his party’s campaign, Winston Peters slated the government for condoning the sale of farms to foreigners by using a racist slur aimed at Chinese immigrants. The slur was received by the crowd with howls of laughter, but Kiwi Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy was far less than amused.

When asked to comment, Devoy said that such comments aren’t new, but hearing them from New Zealand politicians in 2014 is shameful and very disappointing. She added that it’s time Winston Peters realised he’s not funny.

Peters has not, at present, apologised for his remarks. The present government under John Keys is looking for a third term in office, but anti-Semitic slurs have been hurled at the Prime Minister’s late mother for her Jewish heritage. Political billboards have been defaced with similar messages and anti-Semetic Facebook comments have been posted referring to Keys as a Shylock.

Recently, indigenous Maori have also been targeted by the leader of the ACT party, Jamie White, accused by his opponents of racism after he slated pro-Maori actions by the government. At present, most candidates from across the entire Kiwi political spectrum as well as the many thousands of recently arrived expats in the country are hoping the tone of the debate will cool down,
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