Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Baa… Baa… Barnaby: When Australia interferes in New Zealand elections

Thakur Ranjit Singh

The unprecedented reaction of Australian government in Barnaby Joyce affair is their attempts to hide their internal shortfalls by seeking sacrificial lambs in New Zealand. They are throwing a rotting and stinking rat our way as a means of political distraction that they urgently need. And National Party, some mainstream media journalists and others here pointing figure at New Zealand are wrong and misled by Australian government, which is blaming others to cover their idiocies.

An unprecedented diplomatic brawl erupted when Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop jabbed New Zealand Labour Party, accusing them of conspiring to bring down the Turnbull government.  NZ Labour Party’s star performer and a minister prospect, MP Chris Hopkins became the unfortunate fall guy. He is reported to have asked parliamentary questions about citizenship after a chat with a former Helen Clark staffer. In fact it eventuated that a Fairfax media investigation into Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Baa… Baa… oops (my jest), Barnaby Joyce confirmed earlier this week he was a dual New Zealand national, which could disqualify him from Parliament. 

The Careless, the Fall Guy and the Pretty Leader: Barnaby Joyce, Australian Deputy Prime Minister, caught with his pants down, Chris Hipkins, the star Labour MP, and fall guy and sacrificial lamb for Julie Bishop, Foreign Affairs Minister of Australia, and the smiling assassin, the new Labour Leader  Jacinda Ardern, who teaches international diplomacy to Bishop.
It is reported Joyce’s father was New Zealand born and he left NZ in 1947, and Barnaby was born in Australia. An archaic clause in Australian Constitution says anybody with a foreign father also assumes citizenship of his/her father. Ironically, Barnaby with his mother and grandmother are Australian born, hence the laughable clause in Australian Constitution.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, contrary to her surname, was full of venom, bitterness and desire of a battle with NZ Labour Party. "I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labour Party to seek to undermine the Australian government, “Bishop said. What a load of hogwash, and what a joke.
Neither Australian Labour Party, nor New Zealand Labour Party, not the fall guy Chris Hipkins, not even remotely the new NZ Labour leader, Jacinda Ardern made Barnaby Joyce a Kiwi – Barnaby’s father did! So why is Bishop barking up the wrong tree?  They need to take some personal responsibility.

Let me tell you a story. My grandfather, Bansi came to Fiji in 1915 from British India as an indentured labourer from Karouli, Rajasthan, India. He was a British subject, and as a result my Fiji-born father was also a British until Fiji gained independence in 1970, and he became a Fijian, and so did I. When I migrated to NZ, I became NZ citizen, and also obtained dual Fijian citizenship. If I were to contest an election, as an intelligent and wise person who considers himself worthy of representing others, I need to possess grey matter to do due diligence to enquire about my eligibility. I make it my business to know about my heritage, ancestry and legal matters relating to citizenship, especially if you intend to be in politics. And here we have an Australian leader caught with his pants down, and blaming others for his predicament, despite saying that ignorance of law is no excuse. Perhaps his government can walk his talk and stop blaming Labour Parties of both countries, Chris Hipkins or Jacinda Ardern, for their folly.

Look here Jacinda Ardern, "I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labour Party to seek to undermine the Australian government" What a load of crap. IN FACT AUSTRALIA IS INTERFERING WITH NEW ZEALAND ELECTION BY PROPPING UP NATIONAL GOVERNMENT WITH HER STANCE
Australia’s Deputy prime Minister and other politicians have an army of staff, with some of the best brains money can buy to find out and fix these things. They cannot and should not blame others for sleepwalking.  Ask Indian MPs in NZ Parliament, Kanwaljeet Singh Bakshi, Paramjeet Parmar’ and Mahesh Bindra – they are smarter than some Australian politicians when it comes to due diligence. Does somebody so ignorant of his genealogy and citizenship deserve to be Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister?

Julie Bishop need to dwell on this issue, rather than blaming others for political misfortune of her party.  After her boorish performance, it should be Jacinda Ardern who should be saying, that when Labour Party in New Zealand comes to power after election next month, (August 23, 2017) she would have difficulty working with an Australian Government with such shallow and interfering Ministers. 

Julie Bishop needs to appreciate that who sought clarification of NZ laws is irrelevant. The real issue is her interference in our elections. Bishop used this issue to suggest if NZ Labour won the upcoming election, then that Government would not be trusted by Australia. Ironically, she happens to be the one who is interfering in the electoral process of New Zealand and thus propping up National government. She appears to be attempting to influence NZ election outcome with her unethical and unwarranted threats. She is the real culprit who deserves scorn.

Jacinda Ardern, the new leader of NZ Labour Party (Centre), flanked by her Deputy, Kelvin Davis (left) and Finance Minster-in-waiting, Grant Robertson (right). Ardern came out with flying colours in this episode.Unlike Julie Bishop, she was composed, controlled, sensible, conciliatory, and was even smiling. 
In this whole sordid affair, anybody who came out shining and winners is Jacinda Ardern, who had been on the job for only some two weeks. In the first international controversy after taking the helm, she lived up to her reputation of the smiling assassin. Rightfully, she refused to apologise, as there was no wrongdoing on her part. And unlike Julie Bishop, she was composed, controlled, sensible, conciliatory, and was even smiling. She did not call Bishop, but was, and is still, waiting for her to call her – as Julie Bishop was the one who drew first blood.

And that distracting stinking rat is back on the government side of Australian Parliament – creating a stink which may result Labour Party assuming control in Australia, as we will do in New Zealand.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a NZ Labour Party Member, is a media commentator and runs his blog-FIJI PUNDIT] 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Maa Tujhe Salaam – a Salute to India on Independence Day 2017

Maa Tujhe Salaam – a Salute to India on Independence Day 2017

Thakur Ranjit Singh, Auckland, New Zealand.

