Over the past week we have been witness to a mass march of, mainly Chinese, asians in Botany campaigning against what is seen as violent attacks on them as a distinct ethnic group and a basic analysis of the situation by different media groups.
The local throwaway paper - The Times - printed an uncritical report of the march and subsequent comments from Mr. Low and his associates which threw out a lot of heat but shed very little light on the issue.
The Herald’s analysis of the situation was similarly light-weight and, while alarmed at Mr. Low’s call for Triad help to control the perceived crimes against Asians did not put the claims under any critical scrutiny. Although, when members of the Chinese community began to express their doubts about Mr. Low’s rationale and ability to speak on their behalf the Herald did give space to their criticism.
It was left to The Sunday Star Times (13.7.08) to examine the reality behind the hype that was Mr. Low and the march.
The SST checked the difference between the perception and the reality of the situation. Once the situation was subject to analysis it becomes obvious that the perception has greater weight among the Asian community than the reality provided by the police statistics. The perceptions carry greater emotional weight and force when given the fuel of race tensions in what is the racial diverse community of the Botany electorate.
When one reads comments left by those who may be among Mr. Low’s supporters on different news sites the possibility of a racial divide and subsequent conflict becomes all too real and the Minister of Ethnic Affairs is right to be worried about talk of vigilante action from the group set up to combat violence against Asians.
Comments ranged from ACT’s (People’s Choice) politico, Williams assertion that there are too few police, that the government is failing to protect the community so the community has the right to take back the right to protect itself... one presumes he is endorsing the outside the law vigilante style “policing” advocated by Mr. Low which then calls into question Mr. Williams’ ability to adequately represent the community of Botany.
Other comments on websites called for action against those who venture into Botany from Otara and a need to be ready to take a counter offensive into the Otara streets.
If such comments are given more credence than being examples of hot-headed reactions of a few who have let their emotions get ahead of their rationality then South Auckland is on the brink of not just a socio-economic division but an explosive ethnically based socio-economic divide that will be even more explosive and divisive than anything we are presently witnessing.
While Peter Low from the Asian Anti-Crime Group said signatures are being gathered for a petition to present to Parliament calling for tougher sentences for offenders which is laudable his out bursts on Radio New Zealand and in the Press calling for the use of vigilante groups which could include Triads to patrol the streets of South Auckland is of extreme concern.
The illogic of calling for the use of imported known criminal gangs from the Asian mainland to “protect” the community against other, local, criminal gangs should have set the alarm bells ringing in the heads of local Botany politicos like Mr. Williams and Quax, should have set the alarm bells ringing in the editorial offices of the local throwaway paper and among the wider community. Thankfully calmer and more rational heads among the Chinese and wider Asian communities in the area have voiced their concerns and injected a sense of balance and responsible argument into the emotional minefield that is race relations in South Auckland.
We should take the comments of minister Chris Carter that New Zealand is still a peaceful country and it is important people do not take the law into their own hands, that comments arguing that knives and violence could be used are irresponsible as that would compound the problem, not solve it as being the voice of reason and not allow ourselves to react on the gut level, knee jerk level that has been yelled for by those who see political expediency in associating themselves with Mr. Low’s emotional extremism. We need to work towards greater cross cultural understanding, greater integration into the wider community of South Auckland instead of drifting into closed enclaves based on ethnicity each afraid of the other and each prepared to take arms against the other. We cannot, for the sake of the Nation, afford such a situation.