Tom Gross

Is New Zealand really such a tolerant country?

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.


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