‘I got it wrong’: Foon apologises to police

New Zealand race relations commissioner Meng Foon speaks at Dunedin’s Araiteuru Marae last night....
New Zealand race relations commissioner Meng Foon speaks at Dunedin’s Araiteuru Marae last night. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Race relations commissioner Meng Foon yesterday admitted "I got it wrong" and apologised for a recent "incorrect" comment that police were racist.

Mr Foon was the first of four speakers to address the Dunedin Race Relations Forum, at the city’s Araiteuru Marae last night, in a main event of Dunedin Race Relations Week.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times before flying south to the forum, he explained where he had been "incorrect", and what he had been trying to say about the police and other government agencies.

There were systemic issues linked to racism in the police and elsewhere, and there was also "unconscious bias", but he had not meant to suggest a consciously negative approach by the country’s 14,000 police staff.

"It’s a systemic issue in our police, they’ve acknowledged that.

"They are trying hard to address these issues," he said.

In earlier comments he said "I do admit that my comments regarding the Police being racist were incorrect".

"I shouldn’t’ stereotype," he said before saying he was directing his apology towards the Police.

"We can never rest on our laurels [over race relations]," he told the ODT.

He has advocated giving iwi the chance to run a prison to boost outcomes for prisoners, including Maori inmates.

He yesterday also highlighted the importance of awareness of race relations issues and the need for taking action.

It was also good to see the Government "put their foot on the pedal" over issues involving systemic racism in Government agencies.

Problems with inadequate community housing were "alarming", and more support was needed to improve outcomes for the poorest third of school pupils.

A crucial point was that, irrespective of where they had come from, everyone living in New Zealand "should all be welcomed".

And of the police: "They do have systemic racism in the place and that has been admitted by the Commissioner".

Andrew Coster, who holds that position, has admitted this in the past and has said the Police were reviewing to fix the issue.

Mr Coster was one of many critical of Foon’s statement last week. Police Association president Chris Cahill asked Mr Foon to retract his comments.

Dunedin Multi-Ethnic Council president Dr Luxmanan Selvanesan said last night’s forum was one of the highlights of the latest race relations week, which ends on Sunday.

After Mr Foon spoke last night, Office of Ethnic Communities executive director Anusha Guler, Dunedin Araiteuru Marae leader Tania Williams, and Prof Sara Kindon, of Victoria University of Wellington, also contributed.

Dr Selvanesan was grateful for "wonderful" support for the event from Mr Foon, the Dunedin community, and the Dunedin City Council, including senior managers.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

Comments

In the real world those comments would be enough that an honest person would resign, but not in the nose in the trough, life of politicians.

If a race of people persistently and regularly practise unethical behaviour, then racism can be justified. It is not good practise to ignore bad cultural traits in just for the sake of things like political correctness.

Why do all Race Relations Commissioners think it's their job to inflame race relations?

 

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