A salute to India on its 71st anniversary of independence -15 August, 2017.

On the night of 14 August, 1947, the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, gave the historical, Tryst with Destiny speech”

Long years ago we made a tryst (date) with destiny (fate), and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. ”

Jai Hind-Hail India
I dedicate this article on behalf of Indian Diaspora in Auckland and also in memory of my Indian Girmitiya (indentured labourer) grandfather Bansi, to all the freedom fighters who were able to deliver this dream – a meeting with fate and cashing on the reality of an Independent India. 

I am a third generation Fijian (Indo Fijian).My grandfather Bansi, was displaced from Karouli, in Rajasthan and torn and tricked from his roots by British in 1915, to slave in Fiji to fill their coffer via sugar plantation, as an indentured (Girmitiya) labourer. I made a pilgrimage to his village some sixteen years ago.

Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India (left) with father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. "Tryst with Destiny" was a speech made  to the Indian Constituent Assembly in The Parliament, on the eve of India's Independence, towards midnight on 14 August 1947.
As the Airbus 320 of Lufthansa Airlines glided towards Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, it was a milestone in my life. This was a flight from Frankfurt, Germany, around midnight of 20 October, 2003. Fate destined that I , together with my good wife were passengers on that flight. I was filled with emotions and unprecedented feelings of delight. I had pledged on the burning pyre of my father that one day I would visit my grandfather’s birthplace, to trace my roots, and also visit the places that we only read in Holy Scriptures. The land we looked upon with awe and reverence, and called Bharat Mata –mother India. As I stepped out, I knelt down there and picked some dust and anointed on my forehead. This was the earth where Ram and Krishn also treaded, and so did my Aja, Bansi. And the land we only knew from Bollywood, and little bit from my Girmitiya grandfather. This was his birthplace.

Bharat Mata - Mother India. Maa Tujhe Salaam- a salute to India on its 70th Anniversary of Independence.

I had good and exciting memorable times in tracing my roots to my lineage and the land of Prithviraj Chauhan, near Jaipur in a small town called Karouli in Rajasthan. I was saddened to see that the economic development and progress in India has failed to reach remote areas, as sections of the country is gripped in poverty, with deep division in the then leaders. Karouli is very close to Vrindavan, Mathura and Taj Mahal, and near stronghold of dacoits like Gabbar Singh of Sholay fame, near Chambal Valley. But those things some other day.

When the then Indian PM Indira Gandhi visited Fiji over three decades ago in 1981, she had good advice for descendants of indentured Indian labourers or girmitiyas as we are known there. She told us that Fiji was now our country, hence we belonged there. As a result, we owed allegiance, loyalty and love for our country, Fiji.

Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai - the country where River Ganges flows-India. The great country where  this author went in 2003 to trace his roots in Rajasthan. This Raj Kapoor movie gave world a lesson on how to treat your visitors- Atithi Deva Bhava - visitors are our Gods. This is a lesson world leaders need to learn from India.
When Fiji’s racist and ethno-nationalist deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase visited India some two decades ago, he failed to learn anything from Indian hospitality.  The uncrowned father of Indian movies, Raj Kapoor immortalized this aspect of Indian culture in his film, “Jis Desh Mein Ganga Baheti Hai” (the land where Ganges flows) with this song….”Mehmaan jo hamara hota hai, woh jaan se pyara hota hai, jyada ki nahin laalach humko thore mein gujara hota hai... hum us desh ke waasi hai jis desh mein Ganga baheti hai...” His song translates to say that we value our visitors more than our life; we do not lust or greed for much as we manage in little that we have... We hail from the land where the Ganges flows…. And from that land if Qarase had learnt that language of Indian love, he may still be ruling Fiji today. But he failed to do so at his peril. And as they say, the rest is history.

Nationalist leaders and others around the world should gain immensely from Indian history and the way of life. Ethnocentric Anglo Saxons, Europeans and other ignorant people who still regard India as a land of snake charmers and rope tricks need to see Akshay Kumar’s Bollywood movie Namastey London. (Greetings to London) They need to get a translation of episode where the protagonist Akshay Kumar, shuts up the great grandson of an English East Indian Company employee who was running down India and its people.

  1. Namastey London: a scene from the movie where the protagonist, Akshay Kumar tells the true tales of real India to a grandson of an Englishman whose grandfather served in  India [Click on the (blue) link above to see that scene- strongly recommended-very inspiring for anybody who hates ethnocentrism.)

By clasping his hands, Akshay says that when we Indians greet each other in the tradition of five thousand year old civilization, we fold our hands close to heart in Namastey (greetings) because we believe that God resides in the heart of every human being. 

We come from a nation where we allow a lady of Catholic Religion (Sonia Gandhi) to step aside for a Sikh (Manmohan Singh) to be sworn as the Prime Minister by a Muslim President (Abdul Kalam) to govern a nation with over 80% Hindus (India)

English is spoken and read more widely in India than in England. India has 5,600 newspapers, 35,000 magazines and 21 major languages with combined readership of 120 million, many more than in England. We have reached the moon and back but yet many Anglo Saxons (Europeans) still feel that India has reached only as far as gourd flute of snake charmers. We have third largest pool in the world of doctors, scientists and engineers. All these are of the details of our intellectual might, now look at our physical might.

May be the English grandfather did not tell that we have the third largest army in the world, and even then Indians clasp their hands in humility because they do not believe that they are above or beneath any individual…..end of the lesson. 

So next time you are confronted by an ethnocentric individual who runs down your Bharat Mata , then you repeat the above to shut him. Some good movies, among others, to enlighten you and your children on pride of India are Manoj Kumar’s Shaheed, Upkar and Purab aur Paschim.

