Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok

No-one is illegal 2: My part in Phillip Field's downfall, and his part in Dividing the Nation and saving my sanity

Yellow Peril returns to Tilegate: Why? 1. Seeing bloggers use 'Taito' as Phillip Field's first name (it's a matai title guys) is driving me crazy. 2. My growing suspicion that I personally declined Sunan Siriwan refugee status to start with...

That's right kids - the last scandal in an election so tight it almost hung the parliament, and it's all my fault!

In all seriousness - yes, the name looks increasingly familiar from my time of ploughing through the refugee-status asylum-seeker backlog. I can't be sure though - if I was sure that I had his file, then I wouldn't be able to talk about it. So let's say I'm not sure. It was years ago, and it was a massive backlog, and there were a lot of Thais.

This backlog, which saw credible and sub-par asylum-seekers alike waiting up to five years to get their claims heard, was built up under the Immigration rein of Tuariki/John Delamere in the National-New Zealand First-Mauri Pacific coalition government/dissolving blancmange of '96-99. Delamere's answer to reducing the number of asylum-seeking hordes was to underfund the relevant parts of the immigration service... leading to more asylum-seekers stuck in the system! Such genius. New Zealand First's immigration track record sure speaks for itself.

By the time the Labour government of '99-02 began sorting it out under the actually rather competent Lianne Dalziel, a big chunk of the backlog and inflow were Thais who probably just wanted to be normal illegal workers in Hastings orchards, but had been sucked into a refugee-status scam run by a shady Buddhist Monk. The Monk had charged them thousands of dollars to 'arrange' their work permits by lodging phoney and ridiculous obstructive refugee claims on their behalf (when they could have just lodged phoney and ridiculous obstructive refugee claims for free). These were eventually declined en masse at NZIS level, and en masse at the Refugee Status Appeal Authority.

The rationale for the applications was that having an asylum claim in the system prevented them from being deported, and allowed them to apply for work permits and the dole. However, these Thais were being scammed so badly and had so little ability or confidence to engage independently with the immigration system or the state authorities, that they hardly ever dared to approach a government building to apply for work permits, let alone the dole. They were just out in Hastings picking apples, trying to pay back their 'agents'/buy back their daughters from sex-traffickers/save up to get the hell home.

Pardon me for not caring too much what happens to Field. He's a matai, he'll survive, and I'll stand by what I said here in my immigration-service insider's analysis: namely, that he appears to have acted stupidly and dishonestly - for what I think are noble enough reasons - but should damn well wear the consequences. It's Siriwan who shouldn't be made to suffer in this case. Because the facts remain: He is a tiler, and as I noted earlier, New Zealand is suffering an acute shortage of specialist roofers according to the New Zealand Immigration Skill Shortage list, which could well have been why Damien O'Connor granted him the new work permit to start with. I mean, do I really have to show you a picture of a Thai roof? Let the guy in! Phillip Field's lack of judgement is not Siriwan's fault. The Buddhist Monk refugee scam was not Siriwan's fault. The inequities of the global economy are definitely not Siriwan's fault. And Labour's obvious indebtedness to Field for 'delivering' them South Auckland certainly should have no impact on the strength of Siriwan's case for a visa, either for or against it.

Is it Phillip Field we should be thanking for winning the election for the Left? Or is it South Auckland itself? I know who I want to thank: MAD FUCKING PROPS TO SOUTH AUCKLAND! This week all Central Auckland artschool indie student hipster dilettantes should be heading down SH1 to thank South Aucks. I don't know how exactly. Maybe by looking funny and skinny and white. If you're in Otahuhu, I recommend the Laotian place in the back right-hand corner of Food City.

This 'division' talk is a beat-up, but for one angle I'll come to later that does concern South Auckland. The even split in the election seems less of an 'I hate you fuckers' than a massive, flabby 'um...' on the part of Pakeha New Zealand. Germany, now there's a properly ballsed-up deadlock. Record unemployment, totally stagnant economy, election fought on desperation to do something drastic about the six-year economic crisis, population freaking out about the shattering of the social democratic consensus, with the result that no-one can do anything.

Here, same system, similar result, inverted context. Economy humming along, record employment, the 'best place in the world to do business' ahead of S'pore and HK according to the World Bank, election fought on petty gripes, coupled with dubious claims from the challenger that nothing serious would really happen to the social democratic consensus, with the result sending the message that no-one was ultimately trusted to actually do much of anything, especially as not much needs doing.

That's not division: that's boredom.

No wonder people wanted a race circus and gambling testicles and calculatoramas and billboard jokes and Brethrens, rather than actual policy.

Getting to be grumpy about race and sexual diversity is fun too, right? That's the impression I get of the grumpy people. But was that grumpiness coming from a place as visceral as the reaction of those who were under sustained attack?

The last Tagata Pasifika poll I saw had the Pacific vote going 77% Labour, 9% National. Mangere delivered over 70% of its party vote for Labour, far and away the highest in the country, in fact, a national anomaly. Anywhere else, breaking 50% for either party was an electorate-level landslide. And we know broadly how the National Party fares with Maori. National wrote off the Maori seats long ago, and not on 'one-law-for-all' principle quite frankly. Maori and Pacific people had the most to lose from a National government - they were voting for their lives - for their economic, social and cultural survival. Why should anyone have to vote for their life? There is a deepening division going on here. It's not urban versus rural or Maori versus Pakeha or Pacific versus Pakeha or 'Asian' versus Maori. It's right wing political parties (not even right wing people necessarily) versus brown people.

The parties of the right are totally failing to give Maori and Pacific people a reason to vote for them that is relevant to their community identity. I don't know why - it seems stupid to back the bigotry of old whities against the populations who will actually provide most of the new people in this country in the coming years. I don't how any political party can claim to represent all New Zealanders if it so consistently and obviously abandons people in this way, group by group. Until there's a day when a National Party leader can mount their victory podium draped with a lei, in front of a striking blue and white tivaevae-inspired backdrop, to a roar of Pacific approval, maybe they don't deserve to win. And South Auckland can keep on saving the rest of us.


And just so you know, it's not true that New Zealand never gets real refugees, nor credible and worthy refugee claims from Thailand. Check the latest Thailand DOS Report

The election process was viewed as generally free and fair; however, it was marred by widespread vote buying and the killing of some political canvassers during the campaign... Violence attributed to Muslim separatist insurgents in the southern part of the country resulted in almost daily reports of violence against government authorities and civilians at year's end. The judiciary is independent but was subject to corruption.

And that's not even getting into 'insulting the King' or the treatment of women. Though it's highly unlikely that Siriwan was an actual refugee, that's just for the record, okay? Inaccurate claims about asylum seekers and the immigration system, misapplication of matai titles, multiple misspellings of 'Brethren', it's all just tipping me over the edge.

With that in mind, I've got to take a few weeks off to concentrate on other projects. I keep saying this and never do it, so if you see me compulsively blogging, write to me and tell me to shut the fuck up. I'll post the most creative responses. I mean... no I won't... I ... oh crap.

Finally - Wellingtonians: head to Haining Street this Sunday 25th 11:30-1pm to remember the days of real racial division. A hundred years ago, white supremacist Lionel Terry went to Wellington's Chinatown to shoot himself a Chinaman. The murder victim was elderly goldminer Joe Kum Yung (周錦容/Zhou Jinrong). Terry was acquitted on grounds of insanity. Wellington's Old Generation Chinese community is holding a centenial commemoration with street theatre. The original script was kinda Kung Fu Hustle-influenced, but it might have moved on since then.