For the migrant community, the name Winston Peters may be synonymous to the Boogeyman. He is a figure that us foreign-born New Zealanders shun because we believe he is ought to imperil us, we like to resent him because we perceive he is against us. If you ask a migrant New Zealander who has a modicum of political awareness how they would describe Mr. Peters, chances are they would respond with: “racist!”
Racism is definitely worth opposing and racists should be called out at any opportunity. However, having met the Rt. Hon. Winston Peters first-hand I can categorically deny that he fits this label. The “racist boogeyman” persona that most of us migrant New Zealanders have of him is misconstrued and in fact, Peters have stood on the side of migrants’ countless times in the past.
Remember the “Indian Student Visa Scandal” last year, when nine Indian international students were ordered deported to their home country after their immigration agents used fraudulent documents? Winston Peters was among the vocal critics against their deportation, calling the students the “victims” and called for the government to go after the exploiters instead. He called their deportation a “disgrace” and pinpointed the blame to the export education sector, which we all know is rampant with exploitative activities that victimize migrants.
In a press release dated 14th of December last year, Peters again called out the ruling National government for their alleged “indifference to migrant exploitation.” He said that the National Party was failing to “defend the most basic of human rights for these victims of employment abuse”, saying that this was a “shame” on their part and called for better action.
Peters has repeatedly called for the government to act against migrant exploiters, particularly employers who defraud the system and employ migrants under slave labour conditions. He said that the criminal employers, who are often migrants-turned-citizens themselves, should be deported instead and not the workers who are the victims. Last year, he brought to light the case of Asahi Japanese Restaurant in Whangarei which failed to pay its employees, all of whom were migrants from Japan and Korea, calling it a “wholesale breach of human rights.”
Would someone who hated immigrants show this amount of concern for their plight?
A racist would not speak out against the oppression of migrant workers, but instead relishes in it. The opposite can be seen with Winston Peters’ actions, he has been a firm watchdog against migrant exploitation and sees the unfairness of a system that punishes the victims instead of the perpetrators.
Hence, the scare stories about him are utterly false. A personal encounter changed my impression of him, this was further cemented by statements he made in the media regarding the welfare of migrant workers. Peters’ statements get misconstrued in the mainstream news reporting, but if one carefully analyses them and filters out the media spin you see a different persona of the man.