Purab aur Pachhim  (East and West)), Manoj Kumar's movie that tells an exemplary tale of Indian culture versus London Anglo Saxon culture. A pride in promoting our culture-very relevant to our westernised Indian Diaspora, especially teens who frown on things Indian.
But how true are those dreams and future that Jawaharlal Nehru uttered some 70 years ago to the date?

The service of lndia means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over. And so we have to labour and to work and work…”

"You support me and be a good Indian, and I will make India number one..." NARENDRA MODI- The Lion of Gujarat - answer to our prayers for somebody to wrest back honour, dignity and respectability that Indian once commanded.
And that work shall continue. And we are proud that India today is in better hands than ever been so, under Narendra Modi. And shall we pray that he will be able to wrest back the dignity India once had. The economic development of the last 70 years has not trickled down to the common people. There is a lot more that needs to be done, where social justice is delivered to ALL Indians. 

A salute to India-Maa Tujhe Salaam

And as we raise the Tiranga, the tricolour flag of India, we pledge to emulate the dreams of our freedom fighters who brought independence to India.

Jai Hind (Hail India)

(About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh, based in Auckland, New Zealand, is a third generation Indo Fijian. He was born in Fiji Islands. His indentured grandfather, Bansi came as an indentured labourer to Fiji in 1915. Thakur runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Airport Trams - Labour’s Devil’s Advocate challenges Auckland Transport

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Since that infamous Chris Carter letter in 2011 which rolled current Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff as Labour leader, this Thakur, Kiwi Pundit/ Fiji Pundit, has been writing about Labour Party. Nobody took notice. Leader after leader changed: Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe, and finally Andrew Little in the cleanest takeover by a resurrection of Helen Clark-Jacinda Ardern.

As they had failed to listen, scoring own goals and falling on their swords, I was forced to became Labour’s self-appointed Devil’s Advocate. This term originated in Roman Catholic Church where somebody from within a Church raised issues and argued against anybody marked for sainthood. In our current discussion, I am pretending to be against an idea or plan that a lot of people support, in order to make people discuss and consider it in greater detail. My intention is to enhance discussion. I am not an opponent but on the same side, but wish to raise issues so we are well geared to face our supporters.

Heavy Rail - Train

As Labour’s Devil’s Advocate, I would raise some questions to Auckland Transport (AT) which I consider as an uncontrolled Council Controlled Organisation (CCO) of Auckland Council (my satire). In response to NZ Herald editorial  raising many questions about suitability and credibility of trams on Dominion Road, the new Labour Leader, Jacinda Ardern attributed Auckland Transport (AT) and independent transport economists who gave them the idea of trams to Airport. They are supposed to have studied the issue in depth and came with the recommendation that trams was the best option for Auckland's transport future.

Yours Truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh, and my blog, FIJI PUNDIT have been ardent supporters of HEAVY RAIL linking airport. I suggested a heavy link from Puhinui Station (Southern Link) to Airport, via Puhinui Rd, linking Domestic and International Airports, and thence linking to wider Auckland rail network. 

I see this has been rejected in favour of trams. I may have been insignificant, but there is support from somebody who knows his stuff. He is Mike Lee  who is a councillor on the Auckland Council and the former chairman of the Auckland Regional Council. He chairs the transport committee of Auckland Council, and sits on the board of Auckland Transport. Many writers and critics are sceptical about Labour’s choice which is based on recommendation from AT. 
Light Rail looks good on Whiteboard, writes John Roughan in NZ Herald.
"The simple and obvious solution is a line to the nearest point on the main trunk, at Puhinui, just a few kilometres from the airport.

Light Rail -Tram

It is obvious to any passenger on the right side of a plane landing from the east. The line would cross flat land still farmed or leased for industry, easily acquired. There is not much more to say about it."

However, Auckland Transport thinks otherwise. Hence in my position as a Devil’s Advocate, I raise some questions, which Phil Twyford has to obtain from Auckland Transport, and its independent transport economist to satisfy scepticism of people who are opposed to trams in favour of heavy rail.

Shorter route from Puhinui Station to Airport-less than 7km mostly through farmland and green country, to link to National Rail Network

Here are some questions for Auckland Transport:

1) How much would it cost for a heavy link from Puhinui to Airport for a 7km link through green country? How long will it take?

2) How much will it cost for the 24 km link from Queen Street to Airport and how long will it take, considering a kilometre of Te Atatu Road took over 2 years?

3) What do they mean Southern is a heavily-used and cannot take any more traffic. Trains currently run at half hour intervals. What happens in the remainder 29 minutes?

4) Would light rail accommodate airport freight? If no, should not this link be used to replace freight trucks from roads?

5) Has Auckland Transport seen the setup of heavy rail link to Sydney Airport, and learnt from it?

6) As mentioned, Te Atatu Rd of some 1km took over 2 years, and huge frustrations from residents and businesses. For 500 metres of Muriwai roundabout, it is taking 2 years. How long will it take 10km from Queen Street to Motorway 20 link at Mt Roskill, involving residential and business disruptions, on relatively narrow roads with dense population?

7) How long will it take the remainder 14 km via Motorway 20 and 20A to the airport?

8) Dominion Rd is narrow and densely populated, especially between New North Rd to Balmoral Rd. There would be long disruptions to businesses in that congested area. How will two lanes of light rail link and road transport be accommodated without demolishing buildings, some of which have heritage recognition? How will cyclists be accommodated?

9) Does light rail climb hills?

10) Could not light rail in the city and heavy rail link from Puhinui to airport run in conjunction, supplementing each other?

We need answers. To Auckland Transport and its independent transport economists: Let’s do this
[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Labour Party member and supporter. He runs his blog Fiji Pundit]

Thursday, July 6, 2017

DAV Reunion 2017: A Salute to our Visionary Girmitiyas - the Indentured Labourers to Fiji.

