Godzone Country? (Yeah Right!) by Trevor Plumbly
Sunil Kumar was a 30 year old Fijian, a carpenter by trade. Under a work permit he lived in New Zealand without causing any apparent problem until quite recently. Sunil was diagnosed with a kidney problem that required dialysis and an eventual transplant. It doesn’t take a massive amount of brain power to understand that the capabilities of Fijian hospitals are somewhat limited compared to ours and that shipping Mr Kumar back to his native land would have placed him under some sort of risk. Sadly, it seems that our Assistant Minister of Immigration, one Nikki Kaye, not only lacked the mental ability to do any simple research, but also has even bigger problems grasping the concept of compassion. Sunil Kumar’s work permit expired, he was refused a renewal and despite numerous pleas for an extension on medical and humanitarian grounds, he was shipped back to Fiji by the redoubtable Ms Kaye where he died shortly after from an infection.
A Rule Model
Somewhat unusually for a politician, Ms Kaye seems reluctant to enlighten us, or the media, with the details behind her decision. Quoting the absence of a ‘privacy waiver’, she makes the case that she was advised that treatment was available in Fiji and to that extent is supported by the Prime Minister saying that she ‘acted correctly’. Given the result of the advice she received, perhaps we should look at the competency of her advisers as well. To add yet more to this display of political callousness, it’s now been revealed that the family and friends of Sunil Kumar had raised over $120,000 towards the cost of the operation, just $8,000 short of the total needed, and that a suitable donor was being sought within the family. I have no doubt that the Assistant Minister acted entirely within the strictures of her portfolio but it would be nice if some kind soul could point out to her that there isn’t a rule book for simple acts of human kindness.
This sort of heavy-handed approach bears a distinct similarity to the ancient practice of placing the diseased and dying ‘beyond the pale’. Laughably, at this time one of her fellow ministers proudly proclaims the efficiency and accessibility of our health system whilst another stresses the importance of Pacific Nations’ unity and co-operation, virtually reducing the saga to orchestrated hypocrisy. Sunil Kumar wasn’t a free-loader, he came to New Zealand to work, probably with the expectation of getting the much vaunted ‘fair go’. Sadly he didn’t get it. I don’t know if he would have lived if he had been allowed to stay and receive treatment, but I am convinced he would have stood a better chance, and I do know that I would have a lot more respect for Ms Kaye if she developed a sharper sense of human responsibility, rather than over-concentrating on the ministerial dictates she currently seems to embrace.