Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

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Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi

First Sikh member in New Zealand parliament Newstrack India 09 Nov 2008 IANS, Wellington.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, a former New Delhi businessman, will be the first Sikh member of the New Zealand parliament which now has a record number of six Asian members following Saturday's election.

The parliament will also see its first Korean member Melissa Lee and its first Asian member (elected in 1996 on the National Party list) Pansy Wong becoming the first member to fill the new seat of Botany.

Wong, who was born in Shanghai and educated in Hong Kong before coming to New Zealand in 1974, won the new Auckland constituency of Botany with a majority of more than 10,000 after previously being in parliament on the National Party list.

Former race relations commissioner Rajen Prasad, 62, who was born in Suva of Indian parents, and 44 year old Raymond Huo a lawyer and former journalist, formerly from Beijing, will join Pakistan-born Ashraf Choudhary, in the opposition Labour Party who was New Zealand's first Muslim member when he was elected in 2002.

All the Asian members are immigrants and Wong is the only one elected to a constituency, with the others serving in the 122-seat parliament by virtue of being on their party lists.

New Zealand parliament gets first Sikh MP

thaindian.com - November 10th, 2008 Sydney, Nov 10 2008 (IANS)

Former New Delhi businessman Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi is delighted to have become the first Sikh Member of Parliament in the newly-elected conservative National Party government of New Zealand. “Indian immigrants will now have a voice in New Zealand parliament,” he says. “It is a great honour to be a representative of Indians in the New Zealand parliament. Indians have been in New Zealand for the past 120 years, but there was nobody of Indian origin in parliament. Now Indian immigrants will have their voice heard in parliament,” Bakshi told IANS from Auckland, the country’s largest immigrant metropolis with about 40,000 Sikhs and ethnic Indians.

Bakshi defeated Labour Party veteran Ross Robertson, who has held the traditionally comfortable seat of Manukau East, an Auckland suburb where immigrants comprise 40 percent of voters, for the past two decades.

Bakshi, with his wife Irvinder Kaur and two sons, moved to Auckland in 2001 from Delhi. “I have been in business, which include property and wholesale business, before switching to politics,” Bakshi told IANS.

Prior to moving to New Zealand, Bakshi who holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Delhi and has 23 years of business experience, had business links with New Zealand via family friends. He has been an active member of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand.

New Zealand has a total population of 4.2 million. In the 2006 census, more than 350,000 people recorded Asian ethnicity, just over nine percent of the population. Nearly 150,000 of them were Chinese followed by 104,580 Sikhs and Indians.

Elected in the opposition Labour Party are former race relations commissioner Rajen Prasad, 62, who was born in Suva of Indian parents, and Pakistan-born Ashraf Choudhary, who became New Zealand’s first Muslim member when he was elected to parliament in 2002.

New Zealand has a unicameral parliament with 120 members. Unlike other Commonwealth countries using the Westminster system, New Zealand has no written constitution per se, but for two important documents - The Treaty of Waitangi and The Bill of Rights. It follows a German-modelled Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electorate system.

Earlier news, concerns voiced by some in the Sikh community

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi feels he has done ‘nothing wrong’ by offering jobs to Indians The Sikh Times November 3, 2008

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi a National Party candidate embroiled in an immigration row has admitted having offered a second job to another Indian national seeking residence in New Zealand. But Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, who is standing for Manukau East, denies he has done anything wrong.

Mr Bakshi told the Herald yesterday he made the job offer "at about the same time" as the first, to bring an Indian to New Zealand to work as a manager for his vending machine business.

A complaint accusing Mr Bakshi of making another questionable job offer to an Indian woman trying to obtain New Zealand residency in 2003 has already been filed with Immigration New Zealand by a member of the local Sikh community.

The Department of Labour, which oversees immigration, says the complaint has not yet been assessed.

A National Party spokesperson said leader John Key was backing his potential MP over the allegations.

"We have sought assurances and received them, and if anyone has evidence to the contrary, it should be referred to the appropriate authorities," he said.

Mr Baljinder Singh said he and some members of the Sikh Society had decided to raise their concerns before the election because they didn't want an MP that would "bring shame to our community".

He said they were now tracking down others who had received job offers from Mr Bakshi, and trying to contact Darshan Singh, the immigration consultant involved, who is believed to have left New Zealand for Melbourne.

"We are trying to trace the others because we heard Bakshi had given job offers to other people as well," Mr Singh said. "We feel it is important that New Zealanders get the true picture before they go to the polls."

Mrs Kuldeep Singh, said she paid $25,000 to her immigration consultant for her application and the job offer - but Mr Bakshi says he never received any money.

At current polling and number 38 on National's list, Mr Bakshi will be in the next parliament as an MP.

Mr Bakshi said the second job offer was also made in good faith because he needed to replace an employee.

"I made an offer to someone in India because I needed to replace a full-time staff in my vending machine business who had left," he said.

He acknowledged that the job, operating drinks and snacks vending machines, could have been done by a local - but offered it to an Indian national so that he "wouldn't have a communication problem".

Both applications were declined by the Immigration Service. Reasons given were that the business had no other full-time employees and that it couldn't be sure if it was financially sustainable.

Born in Delhi , Mr Bakshi moved to New Zealand with his family in 2001, where he has been running businesses in property, wholesaling and fashion.

Mr Bakshi said he sold his vending machine business and worked full time on his Indian fashion business - which explained why he did not seek to employ anyone else.

A Sikh Society member, who did not want to be named, said the immigration row had dampened the community's excitement about having the country's first Sikh MP.

"We are all very excited at Bakshi's nomination, but after this controversy surfaced, many of us are very disappointed," he said. "We really wanted a representative who can make us proud, and not bring us shame."

Mr Bakshi said the allegations have done little in denting his support. "People are saying it is just a smear campaign against me."

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