Thakur Ranjit Singh

There are over 100 secondary schools in Fiji, and only a handful minority have done a school reunion. And they mostly comprise of high decile (higher income of parents, upper class, brighter lots) from Suva Grammar, Xavier College and few other high profile schools. But a salute to a rural low decile school for poorer students with poor school results, rejected by others. Yes, former students of DAV College, Ba, Fiji have been able to do this - and internationally. Indeed, this feat is a salute to Girmitiyas. They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times.

This can also be said of third and fourth generation Girmitiya children as they gathered in Auckland for another reunion –an international one. The first one was in Burnaby (Vancouver) Canada in 2015, and this one was in Auckland on 13 May, 2017. (And the next one will be in Ba, Fiji in 2019)

The night of 13 May, 2017 at Skipton Hall in Mangere, South Auckland was a complete different atmosphere. The hall had seen so many wedding, log geet, bhajan competitions, Ram Lila, Ramayan Sammelan, Girmit Remembrance, but this night was different. Talking about Girmit Remembrance, yes, it was a night to meet long departed friends, school mates, like in the legend of Krishna-Sudama. And indeed it was a salute to Girmitiyas, who ensured their off-springs had education facilities which the British colonisers did not provide for children of Girmitiyas, to keep them enslaved in cane farms. But we salute Arya Samaj, Muslim league, Sangam, Sanatan, Khalsa and so on, as our Girmitiyas of different faiths had vision for their children and invested in education.

THE NIGHT OF DAV STUDENTS, TAKING AN INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR: 2015 in Vancouver, Canada, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand, 2019 to be in Ba/Lautoka-Fiji, 2021 - Brisbane, Australia (proposed)
That was the vision which saw so many former students from an Arya Samaj run school to meet and honour those pioneers who ensured we came out of slavery. Surya Deep Singh, son of Late Jaswant Singh who was a DAV School Manager for many years was a fitting person to give tribute to those with a vision. Earlier, President Thakur Ranjit Singh welcomed all to the event, especially those from overseas and out of Auckland. We had former students from USA, (Sacramento), Canada (Vancouver, Kitimat), Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane), Wellington and of course, Fiji. The former students saluted DAV College, Ba, which catered for students from poorer rural farming area with poorer results and turned them into responsible citizens. This was echoed by Raymond Raj, who attended from the farthest place in Kitimat, BC, Canada, who said that anybody could make cream into butter, but we salute DAV College which took butter-milk (maatha) and at times ‘Phata doodh” (bitter-milk) and turned it into butter. It was evident during DAV reunion night.

It was not only a night for speeches, dance drink and food. It was also a night where tribute was paid to those teachers and students who have passed away. An emotion-packed tribute video presentation was shown as a tribute to those DAV family who have left us. It brought tears into eyes of many present there, especially those whose loved ones had passed away.

Former principal, Mahendra Pratap, posthumously recognised and awarded.
Former Principal, Ajai Singh, also posthumously recognised and awarded. Another former Principal, Shri Manna Narayan was also recognised.
It was also a night to recognise and present posthumous awards to families of great DAVians who have passed away. The award was an "an acknowledgement, recognition and appreciation of contributions made towards enhancing the name of D.A.V. through personal contributions and excelling in being an honour to our school." Former principals, Mahendra Pratap, Ajai Singh and Shri Manna Narayan were recognised and Babu Ram Mohan, Bimal Chand Maharaj and Deo Mani were students who were recognised.

The night was not only for students, but also teachers who were respected, honoured and called on stage. Former teacher and now a Hindu priest in Brisbane, Master Sanat Kumar Pandey, spoke for the teachers, and spoke about the pride they see in seeing their plants giving out fruits of success.

THE NIGHT FOR STUDENTS AND ALSO FOR TEACHERS: DAV Teachers were also recognised, appreciated and respected in this night for the former students. Pictured are some of the teachers present in the Reunion night.
Apart from giving out posthumous awards, former students with outstanding contributions were also recognised. These were given to Rajneel Prasad Singh for academic excellence in school, Tarun Bala for excellence in sports (soccer), Raymond Ramendra Raj for inspiration and community services, Surya Deep Singh for leadership, Rajendra Prasad for literary excellence, Gaffar Ahmed for leadership, politics and community services and Sadasivan Naicker for exemplary community leadership and volunteering spirit. Details of both categories of these awards, respective citations and photos are on Facebook page of “D.A.V. College, Ba, Fiji Reunion.”

Former Teacher, Bal Ram, presenting DAV Recognition Award to Gaffar Ahmed, former Fiji Parliamentarian, for  leadership, politics and community services. 
This was a meeting of students from 1953 to 1990 and later years and hence included people of all ages – going up to seventy and others younger in their 40s. To ensure that all grouping got enough times to have their say, they were divided in four categories: 1980 to later years, 1975 to1980, 1970 to 1975 and 1953 to 1969. Students came on stage and were able to walk down memory lane, and tell some funny stories and memories of their class mates.

A very sumptuous meal was served, and people enjoyed themselves to their heart’s content with free alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and, of course, no Fiji function is complete without unlimited supply of grog. As the President, your truly, Thakur Ranjit Singh was blessed with the knowledge, teachings and guidance that our DAV teachers gave to former students. That produced a well-oiled organising committee for DAV Reunion. Mahendra Singh as Secretary, Muni Ratnam Krishna as Treasurer, and the headquarters/secretariat and management support provided by Purshottam Krishna. His accounting office at Puhinui Road was our meeting place. We also were blessed with expertise of Bikal Tahal, Sanit Lal, Tarun Bala, Chandrika Prasad and most important, our women-brigade - Naari Shakti. They were Sneh Lata Pratap, Manjula Prasad and Meena Khan. We also had support of volunteers, Ashok Kumar (two of them) and a former DAV teacher, Navtej Singh.

