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Is New Zealand really such a tolerant country?

29 March 2019

12:39 PM

29 March 2019

12:39 PM

For years, New Zealand has been talked of as a beacon of liberalism, a country that other democracies including Britain – and, in particular, Trump’s supposedly intolerant America – should try to emulate. This has been even more pronounced since the massacre of Muslim worshippers at two New Zealand mosques by an Australian white supremacist a fortnight ago.

In a rare gesture, the world’s tallest building was dramatically lit up last week with a giant image to honour New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern for her leadership following the killings. The Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai beamed out a photo of Ardern embracing a woman at a mosque in Wellington. In the United States, the anti-Trump media has published piece after piece praising New Zealand’s government. “When government works,” read one recent New York Times headline about New Zealand. “America deserves a leader as good as Jacinda Ardern,” read anotherYet how tolerant really is New Zealand?

In recent days – and barely reported in the media – the New Zealand government rejected the appeal of a British woman who was headhunted for a £74,000-a-year IT job in New Zealand, to allow her 15-year-old daughter Bumikka to join her. Bumikka’s mother Nilani Suhinthan, 52, father Nagarajah, 54, an engineer, and two sisters Tanya, 19, and Saumia, 14, all received visas but Bumikka’s application was rejected on the ground that her “health was not of an acceptable standard”; she suffers from Down’s Syndrome.

Nilani says she won’t leave Bumikka behind, so the whole family cannot now go. The family, who are British but have been working in Ireland, offered to pay in full for any extra educational care that might be needed in New Zealand, but were still rejected. Mrs. Suhinthan had already moved to New Zealand late last year to prepare for the family’s move. She was told Bumikka would be eligible for a visitor’s visa so the family could spend Christmas together in New Zealand.

But they were stopped from boarding their connecting flight in Malaysia, and had to spend Christmas in a tiny Kuala Lumpur apartment.

Mrs. Suhinthan spent three months appealing the rejection, but last week the New Zealand authorities announced that their decision was final: her other two daughters could join her but not Bumikka. Nilani said:

“It’s complete discrimination. They kept telling me she would cost them money to send her to a special school. Bumikka has a moderate disability, but she can talk, walk and dress herself. She only needs…extra help in the classroom.”

In a video interview, Mrs. Suhinthan said she told the tribunal she offered to pay the amount of any extra fees in full.

“I wasn’t expecting a penny for my daughter,” she has said.

Meanwhile there seems little interest in the family’s plight among those international NGOs and activists usually so obsessed with such cases – and in this instance the family are highly-skilled legal migrants, with sufficient means to support themselves. One can only imagine the outrage across the world if, for example, the Trump administration were to refuse a visa to a special needs child, especially one from a minority, while allowing entry to the rest of the family.

Meanwhile, New Zealand authorities have yet to take firm action against a prominent Muslim leader in New Zealand who blamed Jews (in the form of Mossad) for the Christchurch terror attack – an attack allegedly carried out by a 28-year-old white supremacist from Australia with no connection to Jews or Israel.

On Saturday, at a rally to commemorate the victims, Muslim leader Ahmed Bhamji said:

“I stand here and I say I have a very, very strong suspicion that there is some group behind him and I am not afraid to say I feel Mossad is behind this.” 

A person in the crowd shouts: “That’s the truth. Israel is behind this. That’s right!” as can be heard on this video:


The claims echo the anti-Semitic lies that bigots invented after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The New Zealand Jewish Council says such conspiracy theories put New Zealand’s Jewish community at risk. Perhaps New Zealand is not quite such an inclusive place after all.


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