New Zealand ‘sorry’ for racial slur

A Kiwi TV host had ridiculed Sheila Dikshit by deliberately mispronouncing her name.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: New Zealand on Thursday officially apologised for television host’s racial slur, ridiculing Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit by deliberately mispronouncing her name.

The Ministry of External Affairs had earlier in the day summoned New Zealand High Commissioner to register the offence.

Taking a tough stand, India has decided not to participate in the lunch hosted by New Zealand envoy.

Paul Henry, who hosts the popular morning show on state-owned broadcaster TVNZ, had said that her name is "so appropriate" because she is Indian. And what added to the insult was TVNZ featuring it on its website.

During his show, earlier in the week, Henry had deliberately ridiculed the way Dikshit is pronounced, despite being told that it is "Dikshit".

The TV station has received at least four complaints about the clip, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on its website on Wednesday.

The Chief Minister was in the news recently after she was called in to take charge of the Commonwealth Games Village, days before the mega event was scheduled to start on October 03.

Taking strong exception to the racial slur, New Zealand Indian Central Association president Paul Singh Bains said the fact that TVNZ promoted the clip on its website showed it had "totally lost the plot" and was insensitive to the offence Henry had caused.

The clip was promoted on the Video Extras section of TVNZ`s website under the heading "Paul Henry laughs about the name Dikshit”, however, it has been removed now.

Henry is a serial offender; after abusing the Delhi Chief Minister, he went on to abuse the country`s Indo-Fijian Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand.

During a programme Henry had asked Prime Minister John Key whether Anand was a New Zealander or not. When Key told him that Anand was a New Zealander, Henry asked if he was going to pick someone who looked more like a New Zealander next time.

Henry has now been suspended.

Bains said he accepted that Dikshit’s name and other Indian names could be difficult to pronounce, but Henry had moved beyond that to ridicule.

"He has an attitude about Indians and all other ethnicities for that matter. If we sound different, if we look different, he thinks there`s no place for us in New Zealand," Bains said.

Greens human rights spokesman Keith Locke said the clip, first aired last Friday, was a "particularly graphic illustration of Paul Henry`s cultural insensitivity".

Henry has a long history of on-air gaffes, including describing British singer Susan Boyle as "retarded", gays as "unnatural", and accusing a female guest from Greenpeace of having a moustache.

TVNZ initially fuelled the Satyanand row by saying Henry was popular because "he`s prepared to say the things we quietly think but are scared to say out loud".

The TVNZ publicist who made the comment reportedly admitted on Wednesday that she made a "horrendous error of judgement" and offered her resignation.