THE EXECUTIVES: From left-Thakur Ranjit Singh (President), Tarun Bala, Bikal Tahal, Snel Lata Pratap, Manjula Prasad, Sanit Lal, Meena Khan, Purshottam Krishna, Mahendra Singh (Secretary), Chandrika Prasad
What this DAV Reunion in Auckland proved, apart from our other talents, is that DAV really provides exemplary all-rounded education which not only taught us how to earn a living, but also, HOW TO LIVE. Former students of very different years and ages could get together and organise an event that many thought was not possible. When we started, we were very apprehensive about the interest and support we would get. But by final date, we had to halt ticket sales because we had a “house-full” situation. And it has developed so much interest in DAV that I have received numerous requests for people to join our site: “DAV COLLEGE, BA, FIJI, REUNION”, and still continuing

A MEMORABLE EVENT: Different groups got together to click-on the memories they will cherish for the rest of their life.
Please read on, I have not finished. What stole the show was the last item from the class of 1973. The DAV couples from DAV Lovers Hall of Fame, Sadasivan and Sarita Naicker, Thakur Ranjit and Shashi Kala Singh, and Sant Lal Sharma (with spouse) took the stage for a joint-dance on the evergreen Dilip Kumar-Vaijayanti Mala haunting number. “Ure jab jab julfein teri…” from film Naya Daur of 1957 when many were not even born or were babies. It prompted dancing and all were cheering the trio couple. And with that began the dancing portion of the night where people took the dance floor and danced the remainder of the night away. And it turned out into a memorable night.

Indeed, those who missed, are kicking themselves, and thanks to photographer, Meenal Pratap, the photos are on Facebook and has been talk of the town. Bigger and greater event is planned for 2019 in home ground in Fiji, which is planned to stretch for 3 days. 

Some of the big-guns: From left-Sant Sharma (Vancouver), Sadasivan Naicker (Suva), Raymond Raj (Kitimat, Canada), Surya Deep Singh (Melbourne), Pundit Sanat Pandey (Brisbane) and Thakur Ranjit Singh (Auckland).

As our tribute video showed, life is unpredictable - but the show has to go on. And very appropriately, our theme was: Suno, jiyo, muskurao, khush raho-Kal ho na ho. And, as our theme says - listen, live, smile, be happy, as there may be no tomorrow. Sing and dance today - tomorrow another loved one may leave us…. 

And with this to inspire us, we look forward to the next biennial (once every 2 years) mother of all reunions in Fiji in the weekend of 20 July, 2019.

We again salute the Girmitiya who were ordinary people who did extraordinary things in extraordinary times. And one extra-ordinary thing they did was to have vision to provide us education in schools like DAV –and that gave us a memory to relish. See you in 2019.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is the President of DAV College, Ba, Fiji Ex-Students Association, Auckland which organised the 2017 reunion. He is a journalist and media commentator and runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT.]

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Does New Zealand support a "terrorist" country?

             Thakur Ranjit

People of NZ need to be aware that since 2013, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has partnered with the New Zealand Electoral Commission to provide support and capacity development to the Fiji Electoral Commission (FEC) and Fijian Elections Office (FEO). Very commendable and appreciated.

Reportedly New Zealand support included provision of $NZ950, 000 ($F1.4 million) to design and implement the Election Management System (EMS), including the purchase of associated hardware and other services. So far so good.

The problem is with the originating country to whom a supposedly transparent tendering process awarded the tender to – Pakistan.

Pakistan has never been a shining and glorifying example of fair elections or democracy. But even that is not the issue. The real issue is that NZ funded tender was given to Pakistan's National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), which appears to have questionable credentials, like the country it comes from. NADRA had come under fire from political parties in Fiji because of reports their officials allegedly accepted bribes in return for producing fake IDs, some of which were made for suspected terrorists.

According to Fiji Times of 24 June, 2017, the following response from an unnamed New Zealand High Commission spokesperson was provided:

"The ministry (MFAT) is aware of the claims relating to the company selected by Fijian Elections Office to supply the system. However, we are confident that the EMS (Election Management System) has been delivered in line with the contract process and that New Zealand funding has been used appropriately and for the intended purpose. 

Under the contract between MFAT and the Fiji Elections Office, the procurement of the system was undertaken by the Fiji Elections Office under Fiji Government procurement rules.
This included a requirement that the Fijian Elections Office undertake appropriate due diligence of the supplier and the system as part of its procurement process." (Good, Kiwis know how to cover their butts).

According to reports from Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, NADRA beat five other companies for the tender, which was awarded based on the assessment by the tender board and an evaluation committee. Saneem assured that a terrorism financing search was also carried out and it was all clear. But he failed to say who the other five tenderers were, and who cleared the so-called terrorism financing search. Neither do we know which other countries the tender came from - NZ? Australia? Britain? India? Does Pakistan have a High Commission in Fiji?

It would appear New Zealand Government which financed this project gave approval, cleared and sanctioned, that all was clear. They owe a duty of care to people of Fiji that since the financing came from them, the selection followed the rules, transparency and accountability of a First World New Zealand rather than a Third World Fiji. 

On assurance of a Fiji Government audit, Fiji’s Labour Party Leader (FLP) Mahendra Chaudhry said a government audit would not address the issue and the NADRA contract should be terminated. He reportedly said the FLP was worried about fake IDs being used to vote in Fijian elections and of the possible manipulation of the system to rig the election.

The reason why I brought this subject in New Zealand is that our taxpayers funded this project and supposedly New Zealand Government sanctioned the selection and choice of this Pakistani company. And I, as a citizen of both Fiji and New Zealand, would hold NZ Government accountable, should the doubts hold true about this Pakistani choice.

This was my comment in Facebook discussion on this subject:

“What surprises me is that a country which is more of a military dictatorship and lesser of a successful democracy is the one where this election system was found and awarded. I wonder whether they have ever participated in any credible elections in our living memory. I wonder whether this system will be as defective as Pakistan's democracy. In Hindi, they say, bandar ka jaane adrak ke swaad, A near English translation is: “Casting pearls before swine.” Since when did Pakistanis become experts in free, clean elections and democracy? 

Before I am accused of any phobia, let me clarify two issues: 1) India has more Muslims than Pakistan and 2) When Indians were brought as Indentured labourers to Fiji between 1879 and 1916, Pakistan did not exist.”

This decision by Fiji and New Zealand would also confuse rational thinkers in light of what is taking place in Gulf in the Muslim world. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is in turmoil because some member states have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. 

Despite intense American efforts in the Middle East, bin Laden was not found or captured until 2011, when American intelligence learned he was living in Abbottabad, Pakistan. On 2 May 2011 a team of Navy SEALS, acting on orders from President Barack Obama, attacked bin Laden’s compound and killed him. Osama bin Laden’s body was taken by the U.S. forces and buried at sea later that day. PAKISTAN HAD BEEN SHELTERING HIM.
Pakistan has also come under radar of international community of doing this. Does the master-mind of 9/11 terrorist attack, Osama bin Laden’s name ring a bell? Bin Laden was not found or captured until 2011, when American intelligence learned he was sheltered in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where USA directed a surgical attack to kill him on 2 May 2011. 

Narendra Modi, Indian PM has openly accused Pakistan of promoting and harbouring criminals, especially in relation to Taj Hotel terrorist attack and other acts of terrorism in India directly linked to Pakistan. Even USA is aware of this.

What surprises me is that despite all these, New Zealand and Fiji Governments are supporting and sanctioning a supposedly terrorist nation when Gulf Council Cooperation (GCC) is under threat of breaking because of opposition to countries supporting terrorism and terrorists. 

My duty was to inform New Zealand people of the dealings by MFAT in the Pacific, and should anything go wrong in Fiji, do not say you were not warned. It is upon Opposition parties in New Zealand to seek proper answers from MFAT and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee and seek clarification, transparency and truth, unlike the Tape Gate 2 in Clutha!

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Kiwi-Fijian journalist who runs blog FIJI PUNDIT, and is based in Auckland.]

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Does John Key really deserve a Knighthood?

                                               Thakur Ranjit Singh

When I was an auditor with Coopers and Lybrand Accountants in Fiji in 1980s (as they were then known), an audit training session still rings fresh in mind after some four decades: THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A FREE LUNCH!.

We were warned never to take favours from clients we audit, as we get obligated and it clouds and bring into question our neutral and impartial judgement. Hence all those tasked with responsibility of exercising neutrality and impartiality need to maintain that arms-length dealings. In addition, they should not only be neutral and impartial, but also seen as such. 

Sir John Key: Yes, I got it, no, not the pony tail, but a Knighthood!

A living example comes to mind when this was NOT done. John Key, in his premature and surprise resignation, handed the leadership on a platter to his deputy, Bill English. This was despite Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Former lawyer Judith Collins, minister for corrections and police, who has long been touted for the top job, throwing in their hats for tussle of leadership in the National Party. Under the name of party unity, any opposition to Key’s choice was crushed, democracy was stifled and hence Bill English got the job - thanks to John Key.

Therefore, English was expected to reciprocate (return) the favour. And he did that so soon, that the ink on Key’s resignation letter had hardly dried, and than he got the Knighthood. The message here is that the Knighthood was the price Bill English had to pay for that lunch of National Leadership, which after all, was not free.

You will not read this anywhere in the mainstream or side stream media, because the publishers will sack the journalist who says what I have said, as media is to promote business and make money - to hell with bitter truth, as it will affect advertising dollars from rich people and rich businesses National Party represents. 

I am also slightly expedient, as I may annoy so many. Therefore, instead of saying anything more directly, I present to you views of normal everyday Kiwis as they have expressed in NZ Herald letters section, under their name. Here they are:

Arthur Moore from Pakuranga writes: “I see our ex-Prime Minister who spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to erase our connection with Great Britain from our flag is happy to accept a knighthood from the Queen.”(NZH, 06.06.17)

Stan Jones of Hamilton writes:”….John Key gets a foreign title for eight years of an “aw, shucks”, do-nothing Government interested in making a buck. As a consequence, we still have to deal with homeless people in a housing crisis, waterways so polluted any contact risks infection and increasing inequality of wealth and opportunity in life…”(NZH 07.06.17)

Peter Jamieson of Titirangi writes:”….Being very well paid for doing just an average job, while running up a massive debt. Well done, Sir. I do not know who to cheer for the most, Sir John Key or Sir Russell Coutts?” (NZH 07.06.17)

And finally, David Little from Whangarei takes the cake with a well-summed up analysis:

“Arise “Sir “John. Our past PM is a charismatic man. He has been a good ambassador for New Zealand. I look back on his eight years in charge and ask what his achievements are? Yes, he has been a steady hand at the helm, mostly hands off. He has presided over an economy performed better than most, no thanks to him but more to inheriting a low-debt situation. The economy was also boosted by China buying up commodities on a massive scale, raising prices paid. Nature also played its hand through earthquake destruction resulting in re-insurers’ insurance money flowing in from offshore. His Government’s open immigration policy played its positive and negative part. Yes, the economy is booming, mostly fuelled by the construction industry. However, most of his achievements, as with most politicians, are self-serving. 1)His tax cut for the wealthy; 2) His reverting top honours to Sir, Dame; 3) His dropping of inheritance tax, allowing wealth to be passed on tax-free; 4) A failed attempt to change our flag. His real legacy is a deeply divided have/have not society with the main beneficiaries being the wealthy and home-owning baby boomer generation. For this he receives a knighthood?” (NZH 11.06.17)

I have a close friend, a die-hard National supporter, and we have had quite a few left and right political arguments over a grog (kava) basin. He would be annoyed with this article, as he believes National under Key provided us economic development. But development for whom? Rich became richer, house speculators had a field day and became millionaires overnight and the gap in haves and have-nots increased. On the other hand, poverty and homelessness escalated and we have acute crime, housing, health and social problems. The damning UNICEF report has been buried by the mainstream (read right wing) media.

Both of us are drivers and both of us have bought houses in West Auckland over a decade ago. Now this friend, the National supporter, can he ever imagine his son being able to buy a house on his own? His son was once a youth MP for now Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett. Now, how many of these National youth MPs can afford to buy houses? Thanks to a National Government which has been propping up economy through unbridled migration, and under them, we have uncontrolled house-speculation, enriching the rich and denying poorer first-home buyers a house. Why should the son blindly support the same party his father supports - the party, which was sleeping on the job while a full generation have been displaced from opportunity to buy a house? And who bears the strain on housing and infrastructure from uncontrolled migration?

Robert Muldoon would be known as a PM who ‘stole’ the superannuation and denied the older generation the comforts of a healthy retirement. John Key will be known as a PM, who brought back honours system, and gained a Knighthood personally for his efforts.

That is the reason why the new generation need to go blindly in the next election and vote for a change. The slogan for the next election should be: THE DEVIL WE DO NOT KNOW (THE NEW GOVERNMENT) IS BETTER THAN THE DEVIL WE KNOW  (NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.)

All those stuck in traffic jams, all those robbed and affected by escalating crime because of gaping inequality, all the homeless because of government’s cut on social housing, the generation denied home ownership in their lifetime, all those hunting houses to rent because the speculators have them empty as “house-banks’, and a country with economic development benefitting the rich only, with little trickling-down effect – PLEASE STAND UP, AND GET ANGRY. IT IS YOUR TIME TO EMULATE WHAT THEY DID IN USA, (TRUMP ELECTION), THE BREXIT, THE FRENCH ELECTION AND A BRUISING ELECTION RESULT AGAINST TERESA MAY’S CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT IN UK.

Show your anger in New Zealand, AND VOTE FOR A CHANGE

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is a media commentator at his blog site FIJI PUNDIT. He is based in Auckland, New Zealand]

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Do you understand Hindi News: The Purpose of Language is communication

Thakur Ranjit Singh

In absence of any watchdog to put a scrutiny of those who are supposed to watch us, Indian Media Watch – New Zealand has been established and fulfilling that role, being watchdog on Indian media which hitherto assumed they were beyond reproach. They watch others but they are also being watched – we have already successfully taken one to Advertising Standard Authority (ASA), and would not hesitate to do that again where they are seen to breach any rules and regulations. But it is also to critically view their effectiveness of otherwise. This is one such action, which is being repeated, as I had previously pulled Radio Tarana for use of language that goes over our head. Here I go again.

I have much respect for Radio Tarana and its efforts in teaching us the knowledge of Hindi language and difficult vocabulary, but it appears to be ineffective and done improperly.

I also have much respect for Nitya Nand Sundar, its part-time newsreader, and I presume the one who translates Hindi news from English language. I also praise his efforts to make us aware of Tulsidas level of Hindi Language. However the purpose of any language is communication – ability to pass the message that is understood.

My issue as an average Radio Tarana listener is: How much of your 7pm news on Radio Tarana on Sunday 18 June, 2017 was understood by the normal common mortal listeners of the station?
As a test, I request the news item to be replayed to Robert Khan, Satend Sharma, Shalen Sharma, Shalend Shandil, Pawan Rekha, and other Indo-Fijians and also Indians at Radio Tarana, and ask them what they understood, translate it to English language and whether they understood all the words and Hindi vocabulary used in the Hindi news item.

Why I raise it now is that I had raised it previously, and had raised the same issues I am raising now- inability of Hindi listeners to understand their high level of Hindi. I had recommended that I have no issue with use on non-understandable difficult Hindi vocabs, as long as they also explain them in simple Hindi or give English equivalents, so we can understand what is spoken. And this becomes a good education process as well. Currently it goes to waste. “Samm Ling”- (as used in Hindi news) -what creature is that? I asked some Pundits, and they also could not tell, so how do you expect FIJI PUNDIT to understand it.

I hope this will be taken in the spirit it is given – to take it as a constructive criticism which is the objective on Indian Media Watch New Zealand. It is the duty of this site to help raise awareness on media-related issues with a view to bringing in improvements.

Some Hindi vocabulary, among others, used in Radio Tarana Hindi  news in the past, without any use of English equivalents are as follows: sthai sachiu (permanent secretary), prashasnic karyawahi (disciplinary action) sakratmak (optimism), vyahan chaalak (vehicle/car driver), loktantra (democracy), pramukhta (mainly), prathmikta (priority) and the master-piece earlier mentioned, samm ling (gay/lesbian). An average Indo-Fijian, and even many Kiwi Indians may find difficulty or inability to comprehend news items if such words are used.

Yes, teach us Hindi via Radio, but by telling English equivalent as well, please.

[About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh runs blog site FIJI PUNDIT and also has Facebook site-Indian Media Watchdog-New Zealand (among others), which keeps scrutiny of media issues in Indian media in New Zealand. He is a post-graduate scholar in Communication (journalism) with honours from AUT, Auckland.]

Saturday, May 6, 2017


High decile schools in Fiji like Suva Grammar and Xavier College have been known to have marked their reunion publicly and internationally. But for a relatively lower decile school like D.A.V. College, in Ba, this was a difficult call. (The decile rating is meant to represent the income of parents attending the school. Decile 1 represents lowest income. Decile 10 represents highest income.)

Organising Committee and supporters of DAV Ex Students Association of Auckland, who are venturing on creating history to organise the first international  DAV Reunion in Auckland where we expect former students from Fiji, Australia, Canada and USA and, of course those from New Zealand to attend. IN THE PHOTO: Sitting (L-R Thakur Ranjit Singh (President), Mahendra Singh (Secretary), Muni Ratnam Krishna ( Treasurer). Standing (L-R) Chandrika Prasad, Manju Prasad, Purshottam Krishna ( Secretariat /Manager),  Sneh Pratap, Tarun Bala, Ashok Kumar and Sanit Lal. [Missing- Bikal Tahal, Meena Khan]

The other schools apart from having children of relatively better-off parents also tended to have the cream of students, the brightest and smartest. Schools like D.A.V and others were there to provide services to mostly children of poorer cane-farmer parents, and yours truly, Thakur was also one of them.

That is more the reason why we need to salute so-called lower decile schools in Fiji for moulding the poorer and lower level of students. Anybody can take creamy milk and make butter out of it. But it takes big courage to take butter-milk (maatha) and re-make it into butter. School like DAV has been doing just that and this is an excuse to pay back that gratitude by remembering those fond days.

That is what schools like DAV (includes schools like Sangam, Khalsa, Muslim, Sanatan) needs to have special salute for serving the community of poorer people and poorer students. Despite that, the friendship taught in legends like Krishna-Sudama always live on. It has been a desire of students of 1970-1973 to have a reunion, and this ambition has been burning for over a decade. The idea of planning this was ignited by my visits to USA and Canada beginning in 1998, where I always went to meet my DAV mates like Bimal Chand Sharma, Deo Mani and Ajay Kumar in Sacramento and Stockton, USA and Sant Lal in Canada. This friendship ignited the smouldering wish of DAV Reunion. The advent of Facebook made this task easier. Sant Lal, with Kushwa Singh, Latchman Rao and others were able to hold the first Reunion in Burnaby, Vancouver, Canada. From there it was decided to move this further, with continuation of DAV reunion.


A historic meeting in Surrey, Vancouver, Canada took place on 5 April, 2015 when we decided to launch an international DAV Ex-students Association, and carry the dream of hosting DAV Reunions around the world. This inauguration meeting was attended by Thakur Ranjit Singh, Sant Lal Sharma, Raymond Raj, Jiten Singh and Bimal Charan, at whose house this meeting was held.

It was resolved in this meeting:

1) To hold the current D.A.V. Reunion in Auckland, New Zealand in May 2017

2) To appoint international co-ordinators: They were: Raymond Raj (Canada), Deo Mani (USA) -now with his passing away Sant Lal Sharma is responsible for USA), Sadasivan Naicker (Fiji), Sanat Pandey (Australia) and yours truly Thakur Ranjit Singh (New Zealand).

At inaugurating DAV. formalisation meeting with (from left) Raymond RajJiten SinghThakur Ranjit Singh and Sant Sharma at Surrey, BC , Canada on 5 April, 2015. This was at Bimal Charan's place, who is the photographer.
3) It was resolved to hold Biennial (every two years) events around the world. The second to be in Auckland in 2017, the third to be in Fiji in 2019 and the next one in Brisbane in 2021.

Fiji Co-ordinator, Sadasivan Naicker has expressed interest to hold next DAV Reunion in Fiji (of course in Ba) in and around June/July 2019. This will be further confirmed in the DAV BA Reunion in Auckland on 13 May, 2017. Former Ba Mayor, and now Minister Pravin Kumar (Bala) has promised to lend support to Ba reunion. People need to be reminded that Ba businessman, Vinod Patel is amongst the first lot of DAV students of 1953


We have allocated time for teachers and students to have their say, and present stories, items, jokes and walking down memory lane. At least confirmed attendance of teachers are Bal Ram, Sanat Pandey, Lata and Surya Deep Singh, who are former students as well as former teachers. We also expect Bookkeeping teacher Jai Ram (a lawyer now) of Sydney and Ramendra Mani (Bookkeeping teacher) of Auckland.

Students have four categories of presentations: 1980 to later years, 1975-1980, 1970-1974 and Class of 1953-1969. There is special recognition for some DAV Students for special achievements, and some former principals will be recognised posthumously. Some teachers and students will be acknowledged, recognised and appreciated for their contributions made towards enhancing the name of D.A.V. through their personal contributions and excelling in being an honour to our school.

The programme begins with address by the President and acknowledging Arya Samaj of Fiji in general, and that of Ba in particular for having the vision for providing such an educational institution that built our lives. A well-kept secret is a ten-minute tribute-“Sharadhajali ke doh phool” –a tribute video presentation in memory of teachers and students who have passed away.

Still not too late. Former students wishing to attend are to contact our people named herein, and make an effort to attend this memeorable event.Add caption

With a very sumptuous meal, free supply of juice, kava and drinks, with music of yester-years, it is billed as a memorable night to remember all the past memories. Long-time friends will meet and talk, laugh, and cry over their past life, missed opportunities and what they found and lost. Special mention will be made of those lovers who found their partners in the school and are still married. And race is on for the highest number of DAV siblings (brothers and sister who attended DAV). While I will have three of us present, Purshottam Krishna, head of our Secretariat has thrown in a challenge with at least four of his brothers attending. And you have to come to experience this

But what we hope to see is a memorable night of DAVians, not to be missed by former DAV Students. Those who wish to reserve their tickets still have a chance of contacting our Secretariat at  immediately, for limited tickets. Also, check Facebook timeline of: DAV COLLEGE, BA FIJI REUNION. Hoping to see you there.

[About the Author: Ranjit Singh, as Thakur was known in school, was at DAV from 1970-1973 inclusive. He is the president of DAV College, Ba Fiji Reunion 2017, and also runs his blog site, FIJI PUNDIT.  he is a journalist and is a media commentator.]